Inflation Down, GDP Too

Earlier we told you how unemployment is down to 10.2% for September – which is two percentage points lower than last year at the same time. But there were also other important figures coming out of today’s 80-minute press conference held by the Statistical Institute of Belize. First off, inflation was down by 0.8%, imports were up by 3.5% and in the third quarter, the economy contracted, with GDP growth of negative 1%. Here’s a full rundown:

Angelita Campbell - Statistician II, SIB

"The inflation 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 that of last year."

"The food and all items had very minimal movement but when you take a closer look at the fuel index, we realise since the start of this year we had an increase of fuel prices up until around June then we start seeing a decline in the fuel prices."

"Within the food index we saw beef going up by roughly 29%. There was also an increase in pork, eggs and fruits. Those increases were offset by a decline of red kidney beans of roughly 32% also a decline in vegetables."

"We look again we see that roughly 24% increase in the price of beef, liquid petroleum declined roughly 27%. There is the carrot that went down by -8%, cabbage also went down by -7% roughly."

"If you look closely you realise that Punta Gorda and Dangriga had the inflation rate growing by 1.4% and 1.8% perceptively. That can be attributed to the highest increase recorded in those two areas of rental prices."

"Finally we'll be looking at the inflation rates in the region. Within the region we have Nicaragua recording the highest inflation rate of 0.4%, while we have El Salvador at a -1.1% and we have Belize in the middle of that of a -0.8%. Closer to home we have Mexico growing by 2.5% and Jamaica at 2%"

Stephanie Vasquez - Economic Statistics Unit

"In January to October of this year, Belize's imports were valued at 1.7 billion dollars, up 3.1% or 51.4 million from January to October of last year."

"Importation of machinery and transport equipment was the greatest contributor to that increase as heighten purchases of transportation and farming equipment led to a 50 million dollar growth in that category. The manufactured goods category went up by 23 million dollars, largely due to tyre and steel purchases."

"In January to October of this year, Belize exports were valued at 477.2 million dollars, down 13.2% or 72.4 million dollars from the 549.6 million recorded for the same period."

"Major contributors to change in exports included a 55.4 million drop on crude petroleum earnings. Marine exports fell by 15.7 million dollars, as shrimp sales declined by 24% within the period January to October; additionally citrus fell by 6.8 million dollars, as orange concentrate exports dropped by 8%. Contrastingly sugar's performance has been a strong one, increasing by 11.2 million dollars; a notable 10% growth over the same period last year."

Jefte Ochaeta - Statistician I

"For the third quarter of the year production of goods and services there has been an increase fell by 1% and for the months of January to September, there has been an increase of 1.2% in total goods produced and services in the country."

"We've observed that fishing, fishing which dropped by 25.9 million compared to 2014 had the highest contribution towards the decrease in the economy. Likewise, agriculture also contributed to the decrease in the economy registering a 6.4 median decrease."

"Banana was down by almost three thousand tons, the main reason is because the year was a dry year and that affected the maturity of plants thus we have less production."

"Construction increased by 10%, we observed this increase when investigating we also found out that there is a correlation between loans that are given by banks towards construction, for construction purposes; those increase by 8%. More people are accessing finance for construction activities. This is interesting, we had 2,000 gallons less of rum production for this year; however that doesn't mean that we are not producing more rum. For the previous months we had an increase in rum production, so I am assuming that it's because these companies have in stock, that's why the decrease of production for this portion of the year. The same patterns were observed for beer where we had a decrease of 14%.

"Hotel and restaurants decrease decreased by 2%. There was a decrease in cruise visitors of 10% and overnight visitors increase by 7%. However it's notable that this 10% decrease in cruise ship visitors represents 17,000 less persons arriving to Belize for the month of July to September."

Unemployment Is Down, 6K new jobs

Labour Force Surveys are carried out in April and September – and usually these figures reflect seasonality of the labour force – meaning that in April when tourism is still in season – the unemployment is low – but in September, when the season is off, the unemployment is high. But this year is unusual because the unemployment figures released today show hardly any difference between April and September. The Statistical Institute of Belize released the latest figures – and they show unemployment at 10.2% in September, meaning 5,900 more people were working when compared ot last year at the same time. The Director General said that the increased employment of women is what’s bridging the gap:…

Dr. Leopold Perriott - Director

"As far as the unemployment rate, we estimated a 10.2% in September, that's the current estimate. The country has a couple highs, a high 15.2 in Stann Creek and 14.0 in Cayo. This compares with September 2014 for the country, this is a 12.2% in September 2014, so it's down by almost 2 percentage points. But when I look at the numbers, I think the females are driving these numbers. Unemployment is down for females, the unemployed persons are down by 3,039. I think the females are the ones who are driving the decreasing in unemployment rates."

