Economy Highlights — 28 November 2014 — by Adele Ramos
Belize economy expanded 4.8% in 3rd quarter, inflation 0.7%

BELIZE CITY–The Statistical Institute of Belize released the latest economic statistics today, Wednesday, November 26, 2014, at a press conference held at the training room at the Central Bank of Belize in Belize City. The data included employment statistics for September 2014, 3rd quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures, and data on inflation and external trade.

Inflation lowest in Central America

On average, prices in Belize are 0.7% higher than prices recorded in last October, said Angelita Campbell, Statistician II at the SIB, who noted that Belize’s inflation rate for October 2014 was the lowest in the Central American region.

The rate contrasts with the 1.8% inflation rate recorded in January. The average inflation rate for the period January to October 2014 is now 1.3%.

Inflation rates were over 1% in San Ignacio, Cayo and Punta Gorda, Toledo, primarily due to an increase in rent prices.

Economic Growth

Jefte Ochaeta, Statistician I at the SIB, reported that Belize’s economy grew in July to September 2014 at the highest rate of any 3rd quarter period since 2009, registering growth of 4.8%. The figure was bolstered by extra sugar and banana production registered during that month due to (1) the extension of the sugar crop cycle from May to July, and (2) a delay in banana deliveries which should have hit the market in late 2013 but which were not delivered until January 2014 due to setbacks caused by weather conditions. The production of livestock and alcoholic beverages were also better in the third quarter. The country produced $646.7 million worth of goods and services during the quarter.

Ochaeta said that between July and September, Belize sold 7,000 heads of cattle, 80% of which were exported to Mexico and Guatemala. However, this drove up the price of local beef, while high production of poultry for the local market resulted in a price ease on the local market.

Drought conditions experienced this year caused a 15% decline in production of the electricity and water sector, due to a fall-off in hydro-production.

The salary increase paid to teachers and public officers also meant that tertiary production from government services was increased.

Rebound in sugar and bananas

Belize’s import bill reached $1.64 billion for the 10-month period spanning January to October 2014, which represents an increase of $80.6 mil or 5.2% over the same period last year. The largest increases were due to the importation in the machinery and transport category, which increased by $28.7 million, mostly due to the importation of vehicles for the transportation of goods in the agriculture sector, up by $12.6 million. Ochaeta said that there was also a notable increase in the importation of private 4-cylinder vehicles by $6.9 million.

The import bill for fuels and lubricants swelled by over $20 million for that period, representing a $13.5 million increase for the importation of diesel and $4.8 mil for the importation in butane.

The bulk of the imports came from the USA (31% or $504.4 million), Central America (15% or $250.8 million) and Curaçao (13% or 215.7 million for fuel imports coming out of Venezuela under the PetroCaribe program).

Meanwhile, Belize’s domestic exports amounted to $542.6 million for the same period, reflecting a decrease of $41.2 mil or 7% from export amounts for the same period in 2013.

Crude oil exports from Belize continue to fall, with Belize exporting 142 million barrels less this year.

Exports of citrus concentrate were down by 10.1%, but marine exports were up by $11.6 mil.

Overall, the Belize economy registered growth of 4.2% from January to September, bolstered by improved production of sugar and bananas, Ochaeta reported.

Unemployment rate falling

According to the SIB’s Director-General, Dr. Leopold Perriott, the nation’s unemployment rate, gleaned from data collected during the mid-September Labour Force Survey (LFS), is 12.1%, down a few percentage points from last year’s figure of 14.2%, which also represented a decline from the 16.1% rate registered in September 2012.

Perriott said that about 2,800 households were sampled for the survey from a population of 360,838 Belizeans. The working age population has been estimated at 237,791, and 134,521 people are employed while 18,479 are unemployed. By international convention, persons who work as little as one hour for the week are included in the category of employed persons. Also, the labor force only includes people actively job hunting.

Countrywide 1,480 males lost their jobs, while 1,414 females gained jobs, with a net job loss of 66 jobs nationally. The median monthly salary is now $1,145.

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