BELIZE


 

Also known as: Mother Nature's Best Kept Secret
Motto:  Under the Shade we Flourish 

History 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 and the two countries are involved in an ongoing border dispute. Guatemala and Belize are gearing up for a simultaneous referendum to determine if this dispute will go before the International Court of Justice at The Hague. 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  
Location: Central America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, between Guatemala and Mexico
Geographic coordinates: 17 15 N, 88 45 W
Area: total: 22,966 sq km
country comparison to the world: 158
land: 22,806 sq km
water: 160 sq km
Land boundaries: total: 516 km
border countries: Guatemala 266 km, Mexico 250 km
Coastline: 386 km
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
Climate: 
 
 tropical; very hot and humid; rainy season (May to November); dry season (February to May)
Terrain: flat, swampy coastal plain; low mountains in south
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Doyle's Delight 1,160 m
Natural resources: arable land potential, timber, fish, hydropower
Land use: arable land: 3.05%
permanent crops: 1.39%
other: 95.56% (2005)
Natural hazards: frequent, devastating hurricanes (June to November) and coastal flooding (especially in south)
Environment - current issues: deforestation; water pollution from sewage, industrial effluents, agricultural runoff; solid and sewage waste disposal
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
Geography - note: only country in Central America without a coastline on the North Pacific Ocean

People  
Population: 307,899 (July 2009 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 37.9% (male 59,462/female 57,117)
15-64 years: 58.6% (male 91,298/female 89,170)
65 years and over: 3.5% (male 5,185/female 5,667) (2009 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.154% (2009 est.)
Birth rate: 27.33 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Death rate: 5.8 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)
Net migration rate: NA (2009 est.)
Urbanization: urban population: 52% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 3.1% annual rate of change (2005-10 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 (2009 est.)
Nationality: noun: Belizean(s)
adjective: Belizean
Ethnic groups: mestizo 48.7%, Creole 24.9%, Maya 10.6%, Garifuna 6.1%, other 9.7% (2000 census)
Religions: 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)
Languages: 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)
Literacy: definition:   age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 76.9%
male: 76.7%
female: 77.1% (2000 census)

Government  
Name: conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Belize
former: British Honduras
Government type: parliamentary democracy and a Commonwealth realm
Capital: name: Belmopan
Geographic coordinates: 17 15 N, 88 46 W
Administrative divisions: 6 districts; Belize, Cayo, Corozal, Orange Walk, Stann Creek, Toledo
Independence: 21 September 1981 (from the UK)
National holidays: New Year's Day (01 January); Baron Bliss Day (09 March); Good Friday; Holy Saturday; Easter Monday; Labour Day (01 May); Commonwealth Day (24 May); St. George's Caye Day (10 September); Independence Day (21 September); Columbus Day (12 October); Garifuna Settlement Day (19 November); Christmas Day (25 December); Boxing Day (26 December); Independence Day, 21 September (1981)
Constitution: 21 September 1981
Legal system: English law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
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 Oliver BARROW (since 8 February 2008); Born 2 March 1951, he is an attorney by trade and the leader of the United Democratic Party. He obtained his LL.B. in 1973 from the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Barbados, Certificate of Legal Education in 1975 from the Norman Manley Law School in Kingston, Jamaica and L.M. and M.A. in International Relations from the University of Miami in 1981. He remains a senior partner in the law firm Barrow and Williams.
His political career began in 1983 and since then he has served as Attorney General and Minister of Foreign Affairs (1985-89), Deputy Prime Minister (1990), Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of National Security and Attorney General (1993-1998) prior to his election as Prime Minister in 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
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 - UDP 56.3%, PUP 40.9%; seats by party - UDP 25, PUP 6
Judicial branch: Summary Jurisdiction Courts (criminal) and District Courts (civil jurisdiction); Supreme Court (the chief justice is appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister); Court of Appeal; Privy Council in the UK; member of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ)
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 [John BRICENO]; 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]
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]
International organization participation: ACP, C, Caricom, CDB, FAO, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ITU, ITUC, LAES, MIGA, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, RG, SICA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
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
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires J.A. DIFFILY
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
Date of Caricom Membership: 1 May 1974
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

