BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Dec. 1, 2016–In September, there was an official announcement signalling that Belize is experiencing a recession, a declaration usually made after two successive quarters (or six months) of negative economic growth—measured by the total value of goods and services produced by the country, which represents a tally of all production: from how many bananas were produced to how many cruise tourists visited our shores.
Latest reports from the Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB) indicate that Belize has in fact experienced three consecutive quarters (or 9 months) of negative growth, the first such scenario since the period spanning July 2007 to March 2008—which coincided with the final months of the Musa administration and the initial months of the Barrow administration, as well as the 2008 recession in the United States.
Amid economic bust, beer production up by 24.7% or 143,000 gallons
Angelita Campbell, Statistician II at the SIB, said that Belize produced $655.4 million worth of goods and services for the third quarter, which spans July to September 2016. This represents a decline of 0.8% or $5.6 million for that period, worsening the contraction recorded earlier this year: 0.2% for the first quarter (January to March) and 1.0% for the second quarter (April to June).
According to the SIB, “For the first nine months of the year, the country’s level of production was 0.7% lower than in the first nine months of 2015.”
Whereas Belize’s economic performance continues to be positive on the services front, the nation’s primary industries continue to underperform, with the most marked change seen in the fishing industry, in which production fell by as much as 61%, resulting in $9 million less in revenue during the third quarter.
However, Belize Aquaculture Limited (BAL) is reportedly expected to pick up production with the introduction of probiotic treatment at its farms, Campbell said. (Whether that will buffer the recession in the months ahead is yet to be seen.)
Whereas Belize recorded a 2.9% growth in 2015, based on revised figures from the SIB, it has consistently recorded negative growth since the start of 2016. The total decline to date has amounted to roughly $14.2 million. The decline recorded during the last recession (2007-2008) was $28.3 million.
According to Campbell, production in the primary sector dropped by $14.7 million, while production in the secondary sectors rose by $1.9 million and in the tertiary sector by $7.1 million—but not enough to offset the decline in the primary sector. This resulted in the net decline of almost $6 million.
Agriculture, which includes hunting and forestry, declined 13.4%. Banana declined 14% but livestock increased 7%. No sugar was exported for the period in question, as the season was closed.
Secondary industries grew by about 2%, with electricity production increasing by 7% and water production increasing 3.8%.
Petroleum production dropped by 12.5%, with production down by 16,000 barrels, but beverage production rose by 11.3%. According to Campbell, beer production was up by 24.7%, or 143,000 gallons.
The tertiary industries grew by 1.9%, with the strongest growth being recorded for hotel and restaurants at 10.1%. Cruise arrivals were down 3% during the quarter while the number of overnight visitors increased by 16%.
According to the SIB, “‘Accommodation and Food Services’ recorded an increase of 10.1 percent as a result of approximately 12,000 more overnight visitors to the country over the period.”
However, roughly 4,000 less cruise tourists visited for the third quarter, according to the data provided. Campbell said the decline was due to cancellations as a consequence of Hurricane Earl, which made landfall in Belize on August 3.