Statistical Institute of Belize reports sluggish economy in second quarter
CONSUMER PRICES DOWN 1% IN JULY
Latest figures on consumer prices released by the Statistical
Institute of Belize show that the All-Items consumer price
index stood at 102.8, a decline of 1 percent from 103.8 in
last July. For the first seven months of this year, an inflation
rate of negative 1 percent was recorded. This means that,
on average, goods and services that Belizean households
regularly buy were 1 percent cheaper than during the same
period in 2014.
The ‘Transport’ category declined by 7.1 percent and remains
the single greatest contributor to the overall fall in consumer
prices. The prices of premium and regular gasoline decreased
by 25 percent and 19 percent respectively, while the price of
diesel was more than one fourth lower when compared to July
2014. Similarly, international airfares were down by almost 25
percent from the same month last year.
Food prices were almost unchanged, declining by an average
of half of a percent during the month of July when compared
to the same period last year. Despite increases in some
products, such as beef, pork and eggs, substantial decreases
in the prices of fresh vegetables and red kidney beans resulted
in the marginal overall decrease.
The inflation rate for the category of ‘Housing, Water, Electricity,
Gas and Other Fuels’ was negative 0.5 percent during the
month. Home rental prices inched up by 0.2 percent but were
offset by a drop in the price of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG)
from $116 in July 2014 to $90 in July 2015.
All municipalities across the country recorded a decrease
in consumer prices during the month of July 2015, with the
exception of Dangriga, where there was an increase of 1.8
percent due to a greater than average increase in home rental
prices. On the other hand, Belmopan, where home rental
costs were the slowest to rise, continued to reflect the largest
decline in consumer prices of negative 2.1 percent.
You may download the entire series for both External Trade and CPI in Excel format from our website
IMPORTS UP SLIGHTLY, WHILE SUGAR DRIVES
DOMESTIC EXPORTS UP 15%
Belize’s total imports for the month of July 2015 were valued at
$189.7 million. This was an increase of $3.9 million or 2.1 percent
over last July’s imports, which were valued at $185.8 million.
‘Mineral Fuels and Lubricants’ recorded the largest drop of
$10 million, from $34 million to $24 million, as world fuel prices
remained lower than they were a year ago. This decline served to
offset, for the most part, significant increases of $7 million in the
category of ‘Machinery and Transport Equipment’ and $5 million in
‘Food and Live Animals’. Higher purchases of telecommunications
equipment drove the former, while a continued growth in wheat
seed purchases was the main contributor to the latter.
For the first seven months of 2015, merchandise imports totaled
$1.2 billion, increasing 4.4 percent or $50.3 million over the
same period last year. Belize spent $45 million less on ‘Mineral
and Fuel and Lubricants’, despite increases in the quantities of
diesel, premium and regular fuels imported. However, $37 million
more was spent on ‘Machinery and Transport Equipment’, owing
to greater purchases of sailboats, airplanes, motor vehicles and
telecommunications equipment within the seven month period.
Imports of ‘Manufactured Goods’ went up by $16.5 million, the
result of a steady upward trend in the importation of tires and
steel, while, fertilizer and medical supply purchases led to an
almost $12 million rise in imports of ‘Chemical Products’. For the
seven months from January to July 2015, imports destined for
the ‘Commercial Free Zones’ grew by $20 million.
Total domestic exports for July 2015 amounted to $63.8 million,
up $8.4 million or 15.1 percent when compared to last July. A
strong performance in sugar exports was almost single-handedly
responsible for this growth, which was the largest percentage
increase in domestic exports observed in any single month this
year so far. All other major exports experienced notable declines,
with the exception of bananas, which were almost unchanged
when compared to July 2014.
Belize’s sugar exports grew sharply by $29 million during the
month, from $3 million to $32 million, as higher quality sugar
cane yielded more sugar per ton. Citrus exports, on the other
hand, decreased by almost $10 million from $14 million to $4
million, the result of a sharp drop in orange concentrate sales for
the month of July. Nonetheless, orange concentrate exports are
expected to improve in the coming months. Continued low world
market prices for crude petroleum led to an $8.5 million decline in export earnings from this commodity. Additionally, farm shrimp sales were
halved for the second consecutive month to almost $4 million, resulting in an overall $2 million drop marine exports.
Merchandise exports for the period January to July 2015 totaled $367.9 million, down 7.2% or a $28.8 million over the same period last
year. Crude petroleum had the largest share in that decline, with reduced earnings amounting to $41 million, an almost two-thirds drop
from the $65 million recorded in 2014. Additionally, citrus concentrate earnings fell by $13 million during the seven month period, from $76
million to $63 million. Sugar earnings, which grew by a considerable 39 percent from $75 million to $104 million, partially compensated for
the drop recorded in other major exports. A growth of $5 million in banana sales also contributed positively to Belize’s total exports for the
GDP Down For Second Quarter
And while the unemployment figure is down – so is the GDP – and that’s not good, because the GDP is
the total value of all goods and services produced within that territory. And when it is down – as it is for the second quarter of 2015 - that suggests
an economic slowdown. The latest GDP estimate was released today along with the figures of inflation in July of 2015 – which, despite the fact that you
may be paying more for groceries and foodstuffs, shows that overall, prices
are falling. We’ll let the experts explain it:
Jules Vasquez Reporting….
