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Territorial disputes between the UK and Guatemala delayed the independence of Belize (formerly British Honduras) until 1981. Guatemala refused to recognize the new nation until 1992. Tourism has become the mainstay of the economy. The country remains plagued by high unemployment, growing involvement in the South American drug trade, and increased urban crime.
Geography Belize
Central America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, between Guatemala and Mexico
Geographic coordinates:
17 15 N, 88 45 W
Map references:
Central America and the Caribbean
total: 22,966 sq km
water: 160 sq km
land: 22,806 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly smaller than Massachusetts
Land boundaries:
total: 516 km
border countries: Guatemala 266 km, Mexico 250 km
386 km
Maritime claims - as described in UNCLOS 1982 (see Notes and Definitions):
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 the negotiation of a definitive agreement on territorial differences with Guatemala
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
tropical; very hot and humid; rainy season (May to November); dry season (February to May)
flat, swampy coastal plain; low mountains in south
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Victoria Peak 1,160 m
Natural resources:
arable land potential, timber, fish, hydropower
Land use:
arable land: 2.81%
permanent crops: 1.1%
other: 96.09% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land:
30 sq km (1998 est.)
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
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 Belize
272,945 (July 2004 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 40.6% (male 56,530; female 54,322)
15-64 years: 55.8% (male 77,118; female 75,309)
65 years and over: 3.5% (male 4,674; female 4,992) (2004 est.)
Median age:
total: 19.1 years
male: 19 years
female: 19.3 years (2004 est.)
Population growth rate:
2.39% (2004 est.)
Birth rate:
29.89 births/1,000 population (2004 est.)
Death rate:
6.04 deaths/1,000 population (2004 est.)
Net migration rate:
0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2004 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: 0.94 male(s)/female
total population: 1.03 male(s)/female (2004 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 26.37 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 22.82 deaths/1,000 live births (2004 est.)
male: 29.75 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 67.43 years
male: 65.11 years
female: 69.86 years (2004 est.)
Total fertility rate:
3.77 children born/woman (2004 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
2% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
2,500 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
300 (2001 est.)
noun: Belizean(s)
adjective: Belizean
Ethnic groups:
mestizo 48.7%, Creole 24.9%, Maya 10.6%, Garifuna 6.1%, other 9.7%
Roman Catholic 49.6%, Protestant 27% (Anglican 5.3%, Methodist 3.5%, Mennonite 4.1%, Seventh-Day Adventist 5.2%, Pentecostal 7.4%, Jehovah's Witnesses 1.5%), none 9.4%, other 14% (2000)
English (official), Spanish, Mayan, Garifuna (Carib), Creole
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 94.1%
male: 94.1%
female: 94.1% (2003 est.)
Government Belize
Country name:
conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Belize
former: British Honduras
Government type:
parliamentary democracy
Administrative divisions:
6 districts; Belize, Cayo, Corozal, Orange Walk, Stann Creek, Toledo
21 September 1981 (from UK)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 21 September (1981)
21 September 1981
Legal system:
English law
18 years of age; universal
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 Said Wilbert MUSA (since 28 August 1998); Deputy Prime Minister John BRICENO (since 1 September 1998)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister
elections: none; 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 members appointed by the governor general - six on the advice of the prime minister, three on the advice of the leader of the opposition, and one 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; members are appointed for five-year terms) and the House of Representatives (29 seats; members are elected by direct popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: House of Representatives - last held 5 March 2003 (next to be held NA March 2008)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - PUP 21, UDP 8
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court (the chief justice is appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister)
Political parties and leaders:
People's United Party or PUP [Said MUSA]; United Democratic Party or UDP [Dean BARROW, party leader; Douglas SINGH, party chairman]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
Society for the Promotion of Education and Research or SPEAR [Adele CATZIM]
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Lisa M. SHOMAN
consulate(s) general: Los Angeles
FAX: [1] (202) 332-6888
telephone: [1] (202) 332-9636
chancery: 2535 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Russell F. FREEMAN
embassy: 29 Gabourel Lane and Hutson Street, Belize City
mailing address: P. O. Box 286, Unit 7401, APO AA 34025
telephone: [501] 227-7161 through 7163
FAX: [501] 30802
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 Belize
Economy - overview:
In this small, essentially private enterprise economy the tourism industry is the number one foreign exchange earner followed by cane sugar, citrus, marine products, bananas, and garments. The government's expansionary monetary and fiscal policies, initiated in September 1998, led to GDP growth of 6.5% in 1999, 10.8% in 2000, 4.6% in 2001, and 3.7% in 2002. Major concerns continue to be the sizable trade deficit and foreign debt. A key short-term objective remains the reduction of poverty with the help of international donors.
purchasing power parity - $1.28 billion (2002 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
3.7% (2002 est.)
