GDP Shows Some Growth, Thanks to Tourism

And while unemployment inched up - the Gross Domestic Product showed encouraging growth in the first quarter of 2018.  It’s only 1.8%, but for the past two years, first quarter GDP growth has been less than 1%.  

SIB Statistician Angelita Campbell explained that the tertiary or service sector, mainly tourism, fuelled economic growth:..

Angelita Campell - Statistician II
"Belize produced goods and services totaling 756.9 million dollars indicating an increase of 13.1 million or 1.8 percent when compared to the same period of last year. The primary industry which accounts for almost one-tenth of the country's economic activity decreased by 10.9 million dollars or 11.9 percent. Within this sector we have agricultural hunting and forestry going down by 8.2 percent or 6.7 million dollars. We see the sugar cane production going down by 4.6 percent as a result of factory down time while we have citrus and banana going down by 19.3 percent and 19.5 percent respectively. Fishing also went down by 44.3 percent or 4.2 million and this is seen in 290 thousand less pound of shrimp being exported, 90 thousand less in conch being exported and 100 thousand less in pounds of whole fish being exported."

"Now we're looking closer at the beverage production, as stated before beverage went down by 7.4 percent and this can be seen in a 16.5 percent drop in soft drinks production which is largely due to competition from imports and market demand. We see beer production going down by less than 1 percent and this was strictly due to market demands. The tertiary industry which accounts for more than half of Belize's total economy increased by 20.3 million or 4.6 percent. Within the tertiary sector we saw hotel and restaurant industry increasing by roughly 20 percent or 6.6 million. Within the same sector we have overnight visitors actually going up by 22.5 percent, cruise visitors going up by 4.6 percent and room revenue also went up by 33.5 percent."

Unemployment Figures Are Up

The unemployment figure for April 2018 were released today - and they show that unemployment is up slightly when compared to April of 2017.  It has increased from 9% to 9.4. That means over 16 thousand Belizeans are unemployed - 1,300 more than a year ago.  

As Wendy Benavides from the SIB explained, this is due to the fact that there are more jobs available and more people seeking those jobs:

Wendy Benavides - Statistician II
"The rise in this area was as a result of more persons joining the labor force and jobs being created. Over 5,800 more jobs this year, this was especially seen in the Cayo and Toledo Districts The district with the lowest level of unemployment was Corozal at 5.6% experiencing increases in the employment in the service sector."

As you heard, Corozal had the lowest unemployment rate, while Cayo had the highest at 13.6%.  Labour Force surveys are conducted in April and September - typically, unemployment is higher in September because there’s less seasons employment from tourism.

Exports Down Due to Primary Sector Shortfalls

So, basically, the productive sector had major downturns - which also created a decline in exports. Tiffany Vasquez outlined where the biggest export losses were concentrated:…

Tiffany Vasquez - Statistician II
"For the period January to May 2018 Belize's total domestic exports were valued at 190.6 million dollars, this was a decrease of 19.8 percent or almost 47 million. This overall decline was the outcome of diminished earnings from most of Belize's major exports. Significant losses in export earnings from sugar was the primary cause of this down turn as the loss of preferential rates for Belize's sugar and the European market heavily impacted that commodity.”

Inflation Stable, Better Than Region

And while exports were down, inflation was marginal - especially when compared to other countries in the region:

Jacqueline Sabal - Statistician II
"The inflation rate for the month of May 2018 stood at 0.3 percent, meaning that on average prices were 0.3 percent higher than they were in May 2017. Across all municipalities Orange Walk Town reported the highest positive increase at 1.8 percent while Dangriga reported the biggest decrease at negative 2.3 percent. Orange Walk Town’s increase was mainly attributed to higher fuel and food costs while Dangriga's negative rate was due to lower rent cost. When we look at Belize compared to some of the other countries in the region, our inflation rate is 0.3 percent, Guatemala is at 4 percent, Honduras 3.9 percent, Nicaragua 5.3, Costa Rica is at 2, Jamaica at 3.1 and Dominican Republic at 4.5."

The was the Statistical Institute’s quarterly press conference and it was held at the Central Bank Conference Room.

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The Cost of Living – SIB Presents Latest Report

Latest statistics show a mixed bag in the cost of living. Prices for goods and services went up slightly in May of this year when compared to the same period last year.  Consumers also felt a pinch in their pockets due to transportation costs which resulted from a rise in prices for fuels and lubricants. But consumers paid less for meats, some fruits and vegetables. Today, the Statistical Institute of Belize released the latest consumer price index, gross domestic product and external trade bulletins which delve into economic activities in Belize in May 2018 when compared to May of 2017. News Five’s Andrea Polanco shares some of the highlights of the statistical report in the following story.

