Central Bureau of Statistics, CBS, reports.

CBS published a bunch of data about Aruba’s imports, by weight, and by monetary value. They also broke it down by entry to the Free Zone, by air and by sea.

Report on import and export, check it out here.

I am not a trained economist, and trying to interpret the numbers is always challenging.

One thing is clear from the data. We are importing less food stuff, less animal products, more building materials, more equipment for transport, more by sea, less by air.

The way it works at CBS they measure the ups and downs by categories, and it shows that in total we imported 14.1% more by weight, but the value of the cargo dropped, 7.7%.

Does that mean we’re buying cheaper, maybe from China, or perhaps shipping rates dropped in comparison to last year, who knows.

The report line-item that Aruba imported 4.3 million kilo less in food stuffs, drew my attention. Are we importing less food because we’re buying less, because we’re poorer, and can no longer afford shopping galore?!

That was my first thought, but then I asked around for comments on the data in general.

From a reader: In 2022, there was massive restocking due to the pandemic, when less was bought. So, consumption surged, when we went full throttle, stocks had to be brought back to a desirable level. We should compare the first quarter of 2023 against 2019 figures, to get a better understanding.

From a reader: It’s indeed puzzling. There’s been no increase in domestic production – no surge in local agriculture for example, to account for the lower import amounts. Furthermore, tourism is at record numbers so the decrease cannot be explained there either.

The figures do seem to suggest lower imports and hence lower consumption, it can be attributed to price inflation and hence lower purchasing power = YES, we appear to be poorer and consequently eating less.

An alternative explanation would be the regularization of shipping routes etc., importers may be less inclined to hold as much inventory as post pandemic, because supply lines are generally open and operating well, so they don’t stock as much.

From a reader: It is hard to make that connection between less imports and islanders having less buying power – which is a fact. We would have to analyze weight/type of “Productonan Alimenticio” and find out if they are primary or luxury products, which differ in price-elasticity, and then conclude if this is due to an offset by possible local production, or replaced with something less heavy? (Economists dig deeper!)

But in this same analysis I see building materials imported went up, which means more construction, which could signify higher investments which in turn make us less poor…I also know that shipping costs went through the roof in 2021 and 2022, that contributed to a higher price per kg. If freight costs normalized — which I know happened, but I don’t know to what extent. And that is also a factor which brings down the imported value. One would also need to understand the changes in source countries of the “Productonan Alimenticio.”  South America’s share — Venezuela & Colombia, has increased, and these countries are much cheaper than USA and Europe.

The post-Covid restocking effort increased numbers in 2021 and 2022, which decreased in 2023.

To conclude, the only thing that makes us “poorer” is inflation, when the same money buys less. What increases inflation? Destruction of money, this happens when we pay for something and get much less value (or nothing) in return for what we paid for.

From a reader: The press release was poorly written, I couldn’t force my tired brain to make any sense out of it. It’s hard to draw solid conclusions without a solid context. My first guess was a shifted effect, because of the introduction of BBO at the border. But I cannot support that hypothesis.

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March 06, 2024
Rona Coster