The most recent figures from the Statistical Institute of Belize's monthly Consumer Price Index (CPI) survey show that, as of July 2021, the All-Items CPI stood at 103.9, an increase of 3.3 percent from 100.5 in July 2020. This overall change was the net effect of higher costs for motor vehicle fuels, various food items, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), and personal care products being partially offset by lower hotel accommodation rates.
The Statistical Institute of Belize's Gross Domestic Product estimates for the second quarter, April to June of 2021, indicated that the country's overall level of economic activity increased 22.3 percent when compared to the second quarter of 2020. The total value of goods and services produced within Belize during the period were valued at $711.4 million, up by $129.6 million from $581.8 million produced during the same three months of 2020.
Click the following link to read more: Gross Domestic Product, 2nd Quarter 2021
GDP, A Slight Recovery
6 days ago, during the Briceno Government unveiling of its first-ever Belize Investment Summit, Chris Coye, the Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance, disclosed publicly that the country's economy had grown by over 20% for the second quarter of this year when compared to the same period last year - when things were in a COVID-induced crash.
The Statistical Institute of Belize says that the growth was actually 22.3%. Now, that may sound good, but last year's second quarter is a record low in economic performance, and as viewers will remember, that was the time period when the former Barrow Government implemented the first COVID State of Emergency, which basically shut the country down.
But, with the return to some normalcy earlier this year, the industries have had a bit of time to recover near to pre-pandemic numbers. In a press conference hosted this morning, the SIB's Jefte Ochaeta gave a detailed breakdown of that improvement. Here's an excerpt from his extended presentation:
Jefte Ochaeta - Statistician I, SIB
"The GDP for the country of Belize was valued at 711.4 million dollars. This is an increase of 129.6 million dollars, or 22.3% when compared to the second quarter of 2020. For the first six months of 2021, the cumulative GDP estimate experienced an increase of 78.5 million dollars, or 6%, totaling 1 billion, 380 million dollars."
"As we can see in the bar graph that we have here, we see that the second-quarter estimates for 2021 have a significant increase in the growth rate, that of 22.3%, however, as we can also note, the year 2020 was a very odd year, as we all know. That was when the pandemic hit, and thus, economic progression went on a downward turn globally. And thus, now we can see, from the information that this is presenting to us, that the GDP is now recovering to some sort of normality. However, it's still not at the levels of pre-pandemic years."
"Tertiary sector activities contributed about 11.6 percentage points toward the growth rate of 22.3%. The total value change of the GDP was 129.6 million dollars, and tertiary services contributed 67.4 million dollars to the total value change. Also, it is important to note that taxes contributed 5.5% to the growth rate of the GDP, as the value change of taxes experienced was 32 million dollars for the second quarter of 2021."
"Starting with the sugarcane production for the second quarter of 2021, we observed that deliveries went up by 197 thousand metric tonnes, from 740 metric tonnes produced in quarter 2 of 2020, 937 thousand metric tonnes being harvested in the second quarter of the year."
"The livestock production increased by 64.8% for the second quarter of 2021, mainly due to an increase in all the activities, some industries of the livestock production, where cattle increased by 362.8%, pigs increased by 15.6%, and poultry production increased by 30.4%."
"The cattle production for the second quarter registered an increase of about 8,800 more heads being produced, reported, in the second quarter of 2021, compared to the 2,400 heads that were produced in the second quarter of 2020."
As you just saw, the total value for the goods and services for this year's second quarter comes close to the figures of 2019 and 2020. We asked the SIB if it was accurate to compare the pre and post COVID figures, and the Acting Director-General cautioned that it was not exactly a 1 to 1 comparison:
Diana Castillo-Trejo - Acting Director-General, SIB
"Last year, and especially the second quarter was probably the worse second quarter on record in terms of GDP. So, it just stands to reason that as we recover - and I think it's important to note as well that when we compare with pre-pandemic that we remember that we are still in the pandemic. So, conditions are not what they were pre-pandemic. So, even that comparison to say 2019 or 2018, it's kind of, perhaps, not the best comparison because circumstances are not yet what they were at that time. Growth at the rate of 20+%, certainly, is not something that is expected to be recorded on an ongoing basis going forward."
There's also a bit of good news to report on the country's external trade figures. According to the SIB's Tiffany Vasquez, imports for the first 7 months of this year are up by 22.8%, when compared to the same period last year. Here's how she made the point that the numbers are mimicking snapshots of the country's pre-pandemic trade:
Tiffany Vasquez - Statistician II, SIB
"For the period January to July of 2021, Belize's imports were valued at 1.1 billion dollars. This was a significant 22.8% growth, or an increase of 208.4 million dollars when compared to imports from January to July of 2020. As the months of April to July of last year saw COVID-19 restrictions impacting the flow of imports, as well as reduced demand for merchandise goods, due to the economic downturn, imports within this period hit extreme lows. Thereby, this 22.8% surge in imports is, for the most part, a return to normal import flows, mimicking pre-2020 imports. In addition to that, greater costs for shipping containers were also noted for this period."
"Imports grew across almost all commodity categories over the 7-month period. The categories of manufactured goods and other manufactures together rose by 64%, or 66.5 million dollars to 262.9 million, due to bigger imports of construction materials such as steel pipes, corrugated steel rods, and cement."
"Owing mostly to the greater cost of fuel, the mineral fuels, and lubricants category went up by 1/4th or almost 27 million dollars to 133.2 million."
"Imports into the Commercial Free Zones increased by 20%, also going roughly by 27 million dollars, to 159.4 million, due to purchases of footwear, cigarettes, and beer."
"The beverages and tobacco category more than doubled, rising by over 24 million dollars to 47.1 million, with heightened imports of beer meant for re-exportation. Imports of machinery and transport equipment increased by 13%, likewise growing by approximately 24 million dollars to 205.2 million, as the country imported more food and beverage processing machinery and tractor trucks."
"Domestic Exports also went up, growing by 5.8%, where animal feed and molasses contributed to that increase."
According to the SIB, exports for the month of July 2021 are up by 12.4%, when compared to the same month last year.