Inflation for July was down -1% when compared to July of last year.
That is based on a one hundred dollar so called shopping basket – and the statisticians say – it costs less than last year:
Angelita Campbell - Statistician II
"For instance if you were to purchase a basket of goods last year on an average of 100 dollars, this year it will cost roughly 99 dollars."
Now the hundred dollars in your family’s shopping basket may seem be costing much more – and indeed the cost of foodstuffs like eggs and beef have
gone up sharply – but the statisticians say that in the end it evens out:
Angelita Campbell - Statistician II
"We have meat going up, we have eggs going up. We see vegetables going down. There was a small increase as well in fruits. So I'm not saying
individually things are decreasing. I am saying on an average; which a broader spectrum of all the prices that we take into consideration. It's show a
"They are fluctuations within each category. If you're spending more money in house and rental, obviously it increase; I said before. But collectively,
you're spending less money on gas; you're spending less money on electricity. So there is an offset to that increase as well."
One of the main drivers of negative inflation is the lower cost of fuel compared to last year.
Angelita Campbell - Statistician II
"We see fuel prices decreasing by roughly 2 to 3 dollars in comparison to last year of the same period."
Still, Belize, Costa Rica and Panama are three of the only countries in the region to show negative inflation in July 2015.
In trade, the imbalance between imports and exports continued to grow – and the import bill was higher than ever:
Mrs. Marilyn Pinelo-Lee - Economic Statistics Manager
"Belize imported goods totalling 1.2 billion; an increase of 50.3 million or 4.4% from the same period last year.
Exports were down – and not just oil exports either:
Mrs. Marilyn Pinelo-Lee - Economic Statistics Manager
"Crude had the largest share in decline; amounting 41.3 million, due to decreased production and lower world market prices. Citrus experienced a
decline of 13.2 million attributing to decreased exports."
And that carried over to the Gross Domestic Product – which contracted in the second quarter of 2015.
Jefte Ochaeta, Statistician I, SIB
"For the months of April to June 2015 compared to the same period last year, total production of goods and services within the country if Belize fell
Now for the first half of 2015 there was a cumulative increase of 2.7% in the GDP; but in this second quarter, the main drop was in the secondary
or manufacturing sector – that’s the one in yellow.
Jefte Ochaeta, Statistician I, SIB
"We found that the decrease, the largest decrease was in manufacturing and oil and mining; which was around 10.9 million dollars less than what was
produced in 2014. Citrus concentrate was almost half less from what was produced in last year."
And if you are really into the numbers, you can find more at the Statistical Institute of Belize Website.
Unemployment At Lowest Mark in 7 Years
All over the world, unemployment figures are a critical indicator of an economy’s wellbeing. In Belize, the unemployment rate is derived from the
Labour Force Survey – which is done twice yearly – in April and September. The results of the April 2015 survey were released today and they show that
with a labour force of 153 thousand persons, 138 thousand are employed. That leaves 15 about thousand unemployed – for an unemployment rate of 10.1% -
the lowest recorded figure since April of 2007 – and one percent lower than a year ago. Director General of the Statistical Institute of Belize Leopold
Perriot explained at press conference today:..
Leopold Perriot - Director General, SIB
"The employed labour force went up slightly from April 2014 to April 2015; went up by total of about 3,500 people. So the employed persons, 138,145
person in April 2015. They are 15,544 persons that are unemployed in Belize April 2015 compared with 16,730 in April 2014; we're down in the unemployed
categories. And we're down mostly due to the females. Compared with April 2014, the unemployment rate is down 1 percentage point. Currently it stands
at about 10.1%; and so it's down from 11.1% in April 2014. And this is the distribution in respect to various districts. Stann Creek of course seems to
give us the highest unemployment rate; followed by Cayo. Lowest in Toledo, that's what it was last time Toledo also is 2014."
Unemployment has been trending down since September 2013 when it peaked at 16.1%. The next labour force survey is in September, which is usually higher
than April due to fewer seasonal jobs in tourism and agriculture. This survey polled 2800 households.
And if you get lost in all the percentages, this may be simpler: there are 3,558 more persons working in April 2015, than there were in APRIL 2014.
Statistical Institute of Belize reports on the economy
The Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB) had a press conference at the Central Bank of Belize at which presentations were made by Angelita Campbell, Marilyn Pinelo-Lee, Jefte Ocihaeta, and Dr. Leopold Perriott. Campbell stated in her presentation that consumer prices are down, but not by a significant amount — only by 1%. She pointed out as well that these consumer prices represent the average price of particular goods, which is derived after aggregating a range of prices being charged, and so what is actually spent at any given store by a customer may vary.
