Belize’s Inflation up, Exports down, GDP inches upward

March 31st, 2016

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.

GST tax collection shows significant improvement

March 24th, 2016

One of the areas in the national budget that has shown improvement in government’s performance is revenue collection, according to Business Senator Mark Lizarraga.

The government’s revenues from General Sales Tax (GST) went from $756 million to $936 million, an increase of almost $200 million over the last 3 fiscal years.

While the government has been successful in improving on its GST collections, there are also a lot of unscrupulous, non-compliant business owners who manipulate the system.

The Senator explained that it is good when the government can collect equitable taxes, and if more people comply in paying their taxes , it could translate into more goods and services being provided to the people of Belize.

Japan invests more in Belize’s cotton industry

February 20th, 2016

Belize’s budding Sea Island Cotton industry has received additional assistance from the Government of Japan.

Japan handed over 2 tractors worth $205,000 to ICA Belize, a local cotton growing company owned by Japanese-belizean businessman Kensuke Inoue, under the aegis of the Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security projects of Japan.

The gifts complement an ongoing project aimed to benefit both countries. Japan’s demand for cotton far surpasses the world’s supply. This is an opportunity for Belize to earn much-needed cash by exporting the product. Cotton crop yields are much higher than any other agricultural product in Belize, but cotton farming requires different kinds of equipment. Hence, Japan has offered this kind of support, as well as the equipment to produce cotton.

Belize’s weather conditions and soil quality bodes well for Belize’s ability to produce top quality cotton. In a productive year, the country can produce 30,000 pounds of dried cotton, which represents $160,000 in earnings from Japan and Europe.

There are 6 local farmers in Buena Vista, Little Belize, Shipyard and Bomba who are involved in the project.

World Bank lowers 2016 forecast for crude prices

February 12th, 2016

According to a forecast made by the World Bank, the price of crude oil in 2016 will fall significantly.

The World Bank places these prices at around US $37 per barrel in its latest Commodity Markets Outlook report. This represents a sharp fall from its October 2015 projection, which had crude priced at US $51 per barrel.

The report indicates that the lower forecast reflects supply and demand factors, early resumption of exports by Iran, greater resilience in US production, a mild winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and weak growth prospects in major emerging market economies.

The report says that oil prices fell by 47% in 2015 and are expected to decline, on an annual average, by another 27% in 2016.

The world index for fuel shows that Belize remains among the countries with the highest prices in Central America and the Caribbean.