The Statistical Institute of Belize has just released the Second Quarter 2009 Gross Domestic Product results. The results were poor. The Prime Minister in his quarterly press conference last week indicated that the country was in an economic recession. The blame is being placed on the global financial crisis which started on Wall Street in the United States and trickled its way to markets and economies around the world. the news is that during the first six months of 2009, the Belizean economy contracted one point seven percent, compared to a three percent expansion over the same period in 2008. In terms of declines per quarters, it was down two percent in the first quarter and one point three percent in the second quarter.
According to the report, the wholesale and retail trade, transportation, hotels and restaurants, and agriculture were the main drivers of the decline in economic activity over the first half of 2009. Wholesale and retail trade contracted sharply by eight point seven percent. The slow‐down in trade was evident in a twenty-one point one percent reduction in merchandise imports. Domestic export sales fell by eighteen point seven percent. Hotels and restaurants performance fell by eleven point four percent in the first quarter, followed by an additional eight point five percent fall over the second quarter. That’s a staggering nineteen point nine percent decrease over the two quarters for a sector that is reliant on the tourism industry.
The weakening trade activities and the decline in tourist arrivals which negatively impacted sea and air transportation contributed to a fall off in value added from the transportation sector which saw an overall three point seven percent reduction. The fishing industry slipped its way by with a small drop of only point six percent. The Agricultural sector, however, suffered a major contraction in the second quarter with an overall decline of ten point nine percent. The sluggish performance was attributed to downturns in grapefruit and orange production, due to floods in 2008 that damaged relevant groves.
So was any industry spared? Yes. The first half of 2009 growth was recorded in manufacturing, construction, and other business activities. The capital works projects and development activity funded by the International Financial Institutions, the development sector grew by twenty-four point eight percent. The report goes on to say that the commercial banks continue to perform well in both quarters. Oil production increased by forty-one percent and the sugar industry rebounded by fourteen percent. These growths, according to the report, allowed the manufacturing sector to have a record a twelve point three percent increase. All things said, the country still has a long way to go before it rises from the economic recession.