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  Introduction Back To Top

Belize was the site of several Mayan city states until their decline at the end of the first millennium A.D. The British and Spanish disputed the region in the 17th and 18th centuries; it formally became the colony of British Honduras in 1854. Territorial disputes between the UK and Guatemala delayed the independence of Belize until 1981. Guatemala refused to recognize the new nation until 1992. Tourism has become the mainstay of the economy. Current concerns include an unsustainable foreign debt, high unemployment, growing involvement in the South American drug trade, growing urban crime, and increasing incidences of HIV/AIDS.

  Geography Back To Top

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 0.15 cu km/yr (7%/73%/20%)
per capita: 556 cu m/yr (2000)

Total renewable water resources:
18.6 cu km (2000)

Land boundaries:
total: 516 km
border countries: Guatemala 266 km, Mexico 250 km

Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

tropical; very hot and humid; rainy season (May to November); dry season (February to May)

Map references:
Central America and the Caribbean

Geographic coordinates:
17 15 N, 88 45 W

Natural resources:
arable land potential, timber, fish, hydropower

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Doyle's Delight 1,160 m

flat, swampy coastal plain; low mountains in south

Geography - note:
only country in Central America without a coastline on the North Pacific Ocean

total: 22,966 sq km
land: 22,806 sq km
water: 160 sq km

Central America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, between Guatemala and Mexico

386 km

Area - comparative:
slightly smaller than Massachusetts

Irrigated land:
30 sq km (2003)

Environment - current issues:
deforestation; water pollution from sewage, industrial effluents, agricultural runoff; solid and sewage waste disposal

Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 12 nm in the north, 3 nm in the south; note - from the mouth of the Sarstoon River to Ranguana Cay, Belize's territorial sea is 3 nm; according to Belize's Maritime Areas Act, 1992, the purpose of this limitation is to provide a framework for negotiating a definitive agreement on territorial differences with Guatemala
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

Natural hazards:
frequent, devastating hurricanes (June to November) and coastal flooding (especially in south)

Land use:
arable land: 3.05%
permanent crops: 1.39%
other: 95.56% (2005)

  People Back To Top

Total fertility rate:
3.44 children born/woman (2008 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.92 male(s)/female
total population: 1.03 male(s)/female (2008 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
2.4% (2003 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
3,600 (2003 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 68.19 years
male: 66.39 years
female: 70.08 years (2008 est.)

Major infectious diseases:
degree of risk: intermediate
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever and malaria
water contact disease: leptospirosis (2008)

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 76.9%
male: 76.7%
female: 77.1% (2000 census)

Net migration rate:
NA (2008 est.)

Ethnic groups:
mestizo 48.7%, Creole 24.9%, Maya 10.6%, Garifuna 6.1%, other 9.7% (2000 census)

Median age:
total: 20.1 years
male: 20 years
female: 20.3 years (2008 est.)

301,270 (July 2008 est.)

Education expenditures:
5.3% of GDP (2004)

Population growth rate:
2.207% (2008 est.)

Spanish 46%, Creole 32.9%, Mayan dialects 8.9%, English 3.9% (official), Garifuna 3.4% (Carib), German 3.3%, other 1.4%, unknown 0.2% (2000 census)

Death rate:
5.77 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Infant mortality rate:
total: 23.65 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 26.35 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 20.81 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:
fewer than 200 (2003 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 13 years
male: 13 years
female: 13 years (2004)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 38.4% (male 58,987/female 56,674)
15-64 years: 58.1% (male 88,521/female 86,450)
65 years and over: 3.5% (male 5,095/female 5,543) (2008 est.)

Birth rate:
27.84 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Roman Catholic 49.6%, Protestant 27% (Pentecostal 7.4%, Anglican 5.3%, Seventh-Day Adventist 5.2%, Mennonite 4.1%, Methodist 3.5%, Jehovah's Witnesses 1.5%), other 14%, none 9.4% (2000)

noun: Belizean(s)
adjective: Belizean

  Government Back To Top

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Robert J. DIETER
embassy: Floral Park Road, Belmopan City, Cayo District
mailing address: P.O. Box 497, Belmopan City, Cayo District, Belize
telephone: [501] 822-4011
FAX: [501] 822-4012

National holiday:
Independence Day, 21 September (1981)

18 years of age; universal

Government type:
parliamentary democracy

Political pressure groups and leaders:
Society for the Promotion of Education and Research or SPEAR [Gustavo PERERA]; Association of Concerned Belizeans or ACB [David VASQUEZ]; National Trade Union Congress of Belize or NTUC/B [Rene GOMEZ]

