World Banks highlights Belize’s potential for real growth

April 10th, 2016

According to a new report issued by the World Bank Group, despite stagnating GDP per capita, low savings and high interest rates, Belize has great potential for economic growth.

The report “Belize: Right Choices, Bright Future” that analyses opportunities for development, along with factors hindering growth, was released on April 7. The new diagnostic report will be used by the World Bank as an instrument to identify and inform priorities for the World Bank Group’s engagement in both Belize and other countries.

Based on the data revealed in the report, a new country engagement strategy for the World Bank Group in Belize will need to be developed in consultation with key stakeholders.

Sophie Sirtaine, World Bank country director for the Caribbean said: “In spite of positive economic growth over the last 30 years, Belize has had limited social gains. Our report highlights the need for a big push to accelerate progress in education, climate resilience and crime and violence in order to put the country back on a path for sustainable growth”.

Belize ranked worst in human trafficking

April 2nd, 2016

Belize was one of the 5 Caribbean countries to participate in a recent workshop on human trafficking aimed to strengthen its capacity, particularly in regards to prosecution.

The workshop comes on the heels of a 2015 downgrade from the US State Department, from tier 2 to tier 3 status in fighting human trafficking.

Organized by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the 2-day session focused on areas of collaboration for regional efforts. It was one of the IOM’s 1st sub-regional activities, and part of a project funded by the US State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

Besides Belize, the Bahamas, Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago took part in the event.

The tier 3 status that Belize now occupies is the lowest on the status bar. To be upgraded, the country would have to show significant resolve in fighting human trafficking.

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.