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  • Introduction :: BELIZE

  • 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. Tourism has become the mainstay of the economy. Current concerns include the country's heavy foreign debt burden, high unemployment, growing involvement in the Mexican and South American drug trade, high crime rates, and one of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in Central America.
  • Geography :: BELIZE

  • Central America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, between Guatemala and Mexico
    17 15 N, 88 45 W
    Central America and the Caribbean
    total: 22,966 sq km
    land: 22,806 sq km
    water: 160 sq km
    slightly smaller than Massachusetts
    total: 542 km
    border countries (2): Guatemala 266 km, Mexico 276 km
    386 km
    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
    tropical; very hot and humid; rainy season (May to November); dry season (February to May)
    flat, swampy coastal plain; low mountains in south
    lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
    highest point: Doyle's Delight 1,160 m
    arable land potential, timber, fish, hydropower
    agricultural land: 6.9%
    arable land 3.3%; permanent crops 1.4%; permanent pasture 2.2%
    forest: 60.6%
    other: 32.5% (2011 est.)
    30 sq km (2003)
    18.55 cu km (2011)
    total: 0.22 cu km/yr (4%/49%/46%)
    per capita: 845.2 cu m/yr (2000)
    frequent, devastating hurricanes (June to November) and coastal flooding (especially in south)
    deforestation; water pollution from sewage, industrial effluents, agricultural runoff; solid and sewage waste disposal
    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
    only country in Central America without a coastline on the North Pacific Ocean
  • People and Society :: BELIZE

  • noun: Belizean(s)
    adjective: Belizean
    mestizo 52.9%, Creole 25.9%, Maya 11.3%, Garifuna 6.1%, East Indian 3.9%, Mennonite 3.6%, white 1.2%, Asian 1%, other 1.2%, unknown 0.3%
    note: percentages add up to more than 100% because respondents were able to identify more than one ethnic origin (2010 est.)
    English 62.9% (official), Spanish 56.6%, Creole 44.6%, Maya 10.5%, German 3.2%, Garifuna 2.9%, other 1.8%, unknown 0.3%, none 0.2% (cannot speak)
    note: shares sum to more than 100% because some respondents gave more than one answer on the census (2010 est.)
    Roman Catholic 40.1%, Protestant 31.5% (includes Pentecostal 8.4%, Seventh Day Adventist 5.4%, Anglican 4.7%, Mennonite 3.7%, Baptist 3.6%, Methodist 2.9%, Nazarene 2.8%), Jehovah's Witness 1.7%, other 10.5% (includes Baha'i, Buddhist, Hindu, Morman, Muslim, Rastafarian), unknown 0.6%, none 15.5% (2010 est.)
    Migration continues to transform Belize's population. About 16% of Belizeans live abroad, while immigrants constitute approximately 15% of Belize's population. Belizeans seeking job and educational opportunities have preferred to emigrate to the United States rather than former colonizer Great Britain because of the United States' closer proximity and stronger trade ties with Belize. Belizeans also emigrate to Canada, Mexico, and English-speaking Caribbean countries. The emigration of a large share of Creoles (Afro-Belizeans) and the influx of Central American immigrants, mainly Guatemalans, Salvadorans, and Hondurans, has changed Belize's ethnic composition. Mestizos have become the largest ethnic group, and Belize now has more native Spanish speakers than English or Creole speakers, despite English being the official language. In addition, Central American immigrants are establishing new communities in rural areas, which contrasts with the urbanization trend seen in neighboring countries. Recently, Chinese, European, and North American immigrants have become more frequent.
    Immigration accounts for an increasing share of Belize's population growth rate, which is steadily falling due to fertility decline. Belize's declining birth rate and its increased life expectancy are creating an aging population. As the elderly population grows and nuclear families replace extended households, Belize's government will be challenged to balance a rising demand for pensions, social services, and healthcare for its senior citizens with the need to reduce poverty and social inequality and to improve sanitation.
    340,844 (July 2014 est.)
    0-14 years: 35.3% (male 61,480/female 59,000)
    15-24 years: 21% (male 36,432/female 35,093)
    25-54 years: 35.5% (male 61,112/female 59,809)
    55-64 years: 4.6% (male 7,719/female 7,807)
    65 years and over: 3.6% (male 5,848/female 6,544) (2014 est.)
    population pyramid:
    total dependency ratio: 59.7%
    youth dependency ratio: 53.3%
    elderly dependency ratio: 6.4%
    potential support ratio: 15.6% (2014 est.)
    total: 21.8 years
    male: 21.6 years
    female: 22 years (2014 est.)
    1.92% (2014 est.)
    25.14 births/1,000 population (2014 est.)
    5.95 deaths/1,000 population (2014 est.)
    0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2014 est.)
    urban population: 44.1% of total population (2014)
    rate of urbanization: 1.93% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
    BELMOPAN (capital) 17,000 (2014)
    at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
    0-14 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
    15-24 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
    25-54 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
    55-64 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
    65 years and over: 0.9 male(s)/female
    total population: 1.03 male(s)/female (2014 est.)
    45 deaths/100,000 live births (2013 est.)
    total: 20.31 deaths/1,000 live births
    male: 22.78 deaths/1,000 live births
    female: 17.7 deaths/1,000 live births (2014 est.)
    total population: 68.49 years
    male: 66.88 years
    female: 70.17 years (2014 est.)
    3.02 children born/woman (2014 est.)
    55.2% (2011)
    5.4% of GDP (2013)
    0.83 physicians/1,000 population (2009)
    1.1 beds/1,000 population (2012)
    urban: 98.4% of population
    rural: 100% of population
    total: 99.3% of population
    urban: 1.6% of population
    rural: 0% of population
    total: 0.7% of population (2012 est.)
    urban: 94.2% of population
    rural: 87.6% of population
    total: 90.5% of population
    urban: 5.8% of population
    rural: 12.4% of population
    total: 9.5% of population (2012 est.)
    1.49% (2013 est.)
    3,300 (2013 est.)
    100 (2013 est.)
    degree of risk: high
    food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
    vectorborne diseases: dengue fever and malaria (2013)
    20.6% (2014)
    6.2% (2011)
    6.6% of GDP (2010)
    total: 14 years
    male: 13 years
    female: 14 years (2013)
    total number: 27,751
    percentage: 40% (2001 est.)
    total: 19.5%
    male: 13.8%
    female: 28.8% (2005 est.)
  • Government :: BELIZE

