The Statistical Institute of Belize today released the fourth quarter GDP figures for 2013.  Growth had been projected at 2.5% for the entire year, but a slew of adverse circumstances conspired to cause almost zero growth for the first three quarters of the year.  So, how did it turn out in the final quarter?  That's what we found out today at an SIB Press Conference at the ITVET Compound:…

Jules Vasquez Reporting

The GDP in the fourth quarter of 2013 increased from the previous three quarters which were virtually stagnant, but at 1.5% the mild uptick is nothing to write home about – and it still only brings to annual growth to less than one per cent:

Glen Avilez, Director SIB
"In the fourth quarter, there was an acceleration, and that was the period of highest growth of 1.5%. Putting all 4 quarters together, we get a growth rate of 0.7% for the entire year. We are a little worse off than we were last year. If the size of the economy was 100 last year, it has expanded by 0.7%, so it is just under 101."

The actual dollar size of the economy was 3 billion dollars in 2012, adjusted for inflation, that's

Glen Avilez
"It is a slight increase of that 3 billion to about 3.1 billion dollars roughly. So, it is not much."

And it's the lowest in the last five years, but that there was any growth at all is remarkable because the SIB reports downturns in sugar, citrus and bananas. Citrus fell hardest:

Glen Avilez
"There was a bumper crop in 2012, and whenever you have a bumper crop, it is like when these trees are fully loaded in one year, and the following year, they are spent, and they need time to recover. So, the following year or years, they will have lower output. So, that was one; the production cycle, and then, there was the influence of citrus greening disease."

Sugar and citrus are expected to rebound, but not oil:

Glen Avilez
"A decrease was expected in oil, but it was wasn't expected to be as much as 23%. The reality is that the reserves are being depleted. So, that is likely to go down even further in the years to come."

And the fisheries and construction sectors showed strong increases. Construction had its second year of double-digit growth, while shrimp exports went up by 81%

Glen Avilez
"This industry stood out as the single largest contributor to that 0.7% that we saw earlier for 2013. And this was largely facilitated by the re-opening of Belize Aquaculture Limited."

Now if the population is growing at 2.6% the economy at less than 1% - it's a recipe for hard times:

Glen Avilez
"What we have is a pie that has not grown by any significant amount, 0.7%. So, we have more people that must share this pie. Because it is only 0.7% and the population has grown by 2.6%, it means that we have less per person than we did last year."

Still, a fair rate of growth is predicted for 2014:

Glen Avilez
"2014, there is a 2% prediction, and I think that is reasonable. So, having a low, it is easy to go from a low."

While the four quarters have averaged at 0.7% growth – that's not the final figure. The SIB still has to wait for annual figures from other service and agro industries such as a papaya and corn that only report their figures annually.  Depending on how those turn out, that final tally could send the final GDP figure as high as 2% or as low as zero per cent.  We'll know next week Friday when the 2014 – 2015 budget is presented by the Prime Minister.

Later, we'll have more from the SIB as they tell us why food prices shot up in January.

Channel 7