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Economy grows by 14.8 percent in the fourth quarter, consumer prices up 4.1 percent, and both imports and domestic exports up 44.5 percent and 23.8 percent respectively in January 2022

Today, the Statistical Institute of Belize published its latest statistics on the consumer price index, external trade, and the 4th quarter of 2021 gross domestic product.

Consumer Price Index

For the first month of 2022, the All-Items Consumer Price Index (CPI), which summarizes price levels across all categories of goods and services, stood at 105.4, an increase of 4.1 percent from the 101.3 recorded for January 2021. This indicated that, on average, the country experienced an overall national inflation rate of 4.1 percent on the cost of goods and services commonly purchased by Belizean households. This overall increase in consumer prices was driven primarily by a significant rise in motor vehicle fuel prices, coupled with higher prices for various food items, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), restaurant services, and household cleaning and maintenance products.

Click the following link to read more:�Consumer Price Index, January 2022

Merchandise Trade

Belize's total imports for January 2022 were valued at $190.5 million. This was a significant increase of 44.5 percent or $58.7 million compared to the $131.9 million imported in January 2021.Total domestic exports for January 2022 amounted to $20 million, representing a 23.8 percent or $3.9 million increase from the $16.2 million recorded for January 2021.

Click the following link to read more: External Trade, January 2022

Gross Domestic Product

The Statistical Institute of Belize's preliminary constant price Gross Domestic Product estimates for the fourth quarter of 2021 showed that from October to December 2021, the value of goods and services produced within Belize totaled $657.9 million. This increased 14.8 percent or $84.6 million from $573.3 million produced in the same period of 2020 and marked the third consecutive quarter for which an increase in production was recorded.

Click the following link to read more: Gross Domestic Product, 4th Quarter 2021

SIB Press Conference

Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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GDP Numbers Getting Closer To Pre-Pandemic Trends

We turn now to the latest economic numbers from the Statistical Institute of Belize.

And the news tonight is that with the reopening of the country for business, trade, and tourism, there has been a 14.8% growth in the economy when comparing the last quarter of 2020 and the same period last year. Here's how Statistician Christopher Hulse made the point that the GDP numbers are inching closer and closer to the pre-pandemic trends:

Christopher Hulse - Statistician II, SIB
"For 2020, the total was $573.3 million. For the fourth quarter of 2021. Produce, goods, and services totaling $657.9 million. This is an increase of $84.6 million, or 14.8%, of course, when we compare it to the fourth quarter of 2020. Since this is the fourth quarter, we can have ab estimate for the annual of 2021, which is showing growth of 9.8%. That means comparing all four quarters for 2020, to the fourth quarters of 2021, we see a 9.8% growth. Now let's look specifically at the fourth-quarter GDP from 2016 to 2021, and this highlights the movement in GDP. So, we have gross domestic product at constant prices. This simply means that the prices we are using have been adjusted for inflation, so we have the 14.8% for 2021. But I want us to understand again that for 2020, that was when the pandemic really was upon us. So, comparing those quarters, we see growth. But, if we compare a year before, we can see that we're still approaching back to pre-pandemic production. So looking at 2019 GDP, we're at -4.2%, in terms of production."

The Statistical Institute says that the country's primary sectors experienced a 2.9% GDP growth for last year's last quarter. But, secondary sectors had a 19% decline. This is mostly due to electricity generation, which had a steep 57% fall off. There was less rain when compared to the same time period back in 2020 wen hurricanes of Eta and Iota filled up the dams leading to excess electricity production.

Turning now to the Tertiary Sector, the SIB says that these industries, which include wholesale and retail trade, transportation and communication, and tourism had an increase of 22.1%.

Viewers will remember how the Tourism Industry was devastated back the pandemic back in 2020. Well, according to the statisticians, that sector is making quite the comeback. Here's that part of Christopher Hulse's presentation from today:

Christopher Hulse - Statistician II, SIB
"The tertiary sector recorded the largest increase among all sectors with a significant 22.1% growth, or $75.6 million across all tertiary industries, bringing this total to $418 million. Within this sector, the wholesale and retail trade sub-sector went up by 31.8% as imports went up by 52%. Imported, crude materials were up by six to one person, and imported mineral fuels and lubricants also rose by 122%. The hotels and restaurants industry continues to slowly rebound, with a total of $19.4 million, compared to a quarter 4 of 2020, which only recorded $4.5 million. This is because of the growing number of tourists visiting, and as well as cruise arrivals starting in quarter 3, continuing in Quarter 4. The hotels and restaurants industry went up by 331.9% from 4.5 million to 19.4 million. Overnight tourist arrivals were up by 309.9% from approximately 17,000 people in 2020 to 70,000 in 2021 quarter four. Hotel revenue up by 412% and cruise passenger travel a quarter 4 2021 was approximate. 162 thousand people. There was none in quarter 4 of 2020. So looking at the graph the gray and the light green from my angle - so, for 2020, you see that there is no cruise ship, and we had a small influx of overnight tourists at $17.2 thousand. But in 2021 - and it follows the previous trends, where the majority of our tourist arrivals come from the cruise. So, we see 161.7 for cruise, and then, that 17.2 for overnight tourists, went up to 70.7 in quarter 4 for 2021."

