The Jamaican economy contracted by an estimated 5.7 per cent in the January to March 2021 quarter, largely due to the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
This estimated decline is in comparison to the corresponding period last year.
Director General of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), Dr. Wayne Henry, made the disclosure while providing a preliminary estimate on the performance of the economy for the period, during a virtual media briefing on Wednesday (June 2).
Dr. Henry noted that the out-turn for the January to March 2021 quarter largely reflected the impact of an increase in the COVID-19 confirmed cases to 39,543 at the end of March 31, 2021, relative to 12,915 confirmed cases in December 2020.
“This represented the largest quarterly increase in COVID-19 cases, quarter over quarter,” he said.
Also significantly impacting the performance of the economy was the implementation of measures globally and locally to manage the COVID-19 pandemic relative to the corresponding quarter of 2020, when the economy operated normally for the first two months.
“The measures implemented negatively impacted all industries associated with entertainment, transportation and tourism due to the restrictions on international travel as well as limits on the size of gatherings. These include hotels and restaurants, other services and the transportation storage and communication industries, which are all estimated to have recorded double-digit declines,” he said.
Further, he cited the lagged impact of adverse weather conditions in the previous quarter, which destroyed crops and delayed replanting activities during that period, as another major factor resulting in the economy’s decline.
Dr. Henry noted, however, that there is “gradual tempering of the rate of contraction as indicated by the preliminary out-turn for this quarter”, pointing out that if this materialises, it would represent the lowest rate of decline since the April to June 2020 quarter.
“The contraction in the economy was partially tempered by a relatively strong increase in construction activities as well as increased capacity utilisation in the mining and quarrying industry, following the cycling out of the impact of the closure of the Alpart refinery, which caused a drag on growth during the first nine months of 2020,” he said.
Dr. Henry pointed out that the construction industry was largely exempt from the COVID-19 containment measures and is the only goods-producing industry to have recorded three consecutive quarters of economic growth.
He noted that for the period, overall, the goods-producing industry increased by three per cent; while the services industry declined by 8.1 per cent.