In accordance with figures provided by the government’s Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB), cost of living in Belize rose by 0.3% in February, compared to the same month in 2015.
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) figures show that double digit increases, in terms of percentage, occurred for ground beef, premium fuel, eggs and cabbage, with higher prices also occurring across the board for beef, pork, fish, and fresh vegetables. On the other hand, there were double-digit decreases for the same month for butane, yellow onion, and red kidney beans. There were other decreases in transportation, flour, diesel, watermelons, sweet peppers, and milk.
According to the Statistical Institute of Belize, home rental prices rose by 0.7% in comparison to February 2015, but this increase was offset by lower electricity rates and butane prices, with the latter falling from $93.14 per 100-pound cylinder in February 2015 to $82.60 in February 2016.
It also stated that prices for all other categories of goods and services saw an average increase of 1.5% during the period, “as a result of higher motor vehicle and health insurance premiums, doctor consultation fees, and restaurant and hotel prices”.
The information reveals that while most municipalities recorded a decrease in consumer prices during the month of February 2016, Orange Walk recorded the highest inflation rate of 2.1%.
As has been the concern of parliamentarians on the Opposition side of the House, domestic exports for February 2016 fell from $52 million to $29.6 million, a 43.1% plunge in comparison to February 2015.
Sales of marine products fell by more than a half from $10 million to $4 million, with farm shrimp exports recording a decline of over $6 million. Sugar earnings were down from $8 million to $3 million. This was due to a change in the scheduling of shipments and because only bagged sugar was exported for the month, the SIB said.
Citrus and banana exports also showed a decline of $3.5 million each. To add to the conundrum, while more than $6 million in crude petroleum was exported during February 2015, none was exported last month.
Belize imported $168.3 million worth of merchandise in February – a decrease of 2.6% or $4.6 million when compared to February 2015. Imports for January to February totaled $299.3 million, which represents a 4.8% or $15.2 million decrease, when compared to the same period in 2015.
Preliminary estimates indicate that from October to December 2015, our level of economic activity inched upwards by 0.6%, compared to the same period in 2014. The total value of goods and services produced in Belize during the fourth quarter of 2015 increased by almost $4 million from $657.4 million in 2014 to $661.1 million.
The construction industry saw a 5% increase during the quarter, which the SIB attributed to ongoing works on municipal recreational parks and other infrastructural developments. “This was reflected in a 9 percent growth in construction loans issued by commercial banks,” it said.
Tourism also saw an 11% growth in restaurant and hotel services in the last quarter of 2015, in comparison to the fourth quarter of 2014. The number of overnight visitors rose by more than 18,000 persons, which SIB says had to do with additional flights to Belize by two new airline carriers during that period.
Despite the sluggish economic performance over the past months, the SIB says that Belize’s inflation rate for February was the second lowest in Central America, behind Costa Rica, whose inflation rate was recorded at -0.03%. The highest was Guatemala, with a 4.3% inflation rate.