  • conventional long form: none
    conventional short form: Belize
    former: British Honduras
    parliamentary democracy and a Commonwealth realm
    name: Belmopan
    geographic coordinates: 17 15 N, 88 46 W
    time difference: UTC-6 (1 hour behind Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
    6 districts; Belize, Cayo, Corozal, Orange Walk, Stann Creek, Toledo
    21 September 1981 (from the UK)
    Battle of St. George's Caye Day (National Day), September 10, 1798; Independence Day, 21 September (1981)
    previous 1954, 1963 (preindependence); latest signed and entered into force 21 September 1981; amended several times, last in 2012 (2013)
    English common law
    has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction
    18 years of age; universal
    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); Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar VEGA (since 12 February 2008)
    cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister from the National Assembly
    elections: the monarchy is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition usually appointed prime minister by the governor general; prime minister recommends the deputy prime minister
    description: 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; members serve 5-year terms) and the House of Representatives (31 seats; members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote to serve 5-year terms)
    elections: House of Representatives - last held on 8 March 2012 (next to be held on or before 21 June 2017)
    election results: percent of vote by party - UDP 50.4%, PUP 47.5%, other 2.1%; seats by party - UDP 17, PUP 14; note - the UDP is currently represented by 18 seats, and the PUP by 13 after a special by-election following a PUP Representative's resignation in 2014
    highest court(s): Supreme Court of Judicature (consists of the Court of Appeal with the court president and 3 justices, and the Supreme Court with the chief justice and 2 judges); in 2005, Belize ceased final appeals in civil and criminal cases to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (in London), replacing it with the Caribbean Court of Justice, the judicial organ of the Caribbean Community
    judge selection and term of office: Court of Appeal president and justices appointed by the governor general upon advice of the prime minister after consultation with the National Assembly opposition leader; justices' tenures vary by terms of appointment; Supreme Court chief justice appointed by the governor-general upon the advice of the prime minister and the National Assembly opposition leader; other judges appointed by the governor-general upon the advice of the Judicial and Legal Services Section of the Public Services Commission and with the concurrence of the prime minister after consultation with the National Assembly opposition leader; judges can be appointed beyond age 65 but must retire by age 75; in 2013, the Supreme Court chief justice overturned a constitutional amendment that had restricted Court of Appeal judge appointments to as short as 1 year
    subordinate courts: Summary Jurisdiction Courts (criminal) and District Courts (civil)
    People's National Party or PNP [Wil MAHEIA]
    People's United Party or PUP [John BRICENO]
    United Democratic Party or UDP [Francis FONSECA]
    Vision Inspired by the People or VIP [Paul MORGAN]
    National Trade Union Congress of Belize or NTUC/B [Marvin MORA]
    chief of mission: Ambassador Nestor MENDEZ (since 10 July 2008)
    chancery: 2535 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
    telephone: [1] (202) 332-9636
    FAX: [1] (202) 332-6888
    consulate(s) general: Los Angeles
    chief of mission: Ambassador Carlos Roberto MORENO (since 24 June 2014)
    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
    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 of 50 mahogany leaves; the colors are those of the two main political parties: blue for the PUP and red for the UDP; various elements of the coat of arms - the figures, the tools, the mahogany tree, and the garland of leaves - recall the logging industry that led to British settlement of Belize
    note: Belize's flag is the only national flag that depicts human beings; two British overseas territories, Montserrat and the British Virgin Islands, also depict humans
    Baird's tapir (a large, browsing, forest-dwelling mammal), keel-billed toucan, Black Orchid; national colors: red, blue
    name: "Land of the Free"
    lyrics/music: Samuel Alfred HAYNES/Selwyn Walford YOUNG
    note: adopted 1981; as a Commonwealth country, in addition to the national anthem, "God Save the Queen" serves as the royal anthem (see United Kingdom)
  • Economy :: BELIZE