Inflation Increased Since 2020

And while that's the good news, the SIB also notes that inflation in the country is still high. For the last quarter of 2021, the inflation rate was 4.1%. That means that the price you paid for goods and services was higher in the last 3 months of last year when compared to the same time period of 2020.

Here's Statistician Melvin Perez with the overview of the consumer price index.

Melvin Perez - Statistician II, SIB
"The inflation rate for the year, 2021, when compared to the year 2020, stood at 3.2%. Throughout the year 2021, consumer prices rose at an accelerated rate, peaking in November at 5.7%. fuel, food, and butane prices trended steadily upwards throughout most of the year 2021. Looking at the major categories, first, we have the transport category, which increased by 9.6%, and this was mainly due to higher fuel prices that were reported throughout the year. Secondly, we have the food and beverages, with prices increasing by 4.8%. And this was mainly due to high prices for fresh produce, meat, and cereal products. Thirdly, we had housing, water, electricity, gas, and other fuels, with prices increasing by 1.80%. And this was mainly due to higher liquefied petroleum gas prices. With our main emphasis being in the month of January, we can see how prices started to increase in January 2021, up to January 2022. These increases were a combination of higher food, butane, and fuel prices. This is why when comparing January 2021, and January 2022, an inflation rate of 4.1% was reported. Looking at the trend line, it is clearly showing how prices have been moving toward the years, specifically starting from November of 2020, when prices started to increase heavily up to January 2022. And I must say these increases were a combination of higher food prices, butane, and fuel."

We turn now to the everyday commodities that saw the most significant price hikes. Here's that part of Perez's breakdown:

Melvin Perez - Statistician II, SIB
"Looking at the measured categories affecting the inflation rate of 4.1%, first, we have the transport category with prices increasing by 16.2%, followed by food, and non-alcoholic beverages with prices increasing by 2.5%. Then, we have housing, water, electricity, gas, and other fuels, with prices increasing by 1.9%. Then, we had the restaurant and accommodation services with prices increasing by 4.7%, and the furnishing, household equipment, and routine household maintenance prices increasing by 2.2%. Now that we have identified the major categories affecting the inflation rate we will break down each category, and we would see what contributed to the increase in the category. First, let's look at the transport category with prices increasing by 16.3%. This was mainly due to a significant increase in the fuel and lubricants s in the fuel subcategory, in which prices increased by 26.7% and this was mainly due to higher fuel prices. Secondly, you have the purchase of new motor vehicles, with prices increasing by 5.5%. Then, we have the prices for passenger transport by road, which went up by 3.3%, and prices for passenger transport by air, which went up by 11.8%."

But, while those inflation numbers are high, Belize isn't the nation in the Western Hemisphere with the biggest spike. At the end of his analysis, Melvin Perez focused on a comparison of inflation numbers of the countries in the region:

Melvin Perez - Statistician II, SIB
"It can clearly be seen that Orange Walk Town experienced the highest increase in consumer prices with an inflation rate of 5.9%. Consumers in this town above-average increase in prices for home rental, food items, restaurant and accommodation services, laundry products, women's clothing, and men's and women's haircuts. On the other hand, Punta Gorda Town experienced the lowest inflation rate of 2.2%, as consumers in this town saw a lower than average increase in prices for a woman's clothing, food items, and restaurant and accommodation services. Let's take a look at the inflation rate at the regional level. First, let's look at Jamaica, which had an inflation rate of 9.7%, followed by the Dominican Republic, with prices increasing by 8.7%. And then, you have Nicaragua, with prices increasing by 7.7%. Jumping all the way to Panama, we can see that it was the country with the lowest inflation rate in the region, with prices increasing by 2.6% for the month of January 202,2 when compared to January 2021."

PM Suggests Fighting Inflation By Buying Local

And while inflation may be high all over the region, home is where the hurt is.

And with rumors of war in Ukraine, even on this side of the world is bound to get worse before it gets better.

The Press asked the PM what he and his government are doing to combat the pinch that Belizeans are likely to feel in the next few months.

But PM Briceno says that right now he can't offer any hard and fast solutions - except an urging to buy local.

Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize
"There not much unfortunately as you know, probably more than I, that there is not much that we can do. We import most of our food products. What we have to start to do is grow more of what we eat and eat what we grow. But we have to look at how best we could handle that. Tomorrow the cabinet is meeting on a retreat and to discuss I think it's about 4 topics and one of them is the cost of living. So we want to be able to spend at least 2 hours just to discuss the cost of living, what is it that can be done. There is no silver bullet, there is no easy answers and we will see what we can come up with. I can tell you that we will do everything possible to try to manage that."

Channel 7

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