Caricom exports jump sharply

Jamaica’s exports to CARICOM region jumped sharply for the 11 months to November last year with an increase of 45.3 percent.
The increase amounts to US$26 million and put exports at US$84 million up from the US$58 million earned 2015. Exports of “Chemicals” increased by US$5 million, to US$9 million, due mainly to increased exports of plastics in primary form, medical and pharmaceuticals products and essential oils. Exports of Food increased to US$27 million by US$4.7 million than the recorded amount for 20125. Re-exports goods rose by US$11 million to US$21 million.
Imports from the Caricom region dropped sharply for the same period, with a fall of US$126.4 million and resulted in total imports from the region of US$430 million. While oil imports accounted for the bull of the decline, chemicals, beverages & tobacco and foods accounted for a sizable amount.

Jamaica’s Trade balance improves

Jamaica’s recorded an 8 percent improvement in its trade deficit in 2016 up to November with imports declining to US$3.2 billion compared to the US$3.48 billion 2015.
Export earnings for the similar period declined at a slower pace than imports by US$69 million to US$1.09 billion.
Total imports amounted to US$4.28 billion, 7.5 percent less than the US$4.63 billion in 2015.
Fuel, Manufactured Goods, Chemicals and Food were mainly responsible for this fall in spending for the 2016 review period.
Traditional Domestic Exports, valued at US$575 million, fell 18.7 per cent below the US$707 million recorded for January to November 2015 but Non–Traditional Domestic Exports for the 2016 period performed better than the traditional exports with growth of 2.4 percent to US$414 million.

Moderate inflation for Jamaica

Price increases in Jamaica for February this year was moderately up resulting in inflation over the past year to less than 4 percent. The Consumer Price Index for the month of February 2017 increased by 0.2 percent, following an upward movement of 0.4 percent in the previous month.
Price increases from a year ago is up 3.6 percent and for the fiscal year-to-date, 3.7 percent.
Two divisions mainly contributed to this increase. Prices for the Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages division rose the most by 0.3 percent and the division of Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels was up by 0.6 percent. Higher rates for water and sewage and increases in wages for carpenters, masons, painter, plumbers and electricians were the main factors that impacted the movement for the division Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels. Lower prices for some petroleum products locally resulted in a decline in its index of 0.3 percent in Transportation.
Fall in the price of oil on the world market could impact ongoing inflation if the trend continues but recent tax increases locally with negate some of that.

GOJ Treasury bill heading to 4%

Government of Jamaica Treasury bill rates seems headed to 4 percent by early 2018 if current trends on inflation, exchange rate stability and world oil prices hold.
Treasuries hit just over nine percent for the 182 days instrument in 2014. The rates declined thereafter, falling to a low just below six percent in late 2015 and moved sideways to October last year and then rose to six and half percent by December. Rates at the January and February auctions fell.
In contrast to falling rates for the 182 days T-bills, rates on the short-term bills rose at the February auction. The 91 days T-bill closed at 5.92%, up from 5.62% in January while the 30 days ended at 6.08% up from 5.64% in December.
The trend seems clear with inflation falling to 1.7 percent last year and running at 2.6 percent to January compared to same period in 2016 signalling room for much lower rates. The chart of Treasury rate trends, points to a declining trend with the two blue lines indicating the upper and lower band.
During 2016 inflation was negatively affected b a 7 percent decline in the value of the Jamaican dollar against the United States currency, that would have contributed to most of the inflation except the portion relating to increased taxes, imposed last year. Devaluation if any, should be more moderate in 2017, as foreign exchange flows continue to be strong, therefore inflation should moderate with the absence of devaluation of the local dollar.
The trendline suggests rates on T bills falling to 4 percent by late 2017 or early 2018. The chart is also showing that rates could sit at resistance around the 5.7 percent level for awhile but the downward slopping trend lines are pointing to lower rates by the latest August, with softening world oil prices and little or no devaluation of the Jamaican dolllar to spike inflation.

GOJ revenues beating estimates

Revenues for Government of Jamaica continue to outpace forecast, with the latest figures showing a 5.2 percent amounting to $17.4 billion increase over budget to December last year.
Revenues ended at $352 billion inclusive of capital inflows of $14.6 billion, compared with forecast of $334 billion. The main contributors company profit taxes and PAYE $2.4 billion each, and tax on interest, amounting to $2.8 billion. Special consumption taxes accounted for an increase of $2.3 billion, Education tax added $822 million, Stamp duties $1.3 billion and Custom Duties $1 billion. Travel and special consumption taxes and GCT on imports, cut $3.5 billion from forecast.
Capital spending is still running $5.4 billion below the target of $35 billion while other expenditure is under-spent by $3.7 billion, with wages down $5.2 billion and interest cost $3.9 billion, while other operating cost is up $4.3 billion over forecast.
The fiscal out turn, is a cut in the fiscal deficit by $26.6 billion, down to $23.7 billion.

Jamaica’s 2017 inflation to beat 2016 – 1.7%?

Fuel prices at the pumps in May 2015.

