Photos of Belize

Chetumal Bay lies on the border between Mexico and Belize. To the east of the bay, Ambergris Cay (in Belize) connects the Belize Barrier Reef to the Yucatan Peninsula (Mexico). The north of the island is Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve. Here, the barrier reef comes very close to the east side of the island. Image courtesy of NASA.

Introduction

Background

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 1862. 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 still 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 crime rates, high unemployment combined with a majority youth population, growing involvement in the Mexican and South American drug trade, and one of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in Central America.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

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

Area

total: 22,966 sq km

land: 22,806 sq km

water: 160 sq km

comparison ranking: total 151

Area - comparative

slightly smaller than Massachusetts

Land boundaries

total: 542 km

border countries (2): Guatemala 266 km; Mexico 276 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

highest point: Doyle's Delight 1,124 m

lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m

mean elevation: 173 m

Natural resources

arable land potential, timber, fish, hydropower

Land use

agricultural land: 6.9% (2018 est.)

arable land: 3.3% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 1.4% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 2.2% (2018 est.)

forest: 60.6% (2018 est.)

other: 32.5% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

35 sq km (2012)

Population distribution

approximately 25% to 30% of the population lives in the former capital, Belize City; over half of the overall population is rural; population density is slightly higher in the north and east

Natural hazards

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

Geography - note

only country in Central America without a coastline on the North Pacific Ocean

People and Society

Population

total: 415,789

male: 205,895

female: 209,894 (2024 est.)

comparison rankings: female 176; male 175; total 175

Nationality

noun: Belizean(s)

adjective: Belizean

Ethnic groups

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% (2010 est.)

note: percentages add up to more than 100% because respondents were able to identify more than one ethnic origin

Languages

English 62.9% (official), Spanish 56.6%, Creole 44.6%, Maya 10.5%, German 3.2%, Garifuna 2.9%, other 1.8%, unknown 0.5%; note - shares sum to more than 100% because some respondents gave more than one answer on the census (2010 est.)

major-language sample(s):
The World Factbook, the indispensable source for basic information. (English)

La Libreta Informativa del Mundo, la fuente indispensable de información básica. (Spanish)

Spanish audio sample:

Religions

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, Church of Jesus Christ, Muslim, Rastafarian, Salvation Army), unspecified 0.6%, none 15.5% (2010 est.)

Demographic profile

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.

Age structure

0-14 years: 27.7% (male 58,529/female 56,811)

15-64 years: 66.7% (male 135,903/female 141,503)

65 years and over: 5.5% (2024 est.) (male 11,463/female 11,580)

2023 population pyramid:
2023 population pyramid

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 49.7

youth dependency ratio: 42.3

elderly dependency ratio: 7.4

potential support ratio: 13.5 (2021 est.)

Median age

total: 26.8 years (2024 est.)

male: 26.4 years

female: 27.2 years

comparison ranking: total 162

Population growth rate

1.47% (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 67

Birth rate

17.7 births/1,000 population (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 81

Death rate

5 deaths/1,000 population (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 194

Net migration rate

2 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 50

Population distribution

approximately 25% to 30% of the population lives in the former capital, Belize City; over half of the overall population is rural; population density is slightly higher in the north and east

Urbanization

urban population: 46.6% of total population (2023)

rate of urbanization: 2.3% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

total population growth rate v. urban population growth rate, 2000-2030

Major urban areas - population

23,000 BELMOPAN (capital) (2018)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.03 male(s)/female

15-64 years: 0.96 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.99 male(s)/female

total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2024 est.)

Maternal mortality ratio

130 deaths/100,000 live births (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: 57

Infant mortality rate

total: 11.3 deaths/1,000 live births (2024 est.)

male: 12.4 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 10.1 deaths/1,000 live births

comparison ranking: total 120

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 74.3 years (2024 est.)

male: 72.6 years

female: 76.1 years

comparison ranking: total population 143

Total fertility rate

2.05 children born/woman (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 100

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 100% of population

rural: 99.4% of population

total: 99.7% of population

unimproved: urban: 0% of population

rural: 0.6% of population

total: 0.3% of population (2020 est.)

