An Economic Downturn in the Last Quarter of 2019
The Statistical Institute of Belize has presented grim news on the economy which shows that the recession it hard. For the first time in almost a decade, the economy contracted by as much as two point eight percent in the last quarter of the year with nineteen million dollars less in goods and services produced in 2019. The drought, which hit farmers last year, caused a sharp decline in agricultural industry, particularly sugar, citrus and banana production. The import bill shows that more than two billion dollars worth of goods were imported and exports went up by seventeen point nine million dollars in 2019, representing twenty-one percent of total value of imported goods. Here is Duane Moody with a report.
Duane Moody, Reporting
The economy declined by two point eight percent in the fourth quarter of 2019. That’s the overall estimate coming out of the Statistical Institute of Belize on the Gross Domestic Product of the country. This is the first time since 2011 that the last quarter is recording a contraction in the economy. With another prolonged drought predicted in the coming months, the S.I.B. figures show that the extended dry weather of 2019 impacted primary and secondary industries in Belize. So much so, that when compared to 2018, the GDP during the months of October and December of 2019 was down by nineteen million dollars.
While there was an increase in the area of livestock production, the sharp decrease in the agricultural industries, drove the numbers down.
Jacqueline Sabal, Statistician II, S.I.B.
“This two point eight percent decline was mainly due to decreases in both the primary and secondary sectors as prolonged dry weather conditions triggered reduced or stalled production across several major industries during the quarter. Banana output decreased from twenty-five point one thousand metric tonnes in the fourth quarter of 2018 to twenty-two point nine thousand metric tonnes in the fourth quarter of 2019. Unfavourable dry weather conditions during the later part of 2019 resulted in the eight point five percent drop in production. In the case of sugar cane production, again dry weather conditions resulted in underdeveloped sugar cane that could not be harvested, causing a late start to the season. As a result, no sugar cane was produced during the fourth quarter months of 2019. Citrus production also declined during the fourth quarter by a significant six point four thousand metric tonnes. This is the effect of a late start to the harvesting period from the first crop of oranges during the year. Also, the fruits being harvested are smaller in size, the combined effect of prolonged dry weather conditions and citrus greening which the industry continues to fight.”
As it relates to external trade, that too impacted the overall figures. In 2019 alone, two billion dollars worth of goods were imported; which was up by fifty-six point three million dollars when compared to 2018. Exports went up by seventeen point nine million dollars in 2019 to less than twenty-one percent of total value of imported goods. Statistician Jefte Ochaeta says that the 2020 figures for January are not looking too good. Imports are already down point six percent when compared to 2019. Ochaeta says that there is a massive decrease in sugar exports for the first month of the New Year due to the late start of the sugar crop.
Jefte Ochaeta, Statistician I, S.I.B.
“Domestic exports for January 2020 amounted to sixteen million dollars; that is a decrease of twenty-three point eight million dollars or fifty-nine point seven percent compared to January of last year. In January of 2019, Belize exported seventeen point four million dollars worth of sugar. In January 2020, Belize exports one point three million dollars worth of sugar. We saw an increase in most of the categories of goods that were imported into the country. Of significance was manufactured goods, which had an increase of twenty-three million dollars to two hundred and sixty-eight million dollars in 2019. Mineral, fuels and lubricants also increased by fifteen million dollars to two hundred and eighty-three million dollars imported in 2019. Food and live animals increased by ten million dollars to two hundred and thirty million dollars in the year 2019. For the month of January 2020, Belize imported goods totalling one hundred and sixty point eight million dollars; that is a decrease of zero point six compared to January of 2019.”
The cost of living for the month of January 2020, went up by point two percent. According to the S.I.B. report, the increase, although small, was due to higher airfares and education fees. While those increases were offset by lower food prices, Belizean households are still feeling the pinch.
Melvin Perez, Statistician II, S.I.B.
“Looking at the major categories affecting the inflation rate, the housing water, electricity, gas and other fuel had a decrease of one point two percent. The food and non-alcohol beverages category also had a decrease of zero point three percent and the transport category had a significant increase of three point seven percent. And for the purpose of this presentation, we grouped the remaining goods and services into the all other categories of goods and services which had an increase of zero point five percent. We can now see that the significant increase in the transport category was partially balanced.”
Tourism is categorized as one of the biggest contributors to the country’s G.D.P. In this tertiary sector, there was a decrease of five point seven percent in the hotel and restaurant subsector; that is offset by an increase in the transport, storage and communication sector. Of note is that even though there was an increase in overnight tourist arrivals and a one point one percent rise in hotel room revenue, fifteen fewer cruise ship called to port during the fourth quarter, considerably reducing the overall figures.
“In examining tourist arrivals, tourist arrivals were up as the total number of overnight visitors to the country increased from one hundred and eighteen thousand three hundred visitors in the fourth quarter of 2018 to one hundred and twenty thousand visitors in the same period of 2019. Cruise passenger arrival dropped by sixteen point five percent.”
Duane Moody for News Five.
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