The Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) is reporting that the country earned some US$1.33 billion in foreign exchange from expenditure by visitors to Jamaica, between January and July this year. According to PIOJ Director General, Dr. Gladstone Hutchinson, this represents a 3.6 per cent increase over the corresponding period last year. Speaking at the PIOJ’s quarterly media briefing (July to September), on November 20, at the Institute’s New Kingston offices, Dr. Hutchinson said “provisional” visitor expenditure available for July this year, showed a seven per cent increase over the corresponding period in 2011, to yield approximately US$225.3 million. He pointed out that the July to September quarter saw an estimated 3.5 per cent increase in air passenger movement. He informed that passenger movement through Kingston’s Norman Manley International Airport increased 5.2 per cent, while Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport recorded a 2.5 per cent increase. In this regard, he said the hotels and restaurants sector, one of the two recording the largest increases during the quarter, went up 2.3 per cent. “This was influenced mainly by an estimated growth in the hotel component reflecting increases in total arrivals, up five per cent, with stop-over arrivals up three per cent, and cruise ship arrivals, up 9.4 per cent,” he indicated. The other sector which recorded a relatively significant increase during the period was finance and insurance, up 0.8 per cent, Dr. Hutchinson said. “This increase was due largely to an increase in net income on loan stocks at deposit taking institutions and higher fees and commission income. The stock of loans and advances, outstanding at commercial banks, amounted to $298.6 billion, an increase of $15.1 billion, compared with the end of September 2011. Of this amount, credit to the private sector accounted for $272.8 billion, representing an increase of 19.2 per cent at the end of June 2012,” he outlined. The wholesale and retail trade, and repair and installation of machinery sectors also recorded increases, going up 0.4 per cent. “This was due to an increase in consumer and business confidence, which led to an increase in domestic demand. Higher sales were recorded, mainly for chemicals, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, up 6.7 per cent; other manufactured goods, up 10.8 per cent; textiles, clothes and shoes, up 16.5 per cent; and automobiles, commercial and transport equipment, up 16.8 per cent,” he explained. Noting that all other industries declined during the period under review, Dr. Hutchinson said the overall performance of the economy was impacted by the continued slowdown in the global economy, which tempered the demand for local goods and services. This, he added, was compounded by the onset of drought conditions. He pointed out that as a result, real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contracted by 0.6 per cent resulting from a decline of 2.4 per cent in the goods producing industry as the services industries remained flat. The Director General informed that within the goods producing industry, declines were registered in agriculture, down 0.5 per cent; mining & quarrying , down 10.4 per cent; construction, down 3.5 per cent; and manufacturing, down 0.6 per cent. Dr. Hutchinson pointed out that the estimated contraction recorded in agriculture, represented the sector’s first quarterly decline since the October to December 2010 period, when the industry was severely impacted by tropical Nicole. “During the (current) review quarter, traditional export crops fell by 6.1 per cent, while other agricultural crops declined by 0.5 per cent. However, increases were recorded in animal farming, which was up 3.3 per cent and post harvest activities, up 60.5 per cent. “The downturn in the industry reflected drought conditions in some of the major agricultural producing parishes, particularly during June and July; and the relative early ending of the 2011/12 sugar crop season, which resulted in the absence of sugar production during the review quarter,” Dr. Hutchinson said. The Director General said inflation for October stood at 0.9 per cent, mainly reflected in costs associated with food and non-alcoholic beverages, which increased by 1.1 per cent, and housing, water, electricity, gas, and other fuels, up 2.8 per cent for the period. He advised real GDP for the October to December quarter is projected to contract within the range of 0.5 to 1.5 per cent.