We’ll have more statistics from the S-I-B later on in the news – as they tell us about GDP contraction in the third quarter….

Channel 7

IMPORTS

OCTOBER: Belize’s total imports for the month of October 2015 were valued at $184.2 million. This was an increase of 3.5 percent or $6.2 million over last October’s imports, which were valued at almost $178 million. Two thirds of all the goods imported during the month consisted of machinery, equipment, manufactured items, and goods for the ‘Commercial Free Zones’ and ‘Export Processing Zones’.

Goods destined for the ‘Export Processing Zones’ grew by $5 million from $9 million to $13 million, due to large purchases of steam turbines. Imports of ‘Machinery and Transport Equipment’, and ‘Food and Live Animals’ both rose by $4 million, with purchases of personal vehicles, portable radio telephones and various food items all rising in comparison to October 2014. Increased steel purchases resulted in a $2 million increase in ‘Manufactured Goods’ during the month.

Imports into the ‘Commercial Free Zones’ and the category of ‘Mineral and Fuels and Lubricants’ experienced the largest declines for the month, at $9 million and $5 million, respectively. While the latter resulted from fewer cigarette and clothing purchases, the former was caused by lower world market prices across all types of fuels.

EXPORTS

OCTOBER: Total domestic exports for October 2015 amounted to $37.9 million, down 15.8 percent or $7.1 million when compared to last October’s exports of $45 million. Crude petroleum, marine and banana sales, which together accounted for almost three quarters of export revenues in October 2014, all declined for the month, contributing only a half of total exports in October 2015. Crude petroleum dropped by more than a half, from $11 million to $5 million. Diminished marine exports, owing to reduced farm shrimp sales, fell from $11 million to $7 million. Additionally, banana exports experienced a $2 million drop for the month, as sales abroad declined from $10 million to $8 million, owing to the exclusion of one banana farm.



CONSUMER PRICES DOWN BY 0.8% IN OCTOBER

During the month of October 2015, prices of goods and services purchased by Belizean households were, on average, 0.8 percent lower than in October 2014. According to the latest statistics on consumer prices released by the Statistical Institute of Belize, the All-Items Consumer Price Index stood at 102.9, down from 103.8 in the same month last year. For the first ten months of this year, an inflation rate of negative 0.9 percent was recorded.

The “Transport” category declined by 7 percent and remains the single greatest contributor to the overall decrease in consumer prices, driven primarily by falling fuel costs. All three types of fuel recorded a substantial drop in prices when compared to October 2014. Premium and regular gasoline were down by about 23 percent and 28 percent, respectively, while diesel recorded the greatest decline of 29 percent.

The category of “Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages” was almost unchanged, decreasing by a marginal 0.2 percent when compared to the same period of 2014. At the individual product level, significant increases continued to be observed in the prices of beef, pork and eggs. However, these were offset by lower prices for red kidney beans, cooking oil, shortening and fresh vegetables.

Although home rental prices recorded an increase of 0.8 percent compared to October 2014, the “Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels” category showed no overall change. This was due to the fact that higher home rental prices were offset by the continued decline in the price of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), which dropped by $31 or 27 percent from $115 in October 2014 to $84 in October 2015.

Across all other categories of goods and services prices rose, on average, by just under 1 percent. Items such as doctors’ consultation fees and motor vehicle insurance premiums were up in comparison to October 2014, and dampened the effect of sharply lower fuel prices on the overall inflation rate.

Dangriga and Punta Gorda were the only municipalities that recorded increases in consumer prices with inflation rates of 1.8 and 1 percent, respectively. Home rental prices were up by 2.7 percent in both towns, more than in any of the other municipalities. In contrast, Belmopan recorded the lowest inflation rate of negative 2 percent, reflecting the smallest increase in rent, while Corozal Town saw virtually no change in prices, on average.


