The Statistical Institute of Belize(SIB) presented the 2020 3rd quarter economic and labor statistics. Along with Covid-19, the lack of an economic plan and foresight of the previous government has left the Belizean economy in shambles.
Based on the statistics gathered, the Consumer Price Index reflected a significant increase in Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages. With common food staples such as Red Kidney Beans and Onions increasing in price by over 40% in comparison to October 2019. While the cost of LPG has been reduced by 19.32%, the cost of Housing, Water, and Electricity has seen an increase.
In the External Trade category, Imports have decreased by 29.1 % and Exports by 5.5%. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) showed an economic decline of 13.2% compared to the third quarter of 2019 making it the 6th consecutive economic contraction. While the primary and secondary sectors have seen some growth, the tertiary sector has had the greatest impact on the contraction.
Due to the loss of tourism, primarily the hotel and restaurant industry saw a decline of 98.3%. With a decrease in imports, the Wholesale and Retail Trade industry had a contraction of 21.4 percent. It is important to note that the Tertiary sector contributes to more than half of the country’s economic activity.
The SIB also presented a new methodology of providing Labour Force statistics in accordance with the 19th International Conference of Labour Statisticians (ICLS). Based on the new methodology, the new Unemployment rate stands at 13.7%, only 3.3% higher than in Sep 2019. This is despite almost 39,000 Belizeans losing their job due to Covid-19. Utilizing the previous methodology, the unemployment rate would be 29.6%, or 19.4% higher than in October 2019.
So, what do all these numbers and terminologies mean? In layman’s terms, it means that the previous government was driving the proverbial economic train into a wall. Belizeans are spending a larger portion of their budgets on basic food items with Rent and Utility costs becoming burdensome for Belizeans to bear. Foreign exchange has been reduced yet for another quarter with Exports down and while less foreign exchange is leaving the country due to a decrease in Imports, the government is collecting less on duties and taxes. The impact of Tourism continues to loom on our heads as the jobs, revenue, and taxes are all lost. Without jump-starting this sector, the fourth quarter would record another contraction.
While the scenario of doom and gloom is present, there is a silver lining over the horizon. The new Government of Belize has instituted several measures to boost the economy within the first 50 days. There has been a renewed momentum in the agro-economy, with exports in Cattle and Poultry being formalized. An Economic Advisory Recovery team was also created to get input from key stakeholders in multiple sectors. Tourism is also expected to increase and has seen increases in flights to Belize for December.
In less than 50 days, this PUP government has done much more than what the previous government did in 13 years. Belize finally has a plan on how to improve the weakened economy. Belizeans presented a clear mandate on November 11th and are already reaping the benefits. 2021 is going to be a year of positive changes for Belize; Everybody FU Win!