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Nestor MENDEZ
chancery: 2535 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 332-9636
FAX: [1] (202) 332-6888
consulate(s) general: Los Angeles

International organization participation:

Legislative branch:
bicameral National Assembly consists of the Senate (12 seats; members appointed by the governor general - 6 on the advice of the prime minister, 3 on the advice of the leader of the opposition, and 1 each on the advice of the Belize Council of Churches and Evangelical Association of Churches, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Belize Better Business Bureau, and the National Trade Union Congress and the Civil Society Steering Committee; to serve five-year terms) and the House of Representatives (31 seats; members are elected by direct popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: House of Representatives - last held 6 February 2008 (next to be held in 2013)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - UDP 25, PUP 6

Legal system:
English law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Flag description:
blue with a narrow red stripe along the top and the bottom edges; centered is a large white disk bearing the coat of arms; the coat of arms features a shield flanked by two workers in front of a mahogany tree with the related motto SUB UMBRA FLOREO (I Flourish in the Shade) on a scroll at the bottom, all encircled by a green garland

21 September 1981 (from UK)

Country name (Goverment):
conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Belize
former: British Honduras

Political parties and leaders:
National Alliance for Belizean Rights or NABR; National Reform Party or NRP [Cornelius DUECK]; People's National Party or PNP [Wil MAHEIA]; People's United Party or PUP [Said MUSA]; United Democratic Party or UDP [Dean BARROW]; Vision Inspired by the People or VIP [Paul MORGAN]; We the People Reform Movement or WTP [Hipolito BAUTISTA]

name: Belmopan
geographic coordinates: 17 15 N, 88 46 W
time difference: UTC-6 (1 hour behind Washington, DC during Standard Time)

21 September 1981

Executive branch:
chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor General Sir Colville YOUNG, Sr. (since 17 November 1993)
head of government: Prime Minister Dean BARROW (since 8 February 2008); Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar VEGA (since 12 February 2008)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister
elections: the monarch is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition is usually appointed prime minister by the governor general; prime minister recommends the deputy prime minister

Administrative divisions:
6 districts; Belize, Cayo, Corozal, Orange Walk, Stann Creek, Toledo

Judicial branch:
Supreme Court of Judicature (the chief justice is appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister); Court of Appeal

  Economy Back To Top

Exports - partners:
US 28.7%, UK 16.3%, Thailand 5.8%, Cote d'Ivoire 5.4%, Finland 4.2%, Spain 4% (2007)

Electricity - consumption:
193.3 million kWh (2006 est.)

Central bank discount rate:
12% (31 December 2007)

Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2007 est.)

Current account balance:
-$32 million (2008 est.)

Debt - external:
$1.2 billion (June 2005 est.)

Unemployment rate:
8.5% (2007)

Oil - exports:
1,960 bbl/day (2006)

GDP - per capita (PPP):
$8,500 (2008 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):
24.5% of GDP (2008 est.)

Stock of domestic credit:
$877.6 million (31 December 2007)

GDP (purchasing power parity):
$2.574 billion (2008 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):
$1.383 billion (2008 est.)

Exchange rates:
Belizean dollars (BZD) per US dollar - 2 (2008 est.), 2 (2007), 2 (2006), 2 (2005), 2 (2004)

GDP - real growth rate:
2.4% (2008 est.)

Stock of money:
$323.9 million (31 December 2007)

Labor force:
note: shortage of skilled labor and all types of technical personnel (2006 est.)

Imports - partners:
US 31.2%, Mexico 13.6%, Cuba 8.5%, Guatemala 8%, Russia 4.6% (2007)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):
4.5% (2008 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 29%
industry: 16.9%
services: 54.1% (2008 est.)

Oil - imports:
7,122 bbl/day (2005)

$496 million f.o.b. (2008 est.)

Natural gas - consumption:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

Currency (code):
Belizean dollar (BZD)

Economy - overview:
In this small, essentially private-enterprise economy, tourism is the number one foreign exchange earner followed by exports of marine products, citrus, cane sugar, bananas, and garments. The government's expansionary monetary and fiscal policies, initiated in September 1998, led to sturdy GDP growth averaging nearly 4% in 1999-2007, though growth slipped below 3% in 2008 as a result of the global slowdown. Oil discoveries in 2006 bolstered the economic growth. Exploration efforts continue though no new production is expected in 2009. Major concerns continue to be the sizable trade deficit and unsustainable foreign debt equivalent to nearly 90% of GDP. In February 2007, the government restructured nearly all of its public external commercial debt, which will reduce interest payments and relieve liquidity concerns. A key short-term objective remains the reduction of poverty with the help of international donors.

Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

Imports - commodities:
machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods; fuels, chemicals, pharmaceuticals; food, beverages, tobacco

garment production, food processing, tourism, construction, oil

Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2007 est.)

Population below poverty line:
33.5% (2002 est.)

Commercial bank prime lending rate:
14.33% (31 December 2007)

Stock of quasi money:
$549 million (31 December 2007)

Electricity - production:
213.5 million kWh (2007 est.)

$718 million f.o.b. (2008 est.)

Oil - proved reserves:

Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 19.5%
industry: 17.9%
services: 61.9% (2005)

Natural gas - proved reserves:
0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$117 million (31 December 2008 est.)

Oil - consumption:
7,000 bbl/day (2006 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares:

Currency code:

Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%

Exports - commodities:
sugar, bananas, citrus, clothing, fish products, molasses, wood

Economic aid - recipient:
$12.91 million (2005)

Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 59.9%
hydro: 40.1%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)

Natural gas - imports:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

revenues: $335.5 million
expenditures: $361.5 million (2008 est.)

Fiscal year:
1 April - 31 March

Oil - production:
3,000 bbl/day (2007 est.)

  Communications Back To Top

Internet users:
32,000 (2007)

Telephones - main lines in use:
33,900 (2007)

41,000 (1997)

Internet country code:

Radio broadcast stations:
AM 1, FM 16, shortwave 0 (2006)

133,000 (1997)

Telephones - mobile cellular:
118,300 (2007)

Television broadcast stations:
5 (2006)

Telephone system:
general assessment: above-average system; fixed-line teledensity of 12 per 100 persons; mobile-cellular telephone density of about 40 per 100 persons
domestic: trunk network depends primarily on microwave radio relay
international: country code - 501; landing point for the Americas Region Caribbean Ring System (ARCOS-1) fiber-optic telecommunications submarine cable that provides links to South and Central America, parts of the Caribbean, and the US; satellite earth station - 8 (Intelsat - 2, unknown - 6) (2007)

Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
2 (2000)

Internet hosts:
2,751 (2008)

  Transportation Back To Top

825 km (navigable only by small craft) (2008)

Ports and terminals:
Belize City, Big Creek

Merchant marine:
total: 216
by type: barge carrier 1, bulk carrier 32, cargo 152, chemical tanker 2, container 1, passenger 1, petroleum tanker 9, refrigerated cargo 12, roll on/roll off 5, specialized tanker 1
foreign-owned: 178 (Australia 1, China 71, Croatia 2, Cyprus 1, Estonia 6, Greece 1, Iceland 2, Italy 3, Japan 8, South Korea 1, Latvia 12, Norway 3, Peru 1, Russia 31, Singapore 2, Spain 1, Turkey 15, Ukraine 7, UAE 5, UK 5) (2008)

Airports - with paved runways:
total: 4
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 2 (2007)

total: 3,007 km
paved: 575 km
unpaved: 2,432 km (2006)

Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 40
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 12
under 914 m: 27 (2007)

44 (2007)

  Military Back To Top

Military service age and obligation:
18 years of age for voluntary military service; laws allow for conscription only if volunteers are insufficient; conscription has never been implemented; volunteers typically outnumber available positions by 3:1 (2008)

Manpower available for military service:
males age 16-49: 74,605
females age 16-49: 72,926 (2008 est.)

Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 54,627
females age 16-49: 53,500 (2008 est.)

Military branches:
Belize Defense Force (BDF): Army, BDF Air Wing, BDF Volunteer Guard (2007)

Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 3,580
female: 3,449 (2008 est.)

Military expenditures:
1.4% of GDP (2006)

  Transnational Issues Back To Top

Disputes - international:
OAS-initiated Agreement on the Framework for Negotiations and Confidence Building Measures saw cooperation in repatriation of Guatemalan squatters and other areas, but Guatemalan land and maritime claims in Belize and the Caribbean Sea remain unresolved; the Line of Adjacency created under the 2002 Differendum serves in lieu of the contiguous international boundary to control squatting in the sparsely inhabited rain forests of Belize's border region; Honduras claims Belizean-administered Sapodilla Cays in its constitution but agreed to a joint ecological park under the Differendum

Illicit drugs:
transshipment point for cocaine; small-scale illicit producer of cannabis, primarily for local consumption; money-laundering activity related to narcotics trafficking and offshore sector

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