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 to 3.8% in 2008 as a result of the global slowdown, natural disasters, and the drop in the price of oil. Oil discoveries in 2006 bolstered the economic growth. Exploration efforts continue and a small increase in production is expected in 2009. Major concerns continue to be the sizable trade deficit and unsustainable foreign debt equivalent to nearly 70% of GDP. In February 2007, the government restructured nearly all of its public external commercial debt, which helped reduce interest payments and relieve some of the country's liquidity concerns. A key short-term objective remains the reduction of poverty with the help of international donors.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $2.536 billion (2008 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $1.381 billion (2008 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 3% (2008 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP): $8,400 (2008 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 29%
industry: 16.9%
services: 54.1% (2008 est.)
Labor force: 122,300
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 10.2%
industry: 18.1%
services: 71.7% (2007)
Unemployment rate: 8.1% (2007)
Budget: revenues: $347 million
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 6.4% (2008 est.)
Agriculture - products: garment production, food processing, tourism, construction, oil
Industries:  
Exports: $458 million (2008 est.)
Exports - commodities: sugar, bananas, citrus, clothing, fish products, molasses, wood, crude oil
Exports - partners: US 35%, UK 21.1%, Cote d'Ivoire 5.2%, Italy 4.4% (2008)
 
Imports: $740 million (2008 est.)
Imports - commodities: machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods; fuels, chemicals, pharmaceuticals; food, beverages, tobacco
Imports - partners: US 37.7%, Mexico 12.5%, Cuba 7.8%, Guatemala 7.3%, Russia 5.1% (2008)
Business Hours: Commercial: 08:00 to 16:00 hrs Monday to Friday
Government: 08:00 to 17:00 hrs Monday to Friday
Exchange rates: Belizean dollars (BZD) per US dollar - 2 (2008)

Communications  
Telephones - main lines in use: 31,1000 (2008)
Telephones - mobile cellular: 160,000 (2008)
Telephone system: general assessment: above-average system; fixed-line teledensity of 10 per 100 persons; mobile-cellular telephone density roughly 55 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) (2008)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 16, shortwave 0 (2006)
Television broadcast stations: 7 (2008)
Internet country code: .bz
Internet hosts: 2,751 (2008)
Internet users: 32,000 (2007)

Transportation  
Airports:  44 (2009), Main airport: Phillip Goldson International
Airports - with paved runways: total: 4
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 2 (2009)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
 
total: 40;
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 12
under 914 m: 27 (2009)
Roadways: total: 3,007 km
paved: 575 km
unpaved: 2,432 km (2006)
Waterways: 825 km (navigable only by small craft) (2008)
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)
Ports and terminals: Belize City, Big Creek

Military  
Military Branches: Belize Defense Force (BDF): Army, BDF Air Wing, BDF Volunteer Guard (2009)
  Main Source of Information: the Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook

Items of Interest  
National Anthem  
  Land of the Free

O, Land of the Free by the Carib Sea,
Our Manhood we pledge to thy liberty!
No tyrants here linger, despots must flee
This tranquil haven of democracy
The blood of our sires which hallows the sod
Brought freedom from slavery oppression's rod,
By the might of truth and the grace of God.
No longer shall we be hewers of wood.

Chorus:

Arise! ye sons of the Baymen's clan,
Put on your armours, clear the land!
Drive back the tyrants, let despots flee -
Land of the Free by the Carib Sea!

Nature has blessed thee with wealth untold,
O'er mountains and valleys where prairies roll;
Our fathers the Baymen, valiant and bold
Drove back the invader; this heritage bold
From proud Rio Hondo to old Sarstoon,
Through coral isle, over blue lagoon;
Keep watch with the angels, the stars and moon;
For freedom comes to-morrow's noon.

Highest National Award: The Queen's Award
Favourite Local Cuisine: Rice and beans with meat and potato salad
Government web page: http://www.belize.gov.bz