You may download the entire series for both External Trade and CPI in Excel format from the Statistical Institute of Belize website: (http://www.sib.org.bz/statistics)


SIB Releases Consumer Price Index for October 2015

The Consumer Price Index for the month of October 2015 has been released by the Statistical Institute of Belize.  Those figures, as well as data pertaining to inflation rates by municipality were all made available during an extended press conference this morning.  Last month’s records indicate that the prices of goods and services purchased by the average Belizean family were typically lower than in October 2014.  Similarly, the all-items CPI stood at zero point nine percent, down from the same month last year.  Statistician Angelita Campbell explains the reasons behind the decrease.

Angelita Campbell, Statistician, S.I.B.

“The diagram in front of you illustrates the inflation rates by category.  When we look at the housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels category we see a marginal increase of zero point zero four percent.  Within that category we have housing increasing, however the increase in housing was offset by a decrease in electricity of roughly about five percent, also a decrease in butane gas of roughly twenty-seven percent.  We look at the food and non-alcoholic beverages category, we see a slight decline of zero point two percent.  Within that category however, we had a marginal increase in the food index alone of zero point zero four percent.  That was offset by a decline in the alcoholic beverages, tobacco and narcotics category.  Within the food index we saw beef going up by roughly twenty-five percent.  There was also an increase in pork, eggs and fruits.  Those increases were offset by a decline of red kidney beans of roughly thirty-two percent, also a decline in vegetables.  The transport category, as you already know from the beginning of this year, has been declining.  We’re a decline of minus seven point three percent.  As also noted before, there is a decline in the price of fuel when compared to last year same period.  The decline of petroleum was about twenty-three percent.  We had regular gasoline going down by twenty-eight percent and we had diesel going down by roughly twenty-nine percent.  Within all other categories we saw increases mainly in health and insurance.”

…Imports are Up, Exports are Down

The External Trade Bulletin for October reflects a three and a half percent increase in goods imported into the country, while domestic exports are down by as much as sixteen percent.

Stephanie Vasquez, Statistician, S.I.B.

“In January to October of this year, Belize’s imports were valued at one point seven billion dollars, up three point one percent or fifty-one point four million dollars from January to October of last year.  Importation of transport machinery and equipment was the greatest contributor to that increase as heightened purchases of transportation and farming equipment led to a fifty million dollar growth in that category.  The manufactured goods category went up by twenty-three million dollars, largely due to tire and steel purchases, while the importation of chemical products grew by sixteen million dollars, the result of increased fertilizer and medical supply purchases.  In the period, Belize spent sixty-three million dollars less on mineral fuels and lubricants, despite a twenty-seven percent increase in the importation of diesel, regular and premium fuels combined.  The categories of machinery and transport equipment, commercial free zones and export processing zones and manufactured goods all held similar shares of Belize’s imports at twenty-two percent, twenty-one percent and twenty percent, respectively.  Mineral fuels and lubricants and food and live animals equaled in their proportions of Belize’s imports at eleven percent, while all other goods combined amounted to fifteen percent.”

What are the Contributing Factors to Decline?

As previously mentioned, exports for the month of October 2015 totaled thirty-seven million dollars, a majority of those goods being shipped to the United States and the European Union, respectively.

Stephanie Vasquez, Statistician, S.I.B.

“In January to October of this year, Belize’s exports were valued at four hundred and seventy-seven point two million dollars, down thirteen point two percent or seventy-two point four million dollars from the five hundred and forty-nine point six million recorded for the same period last year.  Major contributors to change in exports included a fifty-five point four million dollar drop in crude petroleum earnings.  This constitutes a sixty-three percent financial loss for only a fifty-five percent reduction in exported barrels, indicative of the negative impact of plunging crude petroleum prices worldwide.  Marine exports fell by fifteen point seven million dollars, as shrimp sales declined by twenty-four percent within the period January to October.  Additionally, citrus fell by six point eight million dollars as orange concentrate exports dropped by eight percent.  Of note, while June and July were months of decline, orange concentrate exports have since recovered hence, in spite of the mentioned decrease, the trajectory is a positive one.  Banana grew by a marginal point four million dollars over the period.  Having secured a six point five million dollar increase in the months of January to March, banana exports have since declined, the largest of which was visible in the month of October as exports fell in that month by twenty percent.”

Channel 5