GDP - per capita:
purchasing power parity - $4,900 (2002 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 18%
industry: 24%
services: 58% (2001 est.)
Population below poverty line:
33% (1999 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
1.9% (2002 est.)
Labor force:
note: shortage of skilled labor and all types of technical personnel (2001 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture 27%, industry 18%, services 55% (2001 est.)
Unemployment rate:
9.1% (2002)
revenues: $224 million
expenditures: $209 million, including capital expenditures of $70 million (2002 est.)
garment production, food processing, tourism, construction
Industrial production growth rate:
4.6% (1999)
Electricity - production:
199.5 million kWh (2001)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 59.9%
hydro: 40.1%
other: 0% (2001)
nuclear: 0%
Electricity - consumption:
185.5 million kWh (2001)
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2001)
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2001)
Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - consumption:
5,000 bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - exports:
Oil - imports:
Agriculture - products:
bananas, coca, citrus, sugar; fish, cultured shrimp; lumber; garments
$207.8 million f.o.b. (2003 est.)
Exports - commodities:
sugar, bananas, citrus, clothing, fish products, molasses, wood
Exports - partners:
Mexico 68.3%, US 12.6%, UK 7.1% (2002)
$500.6 million f.o.b. (2003 est.)
Imports - commodities:
machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods; fuels, chemicals, pharmaceuticals; food, beverages, tobacco
Imports - partners:
Mexico 69%, US 12%, Netherlands Antilles 2.3% (2002)
Debt - external:
$475 million (2001 est.)
Economic aid - recipient:
Belizean dollar (BZD)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
Belizean dollars per US dollar - 2 (2003), 2 (2002), 2 (2001), 2 (2000), 2 (1999)
Fiscal year:
1 April - 31 March
Communications Belize
Telephones - main lines in use:
31,300 (2002)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
51,700 (2002)
Telephone system:
general assessment: above-average system
domestic: trunk network depends primarily on microwave radio relay
international: country code - 501; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean)
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 1, FM 12, shortwave 0 (1998)
133,000 (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
2 (1997)
41,000 (1997)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
1,498 (2002)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
2 (2000)
Internet users:
30,000 (2002)
Transportation Belize
total: 2,872 km
paved: 488 km
unpaved: 2,384 km (1999 est.)
825 km (river network used by shallow-draft craft; seasonally navigable)
Ports and harbors:
Belize City, Big Creek, Corozol, Punta Gorda
Merchant marine:
total: 336 ships (1,000 GRT or over) 1,015,270 GRT/1,336,890 DWT
registered in other countries: 25 (2003 est.)
by type: bulk 13, cargo 240, chemical tanker 11, combination bulk 4, combination ore/oil 1, container 10, multi-functional large load carrier 1, petroleum tanker 27, refrigerated cargo 18, roll on/roll off 8, short-sea/passenger 1, specialized tanker 2
foreign-owned: Bahamas 2, Belgium 1, British Virgin Islands 11, Cambodia 6, China 67, Cuba 2, Cyprus 1, Ecuador 1, Estonia 8, Germany 5, Greece 2, Grenada 1, Honduras 1, Hong Kong 27, Indonesia 4, Italy 2, Japan 5, Jordan 1, South Korea 13, Latvia 5, Liberia 2, Malaysia 4, Malta 1, Isle of Man 1, Marshall Islands 16, Mexico 1, Netherlands 1, Nigeria 2, Panama 15, Philippines 4, Portugal 1, Russia 9, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 3, Singapore 9, Spain 6, Switzerland 2, Taiwan 1, Thailand 3, Tunisia 1, Turkey 2, Ukraine 3, United Kingdom 1, United States 3, Yemen 1
43 (2003 est.)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 5
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 2 (2003 est.)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 38
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 11
under 914 m: 26 (2003 est.)
Military Belize
Military branches:
Belize Defense Force (includes Army, Maritime Wing, Air Wing, and Volunteer Guard)
Military manpower - military age:
18 years of age (2004 est.)
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 68,518 (2004 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 40,619 (2004 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males: 3,122 (2004 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$18 million (2003)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
2% (2003)
Transnational Issues Belize
Disputes - international:
Guatemalan squatters continue to settle along the border region; an OAS brokered Differendum in 2002 created a small adjustment to the land boundary, a large Guatemalan maritime corridor in Caribbean, a joint ecological park for disputed Sapodilla Cays, and a substantial US-UK financial package, but agreement was not brought to popular referendum leaving Guatemala to continue to claim the southern half of Belize
Illicit drugs:
major transshipment point for cocaine; small-scale illicit producer of cannabis for the international drug trade; money-laundering activity related to narcotics trafficking and offshore sector