page last updated on October 28, 2009
Flag of Belize
Location of Belize
 
Map of Belize
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. 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 ::Belize
Central America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, between Guatemala and Mexico
17 15 N, 88 45 W
total: 22,966 sq km
country comparison to the world: 151
land: 22,806 sq km
water: 160 sq km
slightly smaller than Massachusetts
total: 516 km
border countries: Guatemala 266 km, Mexico 250 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
arable land: 3.05%
permanent crops: 1.39%
other: 95.56% (2005)
30 sq km (2003)
18.6 cu km (2000)
total: 0.15 cu km/yr (7%/73%/20%)
per capita: 556 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 ::Belize
307,899 (July 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 177
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.)
total: 20.4 years
male: 20.3 years
female: 20.6 years (2009 est.)
2.154% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 47
27.33 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 59
5.8 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 168
NA (2009 est.)
urban population: 52% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 3.1% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
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.)
total: 23.07 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 94
male: 26 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 19.99 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)
total population: 68.2 years
country comparison to the world: 151
male: 66.44 years
female: 70.05 years (2009 est.)
3.36 children born/woman (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 59
2.1% (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 30
3,600 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 129
fewer than 200 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 106
degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever and malaria
water contact disease: leptospirosis (2009)
noun: Belizean(s)
adjective: Belizean
mestizo 48.7%, Creole 24.9%, Maya 10.6%, Garifuna 6.1%, other 9.7% (2000 census)
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)
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)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 76.9%
male: 76.7%
female: 77.1% (2000 census)
total: 13 years
male: 13 years
female: 13 years (2004)
5.3% of GDP (2004)
country comparison to the world: 55
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)
Independence Day, 21 September (1981)
21 September 1981
English law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ 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
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
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
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)
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]
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]
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
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
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
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
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.
$2.536 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 178
$2.462 billion (2007 est.)
$2.424 billion (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
$1.381 billion (2008 est.)
3% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 130
1.6% (2007 est.)
5.3% (2006 est.)
$8,400 (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 116
$8,400 (2007 est.)
$8,400 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
agriculture: 29%
industry: 16.9%
services: 54.1% (2008 est.)
122,300
country comparison to the world: 173
note: shortage of skilled labor and all types of technical personnel (2008 est.)
agriculture: 10.2%
industry: 18.1%
services: 71.7% (2007)
8.1% (2007)
country comparison to the world: 113
9.4% (2006)
33.5% (2002 est.)
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
27.8% of GDP (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 32
revenues: $347 million
expenditures: $386.5 million (2008 est.)
6.4% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 108
2.3% (2007 est.)
12% (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 26
12% (31 December 2007)
NA% (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 49
14.33% (31 December 2007)
$345.7 million (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 146
$323.9 million (31 December 2007)
$653.8 million (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 137
$549 million (31 December 2007)
$955.4 million (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 134
$877.6 million (31 December 2007)
$NA
bananas, cacao, citrus, sugar; fish, cultured shrimp; lumber; garments
garment production, food processing, tourism, construction, oil
1.8% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 108
213.5 million kWh (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 175
198.5 million kWh (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 177
0 kWh (2008 est.)
248.4 million kWh (2005)
3,511 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 98
7,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 156
2,260 bbl/day (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 112
7,204 bbl/day (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 146
6.7 million bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 92
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 96
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 205
0 cu m (2008)
country comparison to the world: 51
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 77
0 cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 201
$-42 million (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 70
$-51.1 million (2007 est.)
$458 million (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 165
$425.6 million (2007 est.)
sugar, bananas, citrus, clothing, fish products, molasses, wood, crude oil
US 35%, UK 21.1%, Cote d'Ivoire 5.2%, Italy 4.4% (2008)
$740 million (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 180
$642 million (2007 est.)
machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods; fuels, chemicals, pharmaceuticals; food, beverages, tobacco
US 37.7%, Mexico 12.5%, Cuba 7.8%, Guatemala 7.3%, Russia 5.1% (2008)
$166.2 million (31 December 2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 146
$108.5 million (31 December 2007 est.)
$954.1 million (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 154
$1.2 billion (June 2005 est.)
Belizean dollars (BZD) per US dollar - 2 (2008), 2 (2007), 2 (2006), 2 (2005), 2 (2004)
Communications ::Belize
31,100 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 177
160,000 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 175
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)
AM 1, FM 16, shortwave 0 (2006)
7 (2008)
.bz
3,017 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 142
34,000 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 178
Transportation ::Belize
44 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 96
total: 4
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 2 (2009)
total: 40
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 12
under 914 m: 27 (2009)
total: 3,007 km
country comparison to the world: 166
paved: 575 km
unpaved: 2,432 km (2006)
825 km (navigable only by small craft) (2008)
country comparison to the world: 71
total: 216
country comparison to the world: 33
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)
Belize City, Big Creek
Military ::Belize
Belize Defense Force (BDF): Army, BDF Air Wing, BDF Volunteer Guard (2009)
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 (2008)
males age 16-49: 74,605
females age 16-49: 72,926 (2008 est.)
males age 16-49: 56,135
females age 16-49: 54,732 (2009 est.)
male: 3,632
female: 3,500 (2009 est.)
1.4% of GDP (2006)
country comparison to the world: 112
Transnational Issues ::Belize
OAS-initiated Agreement on the Framework for Negotiations and Confidence Building Measures saw cooperation in repatriation of Guatemalan squatters and other areas, but Guatemalan land and maritime claims in Belize and the Caribbean Sea remain unresolved; the Line of Adjacency created under the 2002 Differendum serves in lieu of the contiguous international boundary to control squatting in the sparsely inhabited rain forests of Belize's border region; Honduras claims Belizean-administered Sapodilla Cays in its constitution but agreed to a joint ecological park under the Differendum
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)