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JIS News

Director General of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), Dr. Wesley Hughes, has said that the economy grew by some 2.7 per cent for the period July to September 2006, relative to the corresponding period last year.
The growth, he said, took place against the background of relative stability in the exchange rate market, with inflation being at 2.4 per cent and a fiscal deficit of $8.4 billion, which was $2.5 billion less than budgeted.
Dr. Hughes, who was speaking at the PIOJ’s quarterly press briefing today (Nov. 15), at his Grenada Way office in New Kingston, cited agriculture and tourism as being the star performers for the period, with growth of 9.6 per cent and 16.1 per cent, respectively.
The strong performance in agriculture, he said, could be attributed to an increase in export crop production, which went up by almost 147 per cent. “Coffee production was the highest in over eight years”, Dr. Hughes indicated, noting that “banana production was up nearly 160 per cent to more than 9,000 tonnes and cocoa production increased by over 69 tonnes from what was 6 tonnes in the same period last year”.
In addition, domestic crop production grew by 6.8 per cent, and livestock production went up by 5.1 per cent.
In terms of tourism, Dr. Hughes pointed to a 23.3 per cent increase in visitor arrivals in October 2006, while stopover arrivals went up by 7.9 per cent and cruise passenger arrivals recorded an increase of 42.7 per cent.
Meanwhile, electricity and water saw growth of 3.2 per cent during the period under review, while transport, storage and communication went up by 6.5 per cent. The Director General attributed this growth “to higher levels of activities at the island’s air and seaports, increased vessel ships and marine cargo volume”.
Furthermore, he noted that financial and insurance services grew by 2.0 per cent, due largely to an increased focus on the sector’s core business resulting in an increase in net interest income. “Loans and advances are growing, as well as a high level of remittances relative to 2005,” he pointed out.
There was also marginal growth of 0.7 per cent in the mining and quarry sectors, which Dr. Hughes attributed to an increase in crude bauxite production, which recorded a 16.1 per cent growth.
He noted that the alumina production experienced a 1.0 per cent decline due to the downturn in chemicals and chemical products, “as well as equipment failures at two of the alumina operations. As a result, we saw a slight decline in the capacity utilization rate, which fell below 90 per cent”.
Meanwhile, manufacturing went down 2.6 per cent, with food, beverage and tobacco production declining by 4.2 per cent. “We no longer produce cigarettes in Jamaica.so this is helping to weigh down the manufacturing index”, Dr. Hughes pointed out, but noted that “come next year, with cigarettes being out for over a year, we will probably see a stabilization”.
Construction and installation also saw a decline of 0.2 per cent. Dr. Hughes noted that, “total cement availability for the year-to-date has been a problem and we have seen significant improvements in the availability of cement in the last quarter with significant levels of imports. however 94 per cent of that import came in the last two weeks of the quarter, so it was unlikely to have an effect on overall output”.
The PIOJ head said that the economy was expected to grow by 3.2 per cent for the October to December quarter.