Current health expenditure

6.9% of GDP (2020)

Physician density

1.08 physicians/1,000 population (2018)

Hospital bed density

1 beds/1,000 population (2017)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 99.1% of population

rural: 95.7% of population

total: 97.3% of population

unimproved: urban: 0.9% of population

rural: 4.3% of population

total: 2.7% of population (2020 est.)

Obesity - adult prevalence rate

24.1% (2016)

comparison ranking: 60

Alcohol consumption per capita

total: 5.93 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

beer: 3.88 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

wine: 0.68 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

spirits: 1.19 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

other alcohols: 0.17 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

comparison ranking: total 72

Tobacco use

total: 8.5% (2020 est.)

male: 15.1% (2020 est.)

female: 1.8% (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: total 142

Children under the age of 5 years underweight

4.6% (2015/16)

comparison ranking: 76

Child marriage

women married by age 15: 6.3%

women married by age 18: 33.5%

men married by age 18: 22.2% (2016 est.)

Education expenditures

8.7% of GDP (2021 est.)

comparison ranking: 9

Literacy

total population: NA

male: NA

female: NA

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 13 years

male: 12 years

female: 13 years (2021)

Environment

Environment - current issues

deforestation; water pollution, including pollution of Belize's Barrier Reef System, from sewage, industrial effluents, agricultural runoff; inability to properly dispose of solid waste

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, 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

Climate

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

Land use

agricultural land: 6.9% (2018 est.)

arable land: 3.3% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 1.4% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 2.2% (2018 est.)

forest: 60.6% (2018 est.)

other: 32.5% (2018 est.)

Urbanization

urban population: 46.6% of total population (2023)

rate of urbanization: 2.3% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

total population growth rate v. urban population growth rate, 2000-2030

Revenue from forest resources

0.31% of GDP (2018 est.)

comparison ranking: 79

Revenue from coal

0% of GDP (2018 est.)

comparison ranking: 107

Air pollutants

particulate matter emissions: 10.51 micrograms per cubic meter (2019 est.)

carbon dioxide emissions: 0.57 megatons (2016 est.)

methane emissions: 0.55 megatons (2020 est.)

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 101,379 tons (2015 est.)

Total water withdrawal

municipal: 10 million cubic meters (2020 est.)

industrial: 20 million cubic meters (2020 est.)

agricultural: 70 million cubic meters (2020 est.)

Total renewable water resources

21.73 billion cubic meters (2020 est.)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: none

conventional short form: Belize

former: British Honduras

etymology: may be named for the Belize River, whose name possibly derives from the Maya word "belix," meaning "muddy-watered"

Government type

parliamentary democracy (National Assembly) under a constitutional monarchy; a Commonwealth realm

Capital

name: Belmopan

geographic coordinates: 17 15 N, 88 46 W

time difference: UTC-6 (1 hour behind Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: the decision to move the capital of the country inland to higher and more stable land was made in the 1960s; the name chosen for the new city was formed from the union of two words: "Belize," the name of the longest river in the country, and "Mopan," one of the rivers in the area of the new capital that empties into the Belize River

Administrative divisions

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

Independence

21 September 1981 (from the UK)

National holiday

Battle of St. George's Caye Day (National Day), 10 September (1798); Independence Day, 21 September (1981)

Constitution

history: previous 1954, 1963 (preindependence); latest signed and entered into force 21 September 1981; note - in July 2022, the government introduced a bill to establish the People's Constitutional Commission to review the constitution and to provide recommendations to the National Assembly

amendments: proposed and adopted by two-thirds majority vote of the National Assembly House of Representatives except for amendments relating to rights and freedoms, changes to the Assembly, and to elections and judiciary matters, which require at least three-quarters majority vote of the House; both types of amendments require assent of the governor general; amended several times, last in 2017

Legal system

English common law

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction

Citizenship

citizenship by birth: yes

citizenship by descent only: yes

dual citizenship recognized: yes

residency requirement for naturalization: 5 years

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: King CHARLES III (since 8 September 2022); represented by Governor-General Froyla TZALAM (since 27 May 2021)

head of government: Prime Minister John BRICEÑO (since 12 November 2020)

cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister from among members of the National Assembly

elections/appointments: the monarchy is hereditary; governor-general appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or majority coalition usually appointed prime minister by the governor-general; prime minister recommends the deputy prime minister