A comparison between prices of certain goods in July 2014 and those same goods in July 2015 showed the following changes: the price of eggs rose from $3.25 a dozen to $3.75 a dozen, the price of pork chops went from $6.71 to $7.16, and the price of ground beef rose from $5.06 to $5.90. Meanwhile there were price drops for red kidney beans which cost $2.33 per pound last year but now can be purchased at $1.41 per pound, and rice (retail) – the price of which fell from $1.21 per pound to $1.10.
Campbell went on to explain how an average $100 of household spending was apportioned. “The category of housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuel accounted for 26% of the $100.00, followed by food, non-alcoholic beverages at 20% and transportation at 14%… The inflation rate went down for housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuel at 0.5%, food & non-alcoholic beverages 0.5% and the transportation declined by 7.1%,” she stated. In taking a look at the municipalities, she noted that inflation went down in all municipalities, with the exception of Dangriga, where it increased by 1.8%.
When it comes to external trade, Belize’s total imports for the month of July 2015 were valued at $189.7 million. Meanwhile the country’s total domestic exports for July 2015 amounted to 63.8 million. Therefore, we imported $125.9 million more than we exported for July 2015. Pinelo-Lee outlined, “Thirty-three percent of imports originate from the United States of America, reflected in commodities such as vehicles, wheat and fertilizer. Composition of the Gross Imports by type for July 2015 is as follows: machinery and transport equipment: 20.7%, manufactured goods and other manufactures: 19%, commercial free zone and export processing zones: 21.7%, mineral fuels and lubricants: 12.8%, chemical products: 9.5%, food and live animals: 11.5% and other goods: 4.8%.”
In regards to Belize’s exports for July 2015, sugar sales accounted for an increase in exports, which grew sharply by $29 million during the month, from $3 million to 32 million. On the other hand, citrus exports saw a substantial decrease from $14 million to $4 million.
The SIB preliminary report on the Gross Domestic Product pointed out that, “During the three months from April to June of this year the overall production declined by 1.6% in comparison to the same period in 2014.” However while the country’s GDP decreased in the second quarter; it actually increased at the end of the first six months of the year by 2.7%, resulting in an increase over 2014.
In reference to the agricultural operations which comprise the primary sector — sugarcane, citrus, marine goods, and banana – the SIB noted that there was a downturn in productivity during the first quarter. “Sugarcane deliveries declined by 3.5%, or about 20 thousand metric tons,” the SIB noted. On the other hand, in citrus production there was an increase in the first quarter and then a drop about halfway into the second quarter. Also, marine exports fell from 3.7 million pounds to 3.3 million pounds, which was a decrease of 11%. The only recorded increase in production in the primary sector in the first quarter was in the banana industry, which recorded an increase of 3.8%.
In the secondary sector of the Belizean economy, which consists of industries and processing operations, there was a decline in productivity by 10.8% which occurred during the second quarter. Most of the industries in this sector produced less, with the exception of sugar production, which grew by 18%. The SIB pointed out that even though there was a drop in sugarcane deliveries, the 18% increase was due to an improvement in sugarcane quality. There was also a 6% increase in the production of beverages, particularly the production of soft drinks and alcoholic beverages. Also, there was an increase in water distribution, as access to rural areas expanded. Meanwhile, citrus concentrate production fell by 1.1 million: in the second quarter of 2014, 2.4 million gallons were produced, while in 2015 citrus concentrate production stands at 1.3 million gallons. There was also a decrease in crude petroleum extraction of 17%, and in construction activities, which recorded a decrease of 20%.
The SIB also detailed, “The tertiary sector, which includes the private sector and the government departments, and accounts for about a half of Belize’s total economy, grew by 2.9% in comparison to the second quarter of 2014. Wholesale and retail activities grew moderately, by just over 1%, while government services increased by almost 11% during the period.”
The GDP growth rates for the different sectors examined for the second quarter of 2015 are as follows: the primary sector had a 9.4% decrease, the secondary sector underwent a 10.8% decrease and the tertiary had a 2.9% increase.
In outlining labour force statistics, the SIB noted that there was growth in the employment sector. This growth was due to more women being employed: there were 5,000 more women employed in April 2015 than there were in April 2014. According to the SIB the labour force grew by 3,557, thus causing the unemployment rate to decline by 1%. The SIB pointed out, however, that while employment increased in the Orange Walk and Cayo Districts, the Corozal and Toledo districts recorded decreases in jobs. The SIB added that the Stann Creek district recorded the highest unemployment rate at 14.6%. “The total unemployed population is about 15,500 persons, of which two thirds had been without jobs for 6 months or longer,” the SIB said.
The SIB stated that 16 thousand persons, almost 12% of the employed labour force, were classified as underemployed, working less than 35 hours per week. The median monthly income in April 2015 was $1,192, with males earning about $90 more than females. More than a half of the country’s labour force had completed only a primary level of schooling or less.