Earlier this month the IMF completed its Article Four consultation with Belize and stated that Belize’s macroeconomic outlook remains weak. It said Belize’s economic growth is expected to rebound however the medium term outlook is relatively weak with high debt, and large external imbalances. In his address yesterday on the occasion of the nation’s 36th independence celebrations, Prime Minister Dean Barrow painted an upbeat picture of Belize’s economy. While he admitted that there have been numerous challenges, the Prime Minister said there are indicators which show we are moving in the right direction.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“Currently our economy struggles with anemic if any real growth. Our banking and financial sectors are constantly under threat from de risking and potential investors consistently complain about the high cost of doing business in Belize. It is the opinion of many Belizeans that our government institutions are either corrupt or woefully incompetent and there seems to be no good in today’s governance. Recent actions taken by the current administration with respect to the independence and integrity of the judiciary as it relates to appoint of judges to the supreme court and the court of appeals, has occurred in spite of my opposition and that of the bar association of Belize and the Belize Network of Non-Governmental Organizations. Furthermore the decision by the government not to allow for the Public Accounts Committee to hold public hearings is in direct contrast to the desire for openness and transparency; a key component to good governance. The last re registration exercise was conducted more than twenty years ago. It is public knowledge that many persons were illegally placed on the register of voters. As such the current voter register is corrupt and this is a direct attack on the legitimacy of every election held in Belize. It is undemocratic.
And I am happy to say that national output is once again burgeoning towards the 4 billion dollar mark, providing employment for some 110 thousand Belizeans. Foreign Direct Investment, which has averaged over BZ$ 400 million since 2008, is set to increase even more. And there are 25 major private sector projects, in different areas, poised for implementation.
Thus it is that the Statistical Institute of Belize was able to certify 1.1% GDP growth for the first six months of this year. And this headline exit from recession was fleshed out by some really quite remarkable figures in particular sub sectors: an 18% jump in sugar production; 30% for citrus concentrate; 20% in livestock; and a 7.8% increase in tourism overnight arrivals.
That 7.8% expansion between January and July of 2017, marked the continuation of a remarkable run in the industry that is the greatest driver of our economy. For it came on top of 2016’s 13% spike over 2015, which spike distinguished 2016 as Belize’s best year for tourism in over a generation. With this kind of annual growth we have now become one of the top destinations in the region.
2016 also saw the breaking of our cruise tourism records; and it is now confirmed that for the first time ever Belize hosted over 1 million cruise passengers.”