Jamaican economy grows 1.6% in March quarter
McPherse Thompson, Assistant Business Editor
The Jamaican economy expanded by an estimated 1.6 per cent during the quarter ending March 2014.
This resulted in real GDP growth of approximately 0.9 per cent for fiscal year, compared to a 0.7 per cent contraction the previous year.
Director general of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), Colin Bullock, said that for the March quarter agriculture was the largest contributor, registering an 18 per cent increase in the goods-producing industry, followed by mining and quarrying, up eight per cent, and construction, up 0.5 per cent.
"This performance represented the third consecutive quarter of growth and reflected the continued strengthening of economic performance by most industries," he said.
"The outturn for January to March 2014 largely reflected the impact of increased external demand for some Jamaican goods and services, improved weather conditions relative to the corresponding quarter of 2013 when the agriculture industry and related food-processing component of manufacture was negatively affected by the prolonged effect of Hurricane Sandy," Bullock said.
The performance was also influenced by "initiatives aimed at improving productivity and output in agriculture and increased business and consumer confidence relative to the first quarter of 2013", and were supported by recovery in global markets, he said at the PIOJ's quarterly briefing on the economy on Thursday.
The impact of those and other developments on Jamaica was primarily manifested in higher demand for export of goods and services.
"However, lower commodity prices, primarily from metals, dampen the growth in export earnings," Bullock said.
All categories within the goods-producing industry increased during the quarter, with the exception of manufacture which declined by 0.3 per cent.
In the agriculture sector, growth was driven by traditional exports, which shot up by 61.5 per cent and other crops, up 14.7 per cent.
The performance of the sector was driven by 2.8 per cent growth in total bauxite output, and 11.4 per cent in alumina production. Bullock said the overall increase reflected higher production at Windalco's Ewarton plant and at Jamalco in Clarendon.
The decline in manufacturing was influenced by lower production in the petroleum sector. Sugar, molasses and poultry meat production rose.
The PIOJ director also reported that the Government closed the quarter with fiscal surplus of $21.4 billion, which was $4.6 billion higher than budgeted.
Remittance inflows for January 2014 totalled US$158.2 million, an increase of 2.7 per cent.