General — 13 January 2018 — by -Contributed-
Average Belizean household spends BZ$7.92 on food each day; average American household spends BZ$42

Belizeans earn a lot less than Americans earn, but we spend our dollar more or less the same way they do. An SIB (Statistical Institute of Belize) pamphlet released in 2016, shows the breakdown of the Belize dollar in our households. The bulk of our expenditure (60%) is incurred for housing, food, and transportation.

The 2016 statistics show that the average Belizean household spends $26 out of every $100 on housing, water, electricity, butane; $20 out of every $100 goes to pay for food; while $14 out of every $100 is spent on transportation.

A January 27, 2017 story by Alex Morrell and Skye Gould that appeared in the Business Insider, says that USA Americans spend 62% of their dollar on the aforementioned housing, transportation, and food.

A HowMuch.net graphic using 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers (US), explains that the “average” American family “makes just over $74,000 a year and shells out about $57,000”, and that 8 percent is expended “on healthcare, 12 percent on insurance and pensions, 12.6 percent on food, 15 percent on transportation and 33 percent on housing…”

The US gross domestic product per capita in 2016 was US$57,466, while in Belize the gross domestic product per capita was BZ$9,462, so they have a lot more to spend than we do. If we consider that the US dollar is worth twice ours, then the average American takes home twelve times what a Belizean earns. (The gross domestic product per capita is a simple division of the value of all the goods and services a country produces by the number of people in a country.)

SIB statistics on the Labour Force for April 2017, shows the median monthly earnings of Belizeans at $1,113. Based on those numbers, the average Belizean household will spend BZ$289 per month on housing (26%), BZ$222 per month on food (20%), and BZ$155 per month on transportation (14%).

As reported, the American Bureau of Labour Statistics estimates that the average American household spends about US$57,000 per year, or $4,750 per month. The average US household spends 33% of its dollar on housing, an average of US$1,567 per month; 12.6% on food, an average of US$598 per month; and 15% on transportation, an average of US$712 per month.

It is interesting that American households spend more on transportation than they do on food, while cost of food exceeds the cost of transportation in the Belizean household. This might have to with food in America being cheaper (economies of scale – generally, the larger the population the lower the cost of production), and Americans having to commute farther distances to go to work. However, Americans manufacture vehicles and their government has a far lower tax on fuel than ours. All we can be sure of here is that this definitely translates to a far cheaper rate per mile for travel in the US.

If we isolate food, the average Belize household spends BZ$55.50 per week on food, or BZ$7.92 per day, while the average US household spends US$149.50 per week, or US$21 per day. It does appear that our American brothers and sisters are eating a far, far larger plate of food than we are. But Belize, with its large rural population, supplements the dinner table from the milpa, so the plate of food is not as meager as it appears on paper.

That, however, does not compensate for the fact that in Belize, there is a great disparity in the earnings of households. The website, internationalliving.com, reports that “although Belize has the second highest per capita income in Central America, the average income figure masks a huge income disparity between rich and poor. The 2010 Poverty Assessment shows that more than 4 out of 10 people live in poverty. The sizable trade deficit and heavy foreign debt burden continue to be major concerns.”

There are families in Belize that have high incomes (sometimes families have more than one wage earner); families in these households are spending far more than BZ$7.90 per day on food. And there are families, many, that have extremely low incomes. These families are spending much less than BZ$7.92 per day on food.

P.S. The above article is of a general nature. A lot more data would have to be included to make this report, scientific. Dollar earnings do not necessarily reflect the standard of living in a country. Cost of goods in countries differ, the value of the dollar differs. The size of households is also a factor.

The article does not run from a couple simple truths: a household that is earning $1,113 per month in Belize, is spending BZ$7.92, or less, on food each day. There are many families earning less than that in our country. Note also that households that don’t have employed people would, obviously, be spending even less on food.

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Deshawn Swasey

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