Wednesday’s press conference hosted by the Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB) was the last for 2015. While the results of the Labour Force September survey and the economic performance outlook for the third quarter dominated the headlines, the monthly release of the consumer price index (CPI) and the external trade bulletin are no less significant. We start with the CPI, which accounts for Belizeans’ spending power. Fuel and food and their related costs account for 60% of all expenditure of households, but while there were negligible movements in the food index, the transport figure plunged 7%, due, according to statistician Angelita Campbell, to lower fuel prices this year compared to last year.
Angelita Campbell, Statistician: The inflammation rate for the month of October stands at a -0.8%, and what that is simply saying is on average prices are 0.8% lower than that of last year. Also note that for the first 10 months of 2015 the inflation rates stands at -0.9%. The diagram in front of you illustrates the movement from October 2011 to October 2015 of the All Item Category, Food and Fuel Index as well. If you look closer, you will realize that the food and all item had very minimal movement but when you take a closer look at the fuel index, we realize that since the start of this year we’ve had an increase of fuel prices, up until June then we started seeing a decline in the fuel price.
Meanwhile, food prices remained mostly steady although as Campbell explains there have been fluctuations.
Angelita Campbell, Statistician: Within the food index we saw beef index going up roughly 29%. There was also an increase in pork, eggs and fruits. Those increase were offset by decline of red kidney beans of roughly 32%, also a decline in vegetables. The transport category as you already know from the beginning of this year has been declining. We’re at the decline of -7.3%. As also noted before, there’s a decline in the price of fuel when compared to last year’s same period. The decline of petroleum was about 23%. We had regular gasoline going down by 28% and we had diesel going down by roughly 29% . Within the all other category we saw increases mainly in Health and in Insurance. We’re looking at average prices of selected food and fuels for October 2014 and October 2015. We look again, and we see there are a roughly 24% increase in the price of beef, liquid petroleum declined roughly 27% . There’s the carrot that went down by -8%. Cabbage also went down by -7%.
On the trade side, domestic imports have skyrocketed past a billion dollars in the first ten months of 2015. Stefanie Vasquez explains what is behind this rise. Exports, led primarily by the raw big 3 products, have not been doing so well and marine products and petroleum also slumped, according to Vasquez.
Stephanie Vasquez, Statistician: Importation of machinery and transport equipment was the greatest contributor to that increase as heightened purchases of transportation and farming equipment led to a $50M growth in that category. The manufacture goods category went up by $23M largely due to tire and steel purchases. While the importation of chemical products go by $16M, the result of increased fertilizer and medical supply purchases. In the period, Belize spent $63M less on mineral fuels and lubricants, despite a 27% increase in the importation of diesel, regular and premium fuels combined. The categories of machinery and human transport equipment, commercial free zones and export processing zones and manufactured goods all held similar shares of Belize’s imports at 22%, 21% and 20% respectively. Mineral fuels and lubricants and the food of live animals, equaled in their proportion of Belize’s Imports at 11% while all other goods combined amounted to 15%.
The trade gap is now approaching half a billion Belize dollars and imports may crack $2 billion for the first time ever at the end of 2015.