Statistical Institute of Belize Report: Imports are up, exports down
The Statistical Institute of Belize today hosted a press briefing to provide an update on comparative unemployment, inflation and external trade statistics for 2013. Traditionally the institute is accessed only through releases or visits to the website…and frequently, those statistics are perceived to be manipulated for state purposes. That’s because public perception is a weighty thing, perhaps even more so that black and white figures on a printout. Still, the S.I.B. continues to churn out statistics, and is even seeking to dispel those pesky criticisms of manipulation by making themselves, and their statistics, much more accessible by the wider public. Today was the launch of the new, visible S.I.B. and Mike Rudon has the story, and the stats.
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Mike Rudon, Reporting
In addition to sending out regular stat sheets and emails, the SIB has scheduled six press conferences in 2014. It’s a new initiative designed to allow the SIB to reach out to the public, making data more accessible, understandable and user friendly. That’s a good thing by any estimation, since figures and percentages are a foreign language to many. Today Director of the Institute Glen Avilez opened the conference with the news that exports have decreased, while imports have grown.
Glen Avilez, Director, Statistical Institute of Belize
“We had a very strong increase in imports in 2013 compared to other years. In 2013 we imported a total of one point nine billion dollars worth of goods from the rest of the world. This is an increase of eight percent or roughly a hundred and thirty-three million dollars. When compared to the previous years it was a much higher performance, a stronger performance.”
Imports increased in all areas with the exception of oils and fats. The sectors showing the most significant increase were machinery and transport equipment. Domestic exports, on the other hand, have decreased, largely because of a decline in oil production.
“Unlike imports, they contract in 2013. Exports were at their highest level in 2011 and in 2012 they dipped, well they fell; it was more than a dip. And again in 2013 there was another fall. This fall was eight percent, almost matching the growth in imports. The decrease in our exports revenues were largely due to lower oil and citrus receipts. In fact these two products combined for ninety million dollars less revenues.”
Areas which showed the strongest performance in export revenue were marine products and animal feed. Imports increased by eight percent, while exports fell by eight percent, making for what economists call a widening trade imbalance. Doesn’t sound like a positive thing, but there is some positive news – inflation was up by only point five percent, when averaged out between 2012 and 2013.
“We have a basket of two hundred and sixty goods and services, which our officers in the back and some who are not present today, collected on at least a quarterly basis. We have food prices and fuel prices which are collected monthly so we can monitor the change in these goods. Price collection occurs in all urban areas with the exception of Benque Viejo and San Pedro Ambergris Caye. So Corozal Town, Orange Walk Town, Belize City, Belmopan, Dangriga, Punta Gorda any place missed San Ignacio, thank you. Between, and this is a point to point change, between December 2012 and December 2013, the CPI increased by one point six percent.”
One point six percent, averaged out over the calendar year, amounts to a mere zero point five percent. And see, that’s where perception and figures meet in a head on collision. Widespread belief is that the cost of goods and services continues to go up, which makes inflation of only point five percent seems incredible, or maybe even manufactured.
“What we have the benefit of is that we do price collection in all parts of the country. People will talk to you about their individual situations. And yes a number of goods have seen an increase over the years, particularly food items. Food items are now about three point six percent higher than they were last year. But if you would talk to those same persons about items like clothing, which has remain constant for the most part has been fallen; that is to be considered. There are quite a number of goods whose prices have not changed over that period. So we have the extremes of some goods increasing I think in your kit, there are few examples of some goods having double digit increases and then there are those that have fallen during the year. Then you have in the middle, a large number of goods whose prices have remained relatively flat. And so doing the simple math of averaging a thousand zeros, am sorry, we only have two hundred and sixty items. Lets day there are seventy-five items whose prices have remained flat at zero, it cancels out those that have been increasing by ten percent, eight percent and so we end up with the zero point five percent.”
According to Avilez, Belize’s current inflation rates are consistent with those in Canada and the US, which have gone down. Mike Rudon for News Five.