Prices continue slow rise

Consumer prices continue to rise, following a trend of the past 12 months, according to data from the Economics and Statistics Office.

Cayman’s inflation rate, which measures how consumer prices rise, is 1.5 percent so far this year, down from last year’s rate of 2.2 percent. Inflation has increased steadily over the past five years, from -1.5 percent in 2009.

The Consumer Price Index, which tracks the cost of goods, has increased steadily over the past decade, mirroring trends around the world. Changes in CPI are how governments calculate inflation.

Over the past year in Cayman, average food costs have increased by more than 2 percent. Seafood led that category with a 5.7 percent increase.

Leading the cost impacts, according to the third-quarter CPI report released Wednesday, was a category for household equipment and maintenance, which rose almost 8 percent. Household textiles rose by more than 14 percent, and household goods and services (including housework, baby-sitting and fumigation services) rose 9.4 percent.

Some prices for foods tracked in the survey, including for milk, cheese, eggs, oils, fats, and sodas, dropped.

A couple other categories dropped during the third quarter of this year compared to last year. Clothing and footwear costs dipped almost 2 percent, healthcare costs dropped a half percent and “miscellaneous goods and services, which includes things like some types of jewelry not captured in other sections, fell a third of a percent.

Maria Zingapan, director of the Economics and Statistics Office, explained that the CPI is an index, meaning it doesn’t cover all prices but is meant to capture on average what people pay on a daily basis in Cayman. To get the CPI number, researchers from Ms. Zingapan’s office conduct a household budget survey, asking people what they buy on a regular basis. The researchers also visit grocery stores, gas stations and other spots to monitor prices.

“We include food, beverages, transportation, everything. It’s very comprehensive,” Ms. Zingapan said.

Over the year, Ms. Zingapan said, researchers aim to visit 1,400 homes for the household survey.

She said the CPI is used across government and the private sector. Employers use it for cost of living adjustments and setting salaries; courts use CPI to set damage awards if someone owes for living expenses. It’s used in pension reviews and when utility companies set rates.

“CPI is used with anything that has to do with cost of living,” Ms. Zingapan said.

Cayman’s average inflation rate over the past 15 years has been 2.2 percent, with a high of more than 7 percent in 2005. The low was -1.5 percent, from 2009, which coincides with the global housing crisis and marks the only time the inflation rate went into the negative in more than two decades.

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