  • Tourism is the number one foreign exchange earner in this small economy, followed by exports of crude oil, marine products, sugar, citrus, and bananas. The government's expansionary monetary and fiscal policies, initiated in September 1998, led to GDP growth averaging nearly 4% in 1999-2007. Oil discoveries in 2006 bolstered this growth and oil exploration continues, but production has fallen in recent years and future oil revenues remain uncertain. Growth slipped to 0% in 2009, due to the global economic slowdown, natural disasters, and a temporary drop in the price of oil, but growth grew to 2.5% in 2014. Although Belize has the third highest per capita income in Central America, the average income figure masks a huge income disparity between rich and poor, and a key government objective remains reducing poverty and inequality with the help of international donors. High unemployment, a growing trade deficit and heavy foreign debt burden continue to be major concerns.
    $2.907 billion (2014 est.)
    $2.85 billion (2013 est.)
    $2.83 billion (2012 est.)
    note: data are in 2014 US dollars
    $1.666 billion (2014 est.)
    2% (2014 est.)
    0.7% (2013 est.)
    4% (2012 est.)
    $8,100 (2014 est.)
    $8,100 (2013 est.)
    $8,300 (2012 est.)
    note: data are in 2013 US dollars
    country comparison to the world: 143
    11.3% of GDP (2014 est.)
    10.9% of GDP (2013 est.)
    12% of GDP (2012 est.)
    household consumption: 79.3%
    government consumption: 16.8%
    investment in fixed capital: 31.2%
    investment in inventories: 1.2%
    exports of goods and services: 62.1%
    imports of goods and services: -90.6%
    (2013 est.)
    agriculture: 13.1%
    industry: 16%
    services: 70.9% (2014 est.)
    bananas, cacao, citrus, sugar; fish, cultured shrimp; lumber
    garment production, food processing, tourism, construction, oil
    -1% (2014 est.)
    note: shortage of skilled labor and all types of technical personnel (2008 est.)
    agriculture: 10.2%
    industry: 18.1%
    services: 71.7% (2007 est.)
    15.5% (2013)
    11.3% (2012)
    41% (2013 est.)
    lowest 10%: NA%
    highest 10%: NA%
    revenues: $450 million
    expenditures: $500 million (2014 est.)
    27% of GDP (2014 est.)
    -3% of GDP (2014 est.)
    79.6% of GDP (2014 est.)
    81.1% of GDP (2013 est.)
    1 April - 31 March
    1.6% (2014 est.)
    0.5% (2013 est.)
    18% (31 December 2010)
    12% (31 December 2009)
    12% (31 December 2014 est.)
    11.57% (31 December 2013 est.)
    $583.5 million (31 December 2014 est.)
    $561 million (31 December 2013 est.)
    $1.372 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
    $1.239 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
    $1.05 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
    $950 million (31 December 2013 est.)
    $-73.6 million (2014 est.)
    $-72.1 million (2013 est.)
    $640.9 million (2014 est.)
    $608.6 million (2013 est.)
    sugar, bananas, citrus, clothing, fish products, molasses, wood, crude oil
    US 26%, UK 22.2%, Nigeria 5.8%, Cote dIvoire 4.4%, Jamaica 4.1% (2013)
    $922.7 million (2014 est.)
    $876 million (2013 est.)
    machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods; fuels, chemicals, pharmaceuticals; food, beverages, tobacco
    US 23.3%, Mexico 14.1%, China 11.8%, Cuba 9.6%, Guatemala 5.5%, Trinidad and Tobago 4.3% (2013)
    $426.3 million (31 December 2014 est.)
    $402.8 million (31 December 2013 est.)
    $1.24 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
    $1.239 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
    Belizean dollars (BZD) per US dollar -
    2 (2014 est.)
    2 (2013 est.)
    2 (2012 est.)
    2 (2011 est.)
    2 (2010 est.)
  • Energy :: BELIZE

