Highlights — 28 August 2015 — by Johnelle McKenzie
Statistical Institute of Belize reports on the economy

BELIZE CITY, Wed. Aug. 26, 2015–The Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB) had a press conference at the Central Bank of Belize at which presentations were made by Angelita Campbell, Marilyn Pinelo-Lee, Jefte Ocihaeta, and Dr. Leopold Perriott. Campbell stated in her presentation that consumer prices are down, but not by a significant amount — only by 1%.  She pointed out as well that these consumer prices represent the average price of particular goods, which is derived after aggregating a range of prices being charged, and so what is actually spent at any given store by a customer may vary.

       A comparison between prices of certain goods in July 2014 and those same goods in July 2015 showed the following changes: the price of eggs rose from $3.25 a dozen to $3.75 a dozen, the price of pork chops went from $6.71 to $7.16, and the price of ground beef rose from $5.06 to $5.90. Meanwhile there were price drops for red kidney beans which cost $2.33 per pound last year but now can be purchased at $1.41 per pound, and rice (retail) – the price of which fell from $1.21 per pound to $1.10.

       Campbell went on to explain how an average $100 of household spending was apportioned.  “The category of housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuel accounted for 26% of the $100.00, followed by food, non-alcoholic beverages at 20% and transportation at 14%… The inflation rate went down for housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuel at 0.5%, food & non-alcoholic beverages 0.5% and the transportation declined by 7.1%,” she stated.  In taking a look at the municipalities, she noted that inflation went down in all municipalities, with the exception of Dangriga, where it increased by 1.8%.

       When it comes to external trade, Belize’s total imports for the month of July 2015 were valued at $189.7 million. Meanwhile the country’s total domestic exports for July 2015 amounted to 63.8 million. Therefore, we imported $125.9 million more than we exported for July 2015. Pinelo-Lee outlined, “Thirty-three percent of imports originate from the United States of America, reflected in commodities such as vehicles, wheat and fertilizer. Composition of the Gross Imports by type for July 2015 is as follows: machinery and transport equipment:  20.7%, manufactured goods and other manufactures: 19%, commercial free zone and export processing zones: 21.7%, mineral fuels and lubricants: 12.8%, chemical products: 9.5%, food and live animals: 11.5% and other goods: 4.8%.”

       In regards to Belize’s exports for July 2015, sugar sales accounted for an increase in exports, which grew sharply by $29 million during the month, from $3 million to 32 million. On the other hand, citrus exports saw a substantial decrease from $14 million to $4 million.

       The SIB preliminary report on the Gross Domestic Product pointed out that, “During the three months from April to June of this year the overall production declined by 1.6% in comparison to the same period in 2014.”  However while the country’s GDP decreased in the second quarter; it actually increased at the end of the first six months of the year by 2.7%, resulting in an increase over 2014.

        In reference to the agricultural operations which comprise the primary sector — sugarcane, citrus, marine goods, and banana – the SIB noted that there was a downturn in productivity during the first quarter.  “Sugarcane deliveries declined by 3.5%, or about 20 thousand metric tons,” the SIB noted.  On the other hand, in citrus production there was an increase in the first quarter and then a drop about halfway into the second quarter. Also, marine exports fell from 3.7 million pounds to 3.3 million pounds, which was a decrease of 11%. The only recorded increase in production in the primary sector in the first quarter was in the banana industry, which recorded an increase of 3.8%.

        In the secondary sector of the Belizean economy, which consists of industries and processing operations, there was a decline in productivity by 10.8% which occurred during the second quarter. Most of the industries in this sector produced less, with the exception of sugar production, which grew by 18%. The SIB pointed out that even though there was a drop in sugarcane deliveries, the 18% increase was due to an improvement in sugarcane quality. There was also a 6% increase in the production of beverages, particularly the production of soft drinks and alcoholic beverages. Also, there was an increase in water distribution, as access to rural areas expanded. Meanwhile, citrus concentrate production fell by 1.1 million: in the second quarter of 2014, 2.4 million gallons were produced, while in 2015 citrus concentrate production stands at 1.3 million gallons. There was also a decrease in crude petroleum extraction of 17%, and in construction activities, which recorded a decrease of 20%.

       The SIB also detailed, “The tertiary sector, which includes the private sector and the government departments, and accounts for about a half of Belize’s total economy, grew by 2.9% in comparison to the second quarter of 2014. Wholesale and retail activities grew moderately, by just over 1%, while government services increased by almost 11% during the period.”

       The GDP growth rates for the different sectors examined for the second quarter of 2015 are as follows: the primary sector had a 9.4% decrease, the secondary sector underwent a 10.8% decrease and the tertiary had a 2.9% increase.

       In outlining labour force statistics, the SIB noted that there was growth in the employment sector. This growth was due to more women being employed: there were 5,000 more women employed in April 2015 than there were in April 2014.  According to the SIB the labour force grew by 3,557, thus causing the unemployment rate to decline by 1%.   The SIB pointed out, however, that while employment increased in the Orange Walk and Cayo Districts, the Corozal and Toledo districts recorded decreases in jobs. The SIB added that the Stann Creek district recorded the highest unemployment rate at 14.6%. “The total unemployed population is about 15,500 persons, of which two thirds had been without jobs for 6 months or longer,” the SIB said.

       The SIB stated that 16 thousand persons, almost 12% of the employed labour force, were classified as underemployed, working less than 35 hours per week. The median monthly income in April 2015 was $1,192, with males earning about $90 more than females. More than a half of the country’s labour force had completed only a primary level of schooling or less.

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