Legislative branch

description: bicameral National Assembly consists of:
Senate (14 seats, including the president); 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, non-governmental organizations in good standing, and the National Trade Union Congress and the Civil Society Steering Committee; 1 seat is held by the Senate president elected from among the Senate members or from outside the Senate; members serve 5-year terms
House of Representatives (32 seats; 31 members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote and the speaker, who may be designated from outside the government; members serve 5-year terms and the speaker serves at the pleasure of the government up to the full 5-year term)

elections: Senate - last appointed 11 November 2020 (next appointments in November 2025)
House of Representatives - last held on 11 November 2020 (next to be held in November 2025)

election results: Senate - all members appointed; composition - men 8, women 6, percentage women 42.9%

House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - PUP 59.6%, UDP 38.8%, other 1.6%; seats by party - PUP 26, UDP 5; composition - men 27, women 5, percentage women 15.6%; total percentage women in the National Assembly 23.9%

 

Judicial branch

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 10 justices); note - in 2010, Belize acceded to the Caribbean Court of Justice as the final court of appeal, replacing that of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London

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: Magistrates' Courts; Family Court

Political parties and leaders

Belize People’s Front or BPF [Nefretery Nancy MARIN]
Belize Progressive Party or BPP [Wil MAHEIA] (formed in 2015 from a merger of the People's National Party, elements of the Vision Inspired by the People, and other smaller political groups)
People's United Party or PUP [John BRICENO]
United Democratic Party or UDP [Moses “Shyne” BARROW and Hugo PATT]
Vision Inspired by the People or VIP [Hubert ENRIQUEZ]

International organization participation

ACP, ACS, AOSIS, C, Caricom, CD, CDB, CELAC, FAO, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (NGOs), ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ITU, LAES, MIGA, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, Petrocaribe, SICA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Lynn Raymond YOUNG (since 7 July 2021)

chancery: 2535 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008-2826

telephone: [1] (202) 332-9636

FAX: [1] (202) 332-6888

email address and website:
reception.usa@mfa.gov.bz

https://www.belizeembassyusa.mfa.gov.bz/

consulate(s) general: Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Michelle KWAN (since 5 December 2022)

embassy: Floral Park Road, Belmopan, Cayo

mailing address: 3050 Belmopan Place, Washington DC  20521-3050

telephone: (501) 822-4011

FAX: (501) 822-4012

email address and website:
ACSBelize@state.gov

https://bz.usembassy.gov/

Flag description

royal 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

National symbol(s)

Baird's tapir (a large, browsing, forest-dwelling mammal), keel-billed toucan, Black Orchid; national colors: red, blue

National anthem

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 King" serves as the royal anthem (see United Kingdom)

National heritage

total World Heritage Sites: 1 (natural)

selected World Heritage Site locales: Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System

Economy

Economic overview

tourism- and agriculture-driven economy; strong post-pandemic rebound; innovative and ecological bond restructuring that significantly lowered public debt and expanded marine protections; central bank offering USD-denominated treasury notes; high mobility across borders

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$3.839 billion (2022 est.)
$3.531 billion (2021 est.)
$2.996 billion (2020 est.)

note: data in 2017 dollars

comparison ranking: 188

Real GDP growth rate

8.73% (2022 est.)
17.86% (2021 est.)
-13.73% (2020 est.)

note: annual GDP % growth based on constant local currency

comparison ranking: 25

Real GDP per capita

$9,500 (2022 est.)
$8,800 (2021 est.)
$7,600 (2020 est.)

note: data in 2017 dollars

comparison ranking: 144

GDP (official exchange rate)

$2.831 billion (2022 est.)

note: data in current dollars at official exchange rate

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

6.28% (2022 est.)
3.24% (2021 est.)
0.12% (2020 est.)

note: annual % change based on consumer prices

comparison ranking: 99

Credit ratings

Moody's rating: Caa3 (2020)

Standard & Poors rating: CCC+ (2020)

note: The year refers to the year in which the current credit rating was first obtained.

