Posted: Sunday, March 12, 2023. 8:55 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Three years after the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the Belizean economy, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance John Briceño doesn’t want to hear the idea floated by the Opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) that Belize has only just now recovered its economy to where it was before those times.
Leader of the Opposition Moses “Shyne” Barrow had earlier told reporters on the fringes of the National Assembly that the ruling party should not be “bragging” about GDP that restored Belize to the time leading up to COVID, a position the Prime Minister said makes him “continue to embarrass himself.”
The numbers, the P.M. said, not just from within the Government but from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and others, have Belize set for continued growth subject to projected slowdowns in the global economy tied to other international issues: “The IMF pointed out that under the UDP the average [growth] rate was a little over 1 percent. Here we have in our first 2 years over 15 percent and almost 13 percent in the second year and from the looks of things the way they are going, we’re going to have even more. Probably not as big as the last 2 years, but we are going to certainly have a healthy GDP growth rate in this coming year.”
During his Budget presentation, the Prime Minister mentioned that with the current growth rates, his administration would be able to double the size of the Belizean economy in 10 years – it would take the UDP administrations a half-century to be able to do the same with the rate of growth they established (though it should be pointed out that that there were economic slowdowns during the Barrow era as well as several hurricanes that impacted Belize and her industries).
As for unemployment, Briceño insisted that Barrow’s claim of unemployment being as low as 4 percent during the Dean Barrow era is simply not true. The Statistical Institute of Belize measures unemployment of the active labour force twice per year, in April and September, with figures in the former month typically lower due to a rise in seasonal employment.
In all, Briceno said, “we have surpassed the economy of 2020, and that because tourism was not at the 2019 level, that will tell you when you start to see the numbers for this year, January levels of tourist arrivals were higher than in January 2019 which was the highest record…” This, he added, has a ripple effect on the entire economy. There is also growth in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry among others and Belize has outstripped the projected growth rates measured by outsiders and that Belize is growing and going on the right track.
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