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

For the first quarter of 2018, Belize produced goods and services of seven hundred and fifty six point nine million dollars – increasing by one point eight percent or thirteen point one million dollars over the same period of last year. According to the SIB, the GDP has been steadily increasing over the years. The primary industry saw a decrease in economic activity of almost twelve percent or close to eleven million dollars, most notably in agriculture and fisheries sectors.

Angelita Campbell, Statistician II, SIB

“Within this sector we have agriculture and hunting going down by eight point two percent or six point seven million dollars. We see the sugarcane production going down by four point six percent as a result of factory downtime, while we have citrus and banana going down by nineteen point three percent and nineteen point five percent, respectively. Contrary to that we have livestock going up by three point nine percent. Fishing also went down by forty-four point three percent or four point two million and this is seen in two hundred and ninety thousand less pounds of shrimp being exported, ninety thousand less pounds of conch being exported and a hundred thousand less in pounds of whole fish being exported. The orange fruit delivered decreased by roughly twenty-one percent or sixteen point seven thousand metric tons from seventy-nine point two thousand metric tons to sixty-two point five thousand metric tons and this was due to ageing fruit trees, citrus greening and loss of farms in the months of January and February.”

The secondary industry also experienced a marginal decrease in production of about two hundred thousand dollars, largely due to mining and manufacturing which was recorded in sugarcane production. The tertiary industry, of tourism, communication, transport and other Government services, however, saw remarkable growth of about twenty million dollars or just over four and a half percent. And how much did Belizeans pay for these goods and services? According to the S.I.B, the prices went up marginally.

Jacqueline Sabal, Statistician II, SIB

“The consumer price index for May 2018 stood at one hundred four point seven and the inflation rate for the month of May stood at zero point three percent; meaning that on average prices were zero point three percent higher than they were in May 2017. Looking at the inflation rate for the first five months of the year, it stood at negative zero point one percent.  For food and non-alcoholic beverages, food prices recorded a decrease in the inflation rate at zero point four percent, while non-alcoholic beverages saw a two point five percent decrease in the inflation rate. While at the product level, we observed a decrease in the average price of certain meats, fruits and vegetables.  Within the housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels category, home rental prices fell by zero point four percent, however, not enough to offset the fifteen point five percent rise in LPG prices, which aided in the overall increase in this category.”

For the external trade bulletin, imports are up by three point one percent or and exports are down by twenty point two percent for May 2018. The increase in imports is largely due to the higher world market prices for fuel and significant losses in export earnings from sugar resulted in the primary cause of decrease in exports.

Tiffany Vasquez, Statistician II, SIB

“This overall increase for the first five months of the year was due to the fact the country spent more on minerals, fuels, lubricants, machinery and transport equipment and goods destined for the commercial free zones and export processing zones. However, this period also saw a decrease imports particularly in the purchases of manufactured goods and other manufactures, crude materials and chemical products. Belize’s total domestic exports were valued at one hundred and ninety point six million dollars. This was a decrease of nineteen point eight percent or almost forty-seven million when compared to the two hundred and thirty-seven million dollars worth of goods exported from January to May of last year. This overall decline was the outcome of diminished earnings from most of Belize’s major exports, with crude petroleum being the only major commodity to have recorded an increase over the five month period.”

Unemployment Rate Goes Up

Preliminary findings from the April 2018 labour force survey carried out by S.I.B. shows that the country’s unemployment rate increased  by a marginal zero point four percent, so when compared to last April’s nine percent, the unemployment rate now stands at nine point four percent.  According to the S.I.B., this resulted from an increase in unemployment rate in the Cayo and Toledo districts where persons were joining the labour force at a faster pace than at which jobs were being created.  The latest stats show that the total number of employed persons in April stands at one hundred and fifty-five thousand nine hundred and fifty and just over sixteen thousand persons are unemployed. The survey also shows that more women were joining the labour force when compared to last year, however, men still account for sixty percent of those employed.  Wendy Benavides of the S.I.B breaks down the numbers.

Wendy Benavides, Statistician II, SIB

“In April 2018, Belize’s total population was estimated at three hundred and ninety five thousand eight hundred and eighty two; of this amount, approximately two hundred and sixty-two thousand five hundred and thirty, or sixty-six percent of Belize’s population was fourteen years and older, which is the population of interest in the labour force. Among persons in the working age population, approximately one hundred and seventy-two thousand and eighty six persons or sixty-five percent of them were in the labour force, which means they were either employed or unemployed. Over seven-thousand one hundred persons were estimated to have entered the labour force in April; this is the largest number of persons entering the labour force for the past six years. The persons not in the labour force decreased by one thousand three hundred and twenty seven over the last year. In April 2018, there were about one hundred and fifty five thousand nine hundred and fifty persons or ninety percent of the labour force were employed which represents an increase of over five thousand eight hundred persons. The number of unemployed persons who also increased by just over thirteen hundred during the same period.”

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