Sun | Oct 21, 2018

Jamaican economy expands 1.2% in March quarter

Published:Wednesday | May 23, 2018 | 12:00 AMMcPherse Thompson/ Assistant Editor - Business
PIOJ Director General, Dr Wayne Henry.

The mining and quarrying industry, which grew by 25.5 per cent, contributed the lion's share to a 1.2 per cent expansion of the Jamaican economy during the March 2018 quarter.

For fiscal year 2017-18, however, the growth rate was anaemic as the economy expanded by just 0.8 per cent, according to preliminary data released by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) on Tuesday.

Notwithstanding that, all industries expanded during the quarter, according to PIOJ Director General Dr Wayne Henry, who said the positive out-turn largely reflected rising external demand from Jamaica's main trading partners, which supported increased exports of some goods and services, particularly tourism.

The economy's performance was also attributed to increased hotel room and air-seat capacity, which facilitated growth in stopover visitor arrivals; and increased capacity utilisation, especially in the mining and manufacture industries; major infrastructure works, including road rehabilitation and expansion projects, and the construction and renovation of hotels, residential and commercial buildings, said Henry, in his quarterly press briefing at the PIOJ's offices in New Kingston.

The goods-producing sector grew by an estimated 3 per cent with all industries registering improvements in real value added during the review quarter.

"This performance largely reflected the impact of increased demand, improved weather conditions and increased capacity utilisation," Henry said.

The agriculture, forestry and fishing industry grew by an estimated 0.5 per cent and was facilitated by improved weather conditions relative to the corresponding quarter of 2017. The largest contributor was traditional export crops, which grew by 2.2 per cent largely due to a 13.5 per cent increase in banana production.

Growth in the mining industry was attributable to a 28.7 per cent increase in total bauxite production, reflecting higher alumina and crude bauxite production.

Alumina production was 27.1 per cent higher, reflecting the resumption of productive activity at the Alpart alumina refinery in St Elizabeth since October 2017, while crude bauxite production grew by 27.7 per cent due to more conducive weather conditions.

The manufacturing industry grew by an estimated 1 per cent, while construction was up by 1.5 per cent.

The services industry was estimated to have grown by 0.7 per cent during the quarter, reflecting real value-added increases in all industries.

Electricity and water supply expanded by 0.4 per cent; transport, storage and communication by 0.8 per cent; finance and insurance services by 1 per cent, and the wholesale and retail trade, repair and installation of machinery industry by 0.6 per cent.

The hotels and restaurants industry grew by an estimated 1.6 per cent, largely reflecting increased arrivals from Jamaica's primary source market, the United States. Total arrivals of stopover and cruise tourists increased by 6.6 per cent to 1.29 million visitors.

Henry said the PIOJ is projecting growth within a range of 1.5 per cent to 2.5 per cent for the June quarter, noting that prospects for the economy are generally positive based on the anticipated strengthening of most industries.

The growth projection for fiscal year 2018-19 is within the range of 2 per cent to 3 per cent, an out-turn largely predicated on the anticipated recovery in the agriculture industry, as well as expansion in output in the mining and quarrying industry.

Henry said that since the resumption of production at Alpart, now owned by JISCO, the refinery has been operating at half its capacity but the ongoing upgrade of existing equipment should lead to an increase in capacity utilisation.

mcpherse.thompson@gleanerjm.com