The Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB) estimates that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 7.4% during the first half of the year, more than doubling the 3.2% increase recorded over the comparable period of 2011. That's the good news released today by the Central Bank, in its ECONOMIC BRIEF for the 1st Half of 2012. The Bank reports that brisk activity continued in agriculture, agro-manufacturing, electricity generation, and tourism, and this more than compensated for the sharp downturn in petroleum extraction and farmed shrimp production. The consumer price index (CPI) edged up by 0.2% during the quarter (February 2012 to May 2012) and by 1.8% year-on-year (May 2012 over May 2011) driven by higher acquisition costs for petroleum and related products. Banana production increased by 38.0% reflecting the rehabilitation of storm-damaged acreages and favorable growing conditions. Citrus also recovered from weather-related damages with deliveries increasing by 27.2%, while sugarcane deliveries rose by 19.3%. The strong outturn of traditional crops bolstered manufacturing activity as citrus juices and sugar production rose by 23.6% and 10.5%, respectively. The report also states that the services sector was supported by an 8.2% growth in arrivals of overnight tourists. But it is not all good news. The report noted that on the downside, four additional wells at the Spanish Lookout Field could not stabilize oil production and output fell by 27.5%, significantly steeper than the 10% annual average decline that had been projected. Cruise ship disembarkations fell by 5.8% . In conclusion, the report noted that: "Government revenues have been hard hit by lower price and volume for petroleum which are unlikely to rebound sufficiently during the second half of the year. Pressures to ramp up expenditures have also intensified particularly to address the national priorities of domestic security, infrastructure and education. Against this backdrop, debt and fiscal sustainability is now at the forefront and drives the government’s agenda for the external debt restructuring that it is now being undertaken."

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