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May 29, 2009

Economy on the decline according to Statistical Institute

Story Picture“I have no doubt that the overflow problems presented by a world in crisis cannot defeat, or even too long detain, the Belizean people,” Prime Minister Barrow asserted in the conclusion of his presentation for the 2009 Fiscal Budget on March sixth of this year. Well, figures released today by the Statistical Institute of Belize (S.I.B.) show that the Belizean economy, despite Barrow’s hopes, is contracting and is being detained if not defeated or devastated. The figures show a slump in most areas, particularly in the wholesale and retail, agricultural, tourism and services sectors but the biggest decline was in merchandise imports. According to the S.I.B. release, the Gross Domestic Product(G.D.P.) figures for the first quarter—January to March—of 2009 show that Belizean economy fell by two point two percent when compared to the same period last year. Wholesale and retail activity declined by fourteen percent in 2009, a significant turnaround when compared to a 2008 first quarter growth of four percent. A trade slow down resulted and was evidenced by a reduction in merchandise imports of fifteen point one percent. The agriculture sector fell by six point eight percent largely due to a seventeen point six percent decline in banana production. And despite claims from the Belize Tourism Industry Association at its Bi-Annual General Meeting this past Thursday that the picture is not as gloomy as previously feared, the S.I.B. release says that stay-over tourist arrivals slumped by eleven percent while cruise ship arrivals fell by one point nine percent. The bad news continues and the services producing industries declined by ten percent. The only bright spots were in the private business and financial services, which grew by ten point four percent, and the construction and manufacturing sectors that expanded by six point two percent and five point five respectively. While predictions for the economic future might vary based on which side of the fence you stand, the first quarter contraction is reason for concern as it could indicate the start of our economy falling into a recession if a similar downward trend is maintained or grows worse during the second quarter April through June of 2009.

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