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 10.3% (2017 est.)

industry: 21.6% (2017 est.)

services: 68% (2017 est.)

comparison rankings: services 81; industry 135; agriculture 88

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 75.1% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 15.2% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 22.5% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: 1.2% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 49.1% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -63.2% (2017 est.)

Agricultural products

sugarcane, maize, bananas, oranges, soybeans, sorghum, chicken, rice, beans, milk (2022)

note: top ten agricultural products based on tonnage

Industries

garment production, food processing, tourism, construction, oil

Industrial production growth rate

-2.17% (2022 est.)

note: annual % change in industrial value added based on constant local currency

comparison ranking: 191

Labor force

185,000 (2022 est.)

note: number of people ages 15 or older who are employed or seeking work

comparison ranking: 178

Unemployment rate

8.67% (2022 est.)
10.16% (2021 est.)
10.62% (2020 est.)

note: % of labor force seeking employment

comparison ranking: 154

Youth unemployment rate (ages 15-24)

total: 19.3% (2021 est.)

male: 12.2%

female: 31.9%

comparison ranking: total 86

Remittances

5.03% of GDP (2022 est.)
5.58% of GDP (2021 est.)
5.89% of GDP (2020 est.)

note: personal transfers and compensation between resident and non-resident individuals/households/entities

Budget

revenues: $583 million (2019 est.)

expenditures: $656 million (2019 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

-1% (of GDP) (2017 est.)

comparison ranking: 77

Public debt

99% of GDP (2017 est.)
95.9% of GDP (2016 est.)
61.41% of GDP (2014 est.)

note: central government debt as a % of GDP

comparison ranking: 20

Taxes and other revenues

21.34% (of GDP) (2017 est.)

note: central government tax revenue as a % of GDP

comparison ranking: 78

Current account balance

-$234.493 million (2022 est.)
-$157.868 million (2021 est.)
-$127.92 million (2020 est.)

note: balance of payments - net trade and primary/secondary income in current dollars

comparison ranking: 98

Exports

$1.369 billion (2022 est.)
$1.043 billion (2021 est.)
$714.624 million (2020 est.)

note: balance of payments - exports of goods and services in current dollars

comparison ranking: 174

Exports - partners

US 22%, UK 16%, Guatemala 10%, Spain 7%, Honduras 5% (2022)

note: top five export partners based on percentage share of exports

Exports - commodities

raw sugar, bananas, shellfish, bran, refined petroleum (2022)

note: top five export commodities based on value in dollars

Imports

$1.574 billion (2022 est.)
$1.249 billion (2021 est.)
$901.819 million (2020 est.)

note: balance of payments - imports of goods and services in current dollars

comparison ranking: 184

Imports - partners

US 33%, China 23%, Guatemala 9%, Mexico 8%, Canada 3% (2022)

note: top five import partners based on percentage share of imports

Imports - commodities

refined petroleum, ships, tobacco, garments, plastic products (2022)

note: top five import commodities based on value in dollars

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$482.146 million (2022 est.)
$420.103 million (2021 est.)
$348.09 million (2020 est.)

note: holdings of gold (year-end prices)/foreign exchange/special drawing rights in current dollars

comparison ranking: 173

Debt - external

$1.315 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$1.338 billion (31 December 2016 est.)

comparison ranking: 162

Exchange rates

Belizean dollars (BZD) per US dollar -

Exchange rates:
2 (2022 est.)
2 (2021 est.)
2 (2020 est.)
2 (2019 est.)
2 (2018 est.)

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 98.6% (2022 est.)

electrification - urban areas: 98.4%

electrification - rural areas: 97.1%

Electricity

installed generating capacity: 217,000 kW (2022 est.)

consumption: 443.175 million kWh (2022 est.)

imports: 283.8 million kWh (2022 est.)

transmission/distribution losses: 143.637 million kWh (2022 est.)

comparison rankings: transmission/distribution losses 56; imports 103; consumption 175; installed generating capacity 171

Electricity generation sources

fossil fuels: 18.7% of total installed capacity (2022 est.)

solar: 3.6% of total installed capacity (2022 est.)

hydroelectricity: 26.4% of total installed capacity (2022 est.)

biomass and waste: 51.3% of total installed capacity (2022 est.)