  • 452.2 million kWh (2011 est.)
    572.2 million kWh (2011 est.)
    0 kWh (2013 est.)
    171.9 million kWh (2013 est.)
    186,600 kW (2011 est.)
    48.8% of total installed capacity (2011 est.)
    0% of total installed capacity (2011 est.)
    30.5% of total installed capacity (2011 est.)
    20.7% of total installed capacity (2011 est.)
    3,000 bbl/day (2013 est.)
    4,345 bbl/day (2010 est.)
    0 bbl/day (2010 est.)
    6.7 million bbl (1 January 2014 est.)
    0 bbl/day (2010 est.)
    4,980 bbl/day (2013 est.)
    0 bbl/day (2010 est.)
    3,493 bbl/day (2010 est.)
    0 cu m (2012 est.)
    0 cu m (2012 est.)
    0 cu m (2012 est.)
    0 cu m (2012 est.)
    0 cu m (1 January 2014 est.)
    675,200 Mt (2012 est.)
  • Communications :: BELIZE

  • 25,400 (2012)
    164,200 (2012)
    general assessment: above-average system; trunk network depends primarily on microwave radio relay
    domestic: fixed-line teledensity of slightly less than 10 per 100 persons; mobile-cellular teledensity approaching 70 per 100 persons
    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) (2011)
    8 privately owned TV stations; multi-channel cable TV provides access to foreign stations; about 25 radio stations broadcasting on roughly 50 different frequencies; state-run radio was privatized in 1998 (2007)
    AM 1, FM 16, shortwave 0 (2006)
    7 (2008)
    3,392 (2012)
    36,000 (2009)
  • Transportation :: BELIZE

  • 47 (2013)
    total: 6
    2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
    914 to 1,523 m: 2
    under 914 m: 3 (2013)
    total: 41
    2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
    914 to 1,523 m: 11
    under 914 m:
    29 (2013)
    total: 2,870 km
    paved: 488 km
    unpaved: 2,382 km (2011)
    825 km (navigable only by small craft) (2011)
    total: 247
    by type: barge carrier 1, bulk carrier 33, cargo 156, chemical tanker 2, liquefied gas 1, passenger/cargo 4, petroleum tanker 9, refrigerated cargo 30, roll on/roll off 10, specialized tanker 1
    foreign-owned: 152 (Bulgaria 1, China 61, Croatia 1, Estonia 1, Greece 2, Iceland 1, Italy 3, Latvia 9, Lithuania 1, Netherlands 1, Norway 2, Russia 30, Singapore 4, Switzerland 1, Syria 4, Thailand 1, Turkey 16, UAE 3, UK 4, Ukraine 6) (2010)
    major seaport(s): Belize City, Big Creek
  • Military :: BELIZE

  • Belize Defense Force (BDF): Army, BDF Air Wing (includes Special Boat Unit), BDF Volunteer Guard (2011)
    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; initial service obligation 12 years (2012)
    males age 16-49: 81,284
    females age 16-49: 79,185 (2010 est.)
    males age 16-49: 59,431
    females age 16-49: 57,221 (2010 est.)
    male: 3,723
    female: 3,584 (2010 est.)
    NA% (2012)
    1.08% of GDP (2011)
    NA% (2010)
  • Transnational Issues :: BELIZE

  • Guatemala persists in its territorial claim to half of Belize, but agrees to the Line of Adjacency to keep Guatemalan squatters out of Belize's forested interior; both countries agreed in April 2012 to hold simultaneous referenda, scheduled for 6 October 2013, to decide whether to refer the dispute to the ICJ for binding resolution, but this vote was suspended indefinitely; Belize and Mexico are working to solve minor border demarcation discrepancies arising from inaccuracies in the 1898 border treaty
    current situation: Belize is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking; the coerced prostitution of children, often by their parents, for school fees, money, and gifts is common; child sex tourism, involving primarily US citizens, is on the rise; women from Belize and other Central American countries are forced into prostitution in bars, nightclubs, and brothels; workers from Central America, Mexico, and Asia may fall victim to forced labor, especially in the agricultural and fishing sectors
    tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List – Belize does not comply fully with the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so; the government made its first arrest under its 2013 trafficking law, but weak law enforcement efforts resulted in no prosecutions being initiated; authorities did not systematically identify trafficking victims, leaving them vulnerable to being jailed or deported for immigration violations; the government made minimal efforts to prevent trafficking, failing to implement an anti-trafficking strategic plan or to conduct public awareness campaigns (2014)
    transshipment point for cocaine; small-scale illicit producer of cannabis, primarily for local consumption; offshore sector money-laundering activity related to narcotics trafficking and other crimes (2008)