Inflation in Jamaica for 2016, fell to the lowest level in decades, with the Consumer Price Index showing inflation rate at just 1.72 percent for the year. The findings were released by Statistical Institute of Jamaica.
The inflation rate for 2017 could be even lower than that of 2016, if the historical patterns repeat. The 2106 out turn compares with 3.7 percent recorded for 2015. The rate for December 2016 was 0.3 percent and is just below the average of fiscal year-to-date movement of 3.1 percent to December 2016.
The rate for 2016 would have been even less, had it not been for increased taxes imposed by the government on a series of items in the first half of the year. The added increase from taxes should not recur in 2017 as revenues are running well ahead of target for the 2017 fiscal year and a pickup in growth should see a healthy increase in revenues for the new fiscal year.
In 2016, inflation in Jamaica, benefited from a continuation in tight fiscal policies, pursued by the government, but it would have been negatively affected by slippage in the exchange rate of the Jamaican dollar versus the US dollar. Moderation in energy prices helped as well.
Going forward, the country should continue to benefit from relatively low energy prices a more stable exchange rate of the Jamaican dollar as foreign exchange inflows remain strong.
Data going back to 2002 suggests that the first two months of the year tend to have flat to negative inflation. In 2015 inflation remained below the December 2014 level until April and just inching ahead in May. In 2016 it remained below the December 2015 level until July.

Tax break costing far less in year 1

Minister of Finance Audley Shaw who announced tax break for individuals.

Minister Audley Shaw announced in May last year, an across the board threshold for individual tax payers of just over $1 million per year, effective July 2016, estimated to cost $12 billion in lost revenues this fiscal year. Data in Governments’ fiscal operations to November this year, is now showing that the cost will be far less than originally stated.
According to the inflows of PAYE, the difference between inflows for 2015 amounted to $46 billion to November is only $3 billion more than the intake of $43 billion for the same period in 2016. Revenues lost monthly, since August, the first month that revenues would be affected by the lower tax payments is now running around $1.2 billion lower than in 2015, suggesting that the full impact for the current fiscal year will end up costing $9 billion instead of the $12.5 billion originally stated. The cost for a full year would be in the order of $14 billion.
According to Shaw, 251,000 persons would have benefit from the increased threshold. Revenues for Government of Jamaica fiscal operations to the end of November 2016 are $26 billion ahead of the similar period in 2015. For the current fiscal year, revenues are $13.8 billion ahead of forecast an amount that has already exceeded the amount forgone in income tax.

GOJ revenues $26B ahead of 2015

Minister of Finance Audley Shaw pulling in revenues ahead of target.

Revenues for Government of Jamaica fiscal operations to the end of November 2016 are $26 billion ahead of the similar period in 2015.
For the current fiscal year revenues are $13.8 billion ahead of forecast with nearly $5 billion of the surplus coming in November. Intake for the 8 months to November, came in at $304 billion compared with forecast of $290 billion. In May, Minister of Finance announced tax increases of just less than $14 billion that would mostly take full effect at the start of June, with some from mid-May. Revenues from the new measures to November, would be approximately $10 billion with $4 billion to be collected for the other 4 months of the fiscal year.
While revenues are ahead of forecast expenditure are lower than projected. Total expenditure are running $10.5 billion below target to November, of this amount capital expenditure is running $8 below target. Wages are $3.8 billion short of budget while interest cost is above target by $900 million.
Overall operations incurred a deficit of $11 billion compared with projection of a deficit of $26.6 billion leading to the primary surplus ending $25 billion better that forecast at $$63.6 billion.

Jamaica’s 2016 inflation lowest in decades

‘Vegetables and Starchy Foods’ had a strong impact on November price movement.

‘Vegetables and Starchy Foods’ had a strong impact on November price movement.

Inflation in Jamaica is set to be the lowest in decades as prices rose 0.4 percent in November over the previous month, bringing the inflation for the calendar year-to-date rate to only 1.4 per cent, the lowest for many decades.
Price movements as measured by the consumer index amounts to just 1.7 percent compared to the November 2015. Inflation for the fiscal year-to-date registered an increase of 2.8 percent.
The price movement in November this year, is mainly as a result of a 0.5 percent rise in Food and Non Alcoholic Beverages and a 0.7 per cent increase in Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels’ division. Higher prices for vegetables and starchy foods and a rise in the cost of electricity were items that were most impactful.

Doubts cast on employment rate

The Unemployment Rate for June 2016 fell to 12.9 percent, the lowest level since it hit a post 2007 high of 15.4 percent, in June 2013. It is the first time it is breaking below the 13 per cent level that it was stuck at for years. One aspect of the data raises questions about the findings.
Ja Unemply -2011-6-16.According to the Statistical Institute of Jamaica the government body charged with collecting and collating economic data on the country. ”There were 1,186,900 employed persons in July 2016 which was 39,400 more than the 1,147,500, recorded in July 2015. The industry group Wholesale & Retail, Repair of Motor Vehicle & Equipment had the largest gain (13,300) in employment moving from 220,200 in July 2015 to 233,500 in July 2016. For the same period the industry group Agriculture, Hunting, Forestry & Fishing had the largest decline (14,000), moving from 205,200 to 191,200. The industry group Construction had the largest increase in the number of males (10,200) and the groups Manufacturing (7,100) and Other Community, Social and Personal Service Activities (7,100) accounted for the largest increase in the number of females in the period.”
The big question is how is it possible for agriculture to have grown by a massive 38 percent, according to data from the Planning Institute of Jamaica and for there to be a major fall in employment in that category? The more likely situation is that employment grew sharply in the agricultural sector, resulting in a much greater fall in unemployment, assuming the estimate for growth in agriculture is correct.