Coal

imports: (2022 est.) less than 1 metric ton

Petroleum

total petroleum production: 800 bbl/day (2023 est.)

refined petroleum consumption: 5,000 bbl/day (2022 est.)

crude oil estimated reserves: 6.7 million barrels (2021 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions

690,000 metric tonnes of CO2 (2022 est.)

from petroleum and other liquids: 690,000 metric tonnes of CO2 (2022 est.)

comparison ranking: total emissions 180

Energy consumption per capita

30.71 million Btu/person (2022 est.)

comparison ranking: 114

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 19,000 (2021 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 5 (2021 est.)

comparison ranking: total subscriptions 176

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 264,000 (2021 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 66 (2021 est.)

comparison ranking: total subscriptions 180

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: Belize’s fixed-line teledensity and mobile penetration remain lower than average for the region, a legacy of insufficient market competition and under investment in telecoms services; a significant investment in infrastructure, launching an LTE-A service at the end of 2016 and in mid-2017 completing a submarine cable to Ambergris Caye, enabling it to launch an FttP service in San Pedro; the nfrastructure has been updated from the legacy copper to fiber; investments have been made to provide high speed broadband to 80% of residences across Belize. (2021)

domestic: roughly 5 per 100 fixed-line and mobile-cellular teledensity of 66 per 100 persons; mobile sector accounting for over 90% of all phone subscriptions (2021)

international: country code - 501; landing points for the ARCOS and SEUL 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) (2019)

Broadcast media

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 (2019)

Internet users

total: 248,000 (2021 est.)

percent of population: 62% (2021 est.)

comparison ranking: total 176

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 36,000 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 9 (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: total 147

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 2 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 28

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 1,297,533 (2018)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 3.78 million (2018) mt-km

Airports

27 (2024)

comparison ranking: 124

Heliports

5 (2024)

Roadways

total: 3,281 km

paved: 601 km

unpaved: 2,680 km (2017)

comparison ranking: total 161

Waterways

825 km (2011) (navigable only by small craft)

comparison ranking: 77

Merchant marine

total: 774 (2023)

by type: bulk carrier 49, general cargo 410, oil tanker 64, other 251

comparison ranking: total 31

Ports

total ports: 2 (2024)

large: 0

medium: 0

small: 1

very small: 0

size unknown: 1

ports with oil terminals: 1

key ports: Belize City, Big Creek

Military and Security

Military and security forces

Belize Defense Force (BDF): Army, Air Wing; Belize Coast Guard; Belize Police Department (2024)

note: the Ministry of National Defense and Border Security is responsible for oversight of the BDF and the Coast Guard, while the Ministry of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries has responsibility for the Belize Police Department and prisons; the Police Department is primarily responsible for internal security

Military expenditures

0.9% of GDP (2023 est.)
1.1% of GDP (2022 est.)
1.3% of GDP (2021 est.)
1.5% of GDP (2020 est.)
1.4% of GDP (2019 est.)

comparison ranking: 132

Military and security service personnel strengths

approximately 1,500 BDF personnel; approximately 500 Coast Guard (2023)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the military has a small inventory consisting mostly of UK- and US-origin equipment (2023)

Military service age and obligation

18 years of age for voluntary military service; laws allow for conscription only if volunteers are insufficient, but conscription has never been implemented; initial service obligation is 12 years (2024)

Military - note

the Belize Defense Force (BDF) is responsible for external security but also provides some support to civilian authorities; it has limited powers of arrest within land and shoreline areas, while the Coast Guard has arrest powers and jurisdiction within coastal and maritime areas; the BDF traces its history back to the Prince Regent Royal Honduras Militia, a volunteer force established in 1817; the BDF was established in 1978 from the disbanded Police Special Force and the Belize Volunteer Guard to assist the resident British forces with the defense of Belize against Guatemala

the British Army has maintained a presence in Belize since its independence; the presence consists of a small training support unit that provides jungle training to troops from the UK and international partners (2024)

Transnational Issues

Illicit drugs

a significant drug trafficking and transit point between countries in South America and the United States; primary domestic use of narcotics is marijuana and some crack cocaine; a major source of precursor or essential chemicals used in the production of illicit narcotics