We are now deep into an economic recession, the Belizean economy contracted over the last five consecutive quarters. This economic downturn had been upon us long before the pandemic that only served to intensify and amplify the very obvious flaws in an inadequate structure plagued with systemic corruption and ineffectual leadership. A depression by definition is a deeper contraction of the economy during a longer period of time. The Great Depression saw the economy of the USA contract by roughly 16.1 percent the first year in 1931 and unemployment reached unheard of levels of 25 percent. Already Belize’s economy has contracted by 23.3 percent just this first year alone. The last figures for unemployment are pre-pandemic figures in September that put us at 10.4%. During the Depression unemployment stood at 25%. The SIB (Statistical Institute of Belize) was unable to carry out scheduled collection during the lockdown earlier this year and conveniently has not scheduled to conduct the Labour Force survey which is due in September. Based on these figures alone we were headed down the slippery slope toward a depression of our own making since last year. The panorama has worsened this year with the effects of Global Warming and the extended drought we have been experiencing over the last few years and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The SIB has managed to give us some information recently. Of particular note is that this second quarter our economy has contracted by 23.3 percent. Wholesale and retail sales have declined sharply by 37.1 percent due to a fall in demand and the shortages of available foreign exchange. Cattle production and sales explains the Minister of Agriculture are both down but at different rates. While the reduction in sales is down by 60 percent due to the recent block of informal and now illegal cattle trade through Bullet Tree Village. Livestock production Minister Hulse explains is down by only 36.9 percent due in large part to his tremendous effort in securing the legal sale of 27 head of cattle through formal and established routes. We take this opportunity to remind the minister not to over exert himself with so much effort on behalf of the cattle industry which brought in close to $50M in sales per year before he shut it down completely during the worst economic crisis in our history. Cattle exports are down 68.9% Minister Hulse.
As we had argued before the sudden decreases in demand would cause an initial over supply that would disrupt the market forces. Prices would fluctuate, then supply but an eventual balance would be restored where the new supply and demand were established. The poultry industry did just that and now it has found its equilibrium at 29.4 percent reduction in output. Citrus enjoyed a longer harvest due to dry weather and allowed it to increase production slightly. Banana also increased as acreage increased. Losses in the tourism sector affected beer production by lowering it to almost half at 46.6 percent. The market for soft drinks proved a bit more inelastic as the production was only decreased by 7.7 percent. The North having been hit particularly hard with the closure of several industries during the administration of the current UDP government will now suffer again from a drop of 24.9 percent the earnings of Sugar Industry affected by dry weather. While foreign exchange is low it is interesting to note that local flour production was down 14 percent largely due to increased importation.
Times are tough for normal Belizeans. The Belizean middle class who are the backbone of our economy are disappearing, being thrust into poverty and debt by the reckless spending of the UDP. There is currently an absence of a sound investment and monetary policy in Belize. The PUP will introduce a plan that will put people to work by returning investor confidence and providing sustainable incentives to increase investment. The creation of jobs and the protection of the working class is the only way to move our economy forward, of increasing productivity and ensuring that Belize will once again flourish.
Before the pandemic we were already well down the road to an economic depression. The SIB seems unwilling to provide us with current data a scarce two months before a general election because it could only have gotten worse. We may not have the whole picture, but Belizeans on the ground and in the street who have been feeling the pinch for a while now, they know that we are in deep trouble. Belizeans also know that when the going gets tough…only the tough stick by you. John Briceo is the leader that has the stamina to stick with Belize a #planbelize and the vision to rebuild a Belize that works for all of us.