At his press conference on Wednesday, June 8, 2011, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dean Barrow said that Belize’s tourism sector is clearly on the rebound, with first quarter growth reported at roughly 3%.

He said that overnight visitors between January and March 2011 amounted to 2,123 visitors, as compared to the same time last year.

“There is an overall growth over last year with respect to overnight tourism...a little bit in excess of 3%,” the Prime Minister said.

He also spoke of other major pillars of the economy, such as agriculture.

Barrow said that although the citrus industry is having internal problems, and is being plagued by citrus greening disease, the Citrus Products of Belize Limited, the company that is the principal manufacturer of juices and exporter of citrus in Belize, was able successfully to negotiate its way out of the cash flow problem, without recourse to government financing.

He added that the country is also about to complete a very successful sugar crop, and for the first time in recent memory, the tons of cane taken to produce a ton of sugar (TCTS) is just over 8, contrasting with the previous range of 10 to 13 TCTS.

As for bananas, the Prime Minister said that production is expected to approach 5 million boxes next year, while it should hold steady this year, as compared to last year, at 4.1 to 4.2 million boxes.

Government revenues are meeting projections and forecasts, he also reported.

“That is why we have been able to prepay our monthly bills [to Belize Electricity Limited] to keep the company afloat,” said Barrow.

He reported that the Government of Belize had that same morning signed two loan agreements with CABEI (The Central American Bank for Economic Integration).

The first is in the amount of US$4.8 million for the Dump to Jalacte road in Toledo, which is currently under construction. The project’s total cost is about $40 million, and 300 jobs were created for Toledo, said the Prime Minister.

The second loan agreement signed with CABEI is for US$6.2 million. This is for financing for infrastructure works at the new northern border crossing. The plan is for a new international bridge to be built.

The Prime Minister also spoke of other works projects, primarily the Southside Poverty Alleviation Project, commenced under the People’s United Party administration.

Barrow said that they are about to begin civil works in Phase II, which is estimated to run up a tab of about $28 million.

The project will also have a social component, said Barrow, which includes money for education, training, home repair and home improvement.

Home repair will begin within 45 days, at the most, he said. There are repairs planned for Jane Usher Boulevard as well as Central American Boulevard, in addition to other streets on the Southside. Financing is being provided to municipalities for projects as well, the Prime Minister said.

He also mentioned a project to be financed by the Inter-American Development Bank to implement mitigation measures for storms, floods and other natural disasters.

“All this infrastructure drives job creation, and development is all about job creation,” said Barrow.