Belize is a scenically beautiful, independent country located on the Caribbean seaboard of Central America. It has an area of approximately 9,000 square miles; 174 miles at its longest point and 68 miles at its widest point. Belize is an easy 2 hour flight from the USA, and offers several daily flights to and from Miami, Houston, Los Angeles, and New Orleans. In addition there are regular flights from Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico and San Salvador. The total population is estimated at 366,942. Belmopan is the administrative capital. Belize City with a population of 60,000 is the major commercial. Belize’s population is ethnically diverse including descendants of the original Mayan culture and various admixtures of Caribbean people, Caucasian, Chinese and East Indians. The primary language spoken is English. The climate is sub-tropical with an average temperature of 80° F.
Belize has a long history of peace, stability and democracy. It became a British Crown Colony in 1862 and achieved complete self-rule in 1981. Belize is a member of the British Commonwealth, the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement, the IMF, the Organization of American States, and the World Bank.
The political system is based on the British Westminster Model with Queen Elizabeth II, represented by a Belizean Governor General, as titular Head of State. Executive authority is exercised by the cabinet under the leadership of the Prime Minister. Legislative authority vests in a 29 member House of Representatives elected by universal adult suffrage every five years. In addition there is an 8 member Senate with the majority appointed on the recommendation of the Prime Minister.
There are two main political parties, and in the most recent national elections in August 1998, the government changed to the People’s United Party after four years of rule by the United Democratic Party. Both parties are committed to the economic development of the country.
The law of Belize is derived from English common law, supplemented by local legislation. The court system is also similar to that in England, and contract and commercial is based on the English law model.
Currency and Banking
The local currency is Belize Dollar which is tied to the US Dollar with a fixed rate of BZ$2.00 = US$1.00.
The Phillip S.W. Goldson International Airport near Belize City has a recently constructed terminal building providing daily services through five international carriers to the United States and Central America.
Telephone, telex and telefax communications to and from Belize are excellent and direct telephone dialing facilities are available. A satellite earth station at the capital, Belmopan, provides high quality telecommunication service throughout the world. International courier services for express delivery are well established.
English is the official and spoken language, but with many also speaking Spanish. Belize has a literacy factor of over 90%.
Business and the Economy
The Belize Government has promoted development by means of a mixed economy in which the public sector has judiciously utilized foreign borrowing, mainly on concessional terms, for infrastructure development as well as for private sector support. The GDP growth has averaged 8% per year over the last three years with agriculture still the major activity but with an increasing contribution from tourism.
Agricultural economic performance is based on sugar, citrus and bananas. Other significant exports are garments and marine products.
Belize benefits from a number of preferential market access arrangements particularly with the US, Canada and the European Economic community through its British links.
The Ministry of Economic Development operates a comprehensive investment scheme which is available to Belizean and foreign investors alike. This provides for a tax holiday for up to 15 years and up to 100% exemption from trade taxes on import of capital equipment and raw materials. Under this investment scheme there are no restrictions on the repatriation of profits, dividends, fees, capital (including capital gains) arising from foreign investments in the country provided all such investments are registered with the Central Bank.
The Barrier Reef, the longest in the Northern Hemisphere, offers a paradise for fishermen, divers and snorkellers. Coral islands dot the 176 mile reef offering a haven for a variety of water sports. Inland Belize holds within its history a Center of the Mayan culture with many archaeological sites throughout the country in various states of exploration. A major portion of the country is comprised of jungle and for the explorer, natural untouched wilderness offers spectacular adventure. The balmy, sub-tropical climate with a cool Caribbean breeze invites the tourist any time of the year to visit the adventure coast. There is a variety of accommodations from international hotels and guest houses to inland resorts of thatched-roof cabanas as well as restaurants providing a wide range of cuisine.
The combination of excellent service, modern corporate and fiscal legislation affords an extremely attractive environment for the global investor.