The most recent figures from the Statistical Institute of Belize’s monthly Consumer Price Index (CPI) survey show that, for the first month of the year in 2021, the All-Items CPI stood at 101.3, an overall increase of 1 percent from 100.2 in the first month of the year in 2020 (see Figure 1). This indicates that, on average, while prices for some types of goods and services increased and others decreased, the goods and services most typically purchased by Belizean households cost 1 percent more in January 2021 than they did in January of 2020. This overall change was the net effect of higher costs for food items, personal care products, and home rentals being counteracted by considerable reductions in prices for hotel accommodations and fuel.
The Statistical Institute of Belize’s preliminary fourth-quarter Gross Domestic Product estimates showed that, during the months of October to December 2020, the overall level of production for the country of Belize declined by 13.1 percent in comparison to the same three months in 2019. The total value of goods and services produced within the country for this period stood at $592.6 million, down $89.6 million from $682.2 million produced in the fourth quarter of 2019.Click the following link to read more: Gross Domestic Product, 4th Quarter 2020
This morning, the Statistical Institute of Belize hosted a virtual press conference to discuss their preliminary reports on several economic indicators. Those figures include a look at the country's gross domestic product for the last quarter of 2020, last year's external trade, and the import and export figures for the first month of 2021.
We start first with the SIB's examination of gross domestic product for the 4th quarter of 2020. It continued to slide, pulled down by the weight of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic:
Jacqueline Sabal - Statistician II
"For the 4th quarter months of October to December 2020, Belize produced goods and services totaling 592.6 million dollars. This represents a decrease of 89.6 million dollars, or 13.1 percent when compared to the 4th quarter of 2019. Preliminary annual estimates for the year 2020 indicate that the goods and services produced totaled 2,475.1 million dollars. This represents a decrease of 14 percent from 2,880.9 million dollars produced in 2019. If we take a closer look at the annual GDP from 2015 to 2020, we observe a sharp decline in overall output in the year 2020, reflecting the severe economic effects of COVID-19. Now, if we assess what each sector contributes to the overall GDP, the sector whose movements make the most impact is the tertiary sector. Declines in contributions of the tertiary sector to the overall GDP are clearly observed over the past year. Now, looking at what each sector contributed in the 4th quarter of 2020 alone, the sector with the largest contribution was again the tertiary sector, which accounted for 61.4% of production. The secondary sector accounted for 15.9%, the primary sector 9.2%, and the remain 13.6% was in taxes. Looking specifically at the 4th quarter GDP, at constant prices over a 7-year period, the graph highlights fluctuations in the GDP from 2015 to 2019, followed by a significant 13.1% decline in production in the year 2020. During this period, production within the tertiary sector declined, overshadowing increase production in both the primary and the secondary sectors."
"Despite the opening of the international airport in October, activities within the hotels and restaurants sub-sector remained virtually non-existent compared to previous years. Cruise ship calls have not commenced since March of 2020, while overnight tourist arrivals have declined by 85.6% from approximately 120 thousand visitors in quarter 4 of 2019, to 17 thousand in 2020. And just to recap, for the 4th quarter of 2020, GDP decreased by 13.1%, compared to the same period of 2019. Production across the primary sector increased by 0.6%. The secondary sector grew by 22.5%, and the tertiary sector decreased by 18.8%."
IMPORTS DOWN, EXPORTS UP
Another major topic coming out of today's press conference was a deep dive into the country's external trade.
In her presentation, Statistician Tiffany Vasquez took a brief look at how the country's imports and exports underperformed last year. Here's her summary:
Tiffany Vasquez - Statistician II
"Total imports for the year 2020 amounted to 1.6 billion dollars. Imports dropped substantially by 20.2%, or almost 398 million dollars when compared to the year 2019. The categories of mineral fuels and lubricants and commercial free zones declined significantly, falling by 46% and 34% respectively. Other commodity categories also decreased notably with both machinery and transport equipment and other manufacturers each falling by 20% in the year. Likewise, imports of treated pine lumber and used clothing were considerably smaller in 2020 resulting in a 43% drop in crude materials categories. There were also increased observed in the year, particularly in the categories in beverages and tobacco and chemical products, where the increase in the latter was driven mostly by heightened imports of disinfectants, insecticides, and diagnostic testing kits. Now for domestic exports, merchandise export earnings for the year 2020 totaled 367.8 million. This was a decrease of 11.1%, or a drop of 46.1 million dollars when compared to exports of 2019. Of Belize's 5 major exports, bananas alone saw increased earnings for the year, growing by 10% or almost 8 million dollars in the year 2020."
From there, she gave an analysis of the country's exports for the first month of the new year. According to the SIB, imports are down by 18%. Here's more from Vasquez:
Tiffany Vasquez - Statistician II
"In January of this year, Belize imported goods valuing 131.9 million dollars. This represented a considerable 18% decrease, amounting to a drop of almost 29 million dollars when compared to imports of January of 2020. The categories of mineral fuels and lubricants, machinery and transport equipment, and commercial free zones declined markedly during the month. Expenditures on mineral fuels and lubricants dropped by almost 50%, falling from 22.2 million dollars to 11.6 million, a downturn which was prompted by smaller imports of fuel being purchased at reduced world market prices. Importation of machinery and transport equipment, such as aviation equipment, pumps, and vehicles dropped by 1/4th or 9.8 million dollars, to 28.3 million. Goods meant for the commercial free zones likewise declined by approximately one-fourth, down 6.5 million dollars to 20.4 million, with decreased imports such as clothing and handbags. A couple of other categories also saw noteworthy decreases during the month. Imports of manufactured goods and other manufactures together went down by 5.1 million dollars, to almost 29 million. That's a combined 28% decrease, owing to fewer purchases of metal structures galvanized steel coils, and gold jewelry."
And according to the SIB, domestic exports were up by a marginal 1.1%. Here's what the experts had to say about January 2021's earnings:
Tiffany Vasquez - Statistician II
"Export earnings for January of this year remained virtually unchanged when compared to exports of January of last year. As total domestic exports amounted to $16.2 million, up a negligible 1.1 percent or $0.2 million when compared to exports of January 2020. Sugar followed a similar trend, having had no discernible change in export earnings. As sales of this product amounted to $1.3 million in January of this year, almost equalling sugar earnings from January of last year. What is interesting to note here, however, is that this was despite a relatively notable decrease in exported quantities of sugar, indicating strong world market prices for this commodity at the start of this year. In contrast, animal feed provided the only distinct increase in the month, with earnings from this product growing sharply from a mere $0.4 million to $2 million dollars. Earnings from the country's remaining major exports, on the other hand, all declined during the month, with exports of marine products seeing the most pronounced decrease at $1.7 million, falling from $4.3 million to $2.7 million, owing largely to a drop in exports of lobster tails. Revenues from citrus products went down slightly by $0.5 million to $1.9 million, due mainly to reduced exports of orange concentrate. While earnings from bananas also declined marginally, down from $5.7 million to $5.5 million."
We'll take a look at the consumer price index for last month in tomorrow's newscast.