Belize

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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

Location

Central America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, between Guatemala and Mexico

Geographic coordinates

17.15° N, 88.45° W

Area 152/257

total: 22,966 sq km

land: 22,806 sq km

water: 160 sq km

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

mean elevation:

elevation extremes:

lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m

highest point: Doyle's Delight 1,160 m

Natural resources

arable land potential, timber, fish, hydropower

Land use

agricultural land: 6.9%

arable land 3.3%; permanent crops 1.4%; permanent pasture 2.2%

forest: 60.6%

other: 32.5% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

35 sq km (2012)

Total renewable water resources

18.55 cu km (2011)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)

total: 0.22 cu km/yr (4%/49%/46%)

per capita: 845.2 cu m/yr (2000)

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, Whaling

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 and Society

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%

note: percentages add up to more than 100% because respondents were able to identify more than one ethnic origin (2010 est.)

Languages

English 62.9% (official), Spanish 56.6%, Creole 44.6%, Maya 10.5%, German 3.2%, Garifuna 2.9%, other 1.8%, unknown 0.3%, 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.)

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, Morman, Muslim, Rastafarian), unknown 0.6%, none 15.5% (2010 est.)

Population 178/238

347,369 (July 2015 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 34.87% (male 61,822/female 59,312)

15-24 years: 20.86% (male 36,897/female 35,547)

25-54 years: 35.88% (male 63,048/female 61,587)

55-64 years: 4.69% (male 8,072/female 8,224)

65 years and over: 3.7% (male 6,056/female 6,804) (2015 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 56.8%

youth dependency ratio: 50.9%

elderly dependency ratio: 5.9%

potential support ratio: 17% (2015 est.)

Median age

total: 22.1 years

male: 21.9 years

female: 22.3 years (2015 est.)

Population growth rate 59/233

1.87% (2015 est.)

Birth rate 54/224

24.68 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Death rate 167/225

5.97 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Net migration rate 107/222

0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Urbanization

urban population: 44% of total population (2015)

rate of urbanization: 1.93% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population

BELMOPAN (capital) 17,000 (2014)

Sex ratio

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: 0.98 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.89 male(s)/female

total population: 1.03 male(s)/female (2015 est.)

Maternal mortality rate 105/184

28 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)

Infant mortality rate 87/224

total: 19.82 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 22.08 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 17.44 deaths/1,000 live births (2015 est.)

Life expectancy at birth 162/224

total population: 68.59 years

male: 67.01 years

female: 70.25 years (2015 est.)

Total fertility rate 55/224

2.95 children born/woman (2015 est.)

Contraceptive prevalence rate

55.2% (2011)

Health expenditures 121/191

5.4% of GDP (2013)

Physicians density

0.83 physicians/1,000 population (2009)

Hospital bed density

1.1 beds/1,000 population (2012)

Drinking water source

improved:

urban: 98.9% of population

rural: 100% of population

total: 99.5% of population

unimproved:

urban: 1.1% of population

rural: 0% of population

total: 0.5% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access

improved:

urban: 93.5% of population

rural: 88.2% of population

total: 90.5% of population

unimproved:

urban: 6.5% of population

rural: 11.8% of population

total: 9.5% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate

1.18% (2014 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS

2,700 (2014 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

100 (2014 est.)

Obesity - adult prevalence rate 15/191

20.6% (2014)

Children under the age of 5 years underweight 81/138

6.2% (2011)

Education expenditures 29/173

6.6% of GDP (2010)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 14 years

male: 13 years

female: 14 years (2013)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24 56/134

total: 25%

male: 18%

female: 35.6% (2012 est.)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: none

conventional short form: Belize

former: British Honduras

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

Government type

parliamentary democracy and 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)

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), September 10, 1798; Independence Day, 21 September (1981)

Constitution

previous 1954, 1963 (preindependence); latest signed and entered into force 21 September 1981; amended several times, last in 2012 (2015)

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: yes

dual citizenship recognized: yes

residency requirement for naturalization: 5 years

Suffrage

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 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 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 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 4 November 2015 (next to be held in or before 2020)

election results: percent of vote by party - UDP 50.52%, PUP 47.77%, other 1.71%; seats by party - UDP 19, PUP 12

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 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)

Political parties and leaders

Belize Progressive Party or BPP [Patrick ROGERS] (formed in 2015 from a merger of the People's National Party, elements of the VIP, and other smaller political groups)

People's United Party or PUP [vacant]

United Democratic Party or UDP [Dean Oliver BARROW]

Political pressure groups and leaders

National Trade Union Congress of Belize or NTUC/B [Marvin MORA]

International organization participation

ACP, 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

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

Economy

Economy - overview

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 2.2% in 2015.

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.

GDP (purchasing power parity) 187/230

$3.071 billion (2015 est.)

$3.004 billion (2014 est.)

$2.901 billion (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$1.763 billion (2015 est.)

GDP - real growth rate 134/225

2.2% (2015 est.)

3.6% (2014 est.)

1.5% (2013 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP) 142/230

$8,600 (2015 est.)

$8,400 (2014 est.)

$8,100 (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

Gross national saving 151/179

9.6% of GDP (2015 est.)

8.5% of GDP (2014 est.)

11% of GDP (2013 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 72%

government consumption: 17.6%

investment in fixed capital: 17.9%

investment in inventories: 0.4%

exports of goods and services: 56.5%

imports of goods and services: -64.4%

(2015 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 12.7%

industry: 15.5%

services: 71.8% (2015 est.)

Agriculture - products

bananas, cacao, citrus, sugar; fish, cultured shrimp; lumber

Industries

garment production, food processing, tourism, construction, oil

Industrial production growth rate 159/202

0.5% (2015 est.)

Labor force 180/233

120,500

note: shortage of skilled labor and all types of technical personnel (2008 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 10.2%

industry: 18.1%

services: 71.7% (2007 est.)

Unemployment rate 138/207

12.9% (2014 est.)

14.1% (2013 est.)

Population below poverty line

41% (2013 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: NA%

highest 10%: NA%

Budget

revenues: $500 million

expenditures: $550 million (2015 est.)

Taxes and other revenues 92/219

28.4% of GDP (2015 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) 101/220

-2.8% of GDP (2015 est.)

Public debt 32/176

81.3% of GDP (2015 est.)

77.6% of GDP (2014 est.)

Fiscal year

1 April - 31 March

Inflation rate (consumer prices) 13/226

-0.7% (2015 est.)

1.2% (2014 est.)

Central bank discount rate 7/156

18% (31 December 2010)

12% (31 December 2009)

Commercial bank prime lending rate 77/184

10.6% (31 December 2015 est.)

10.8% (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of narrow money 161/192

$659 million (31 December 2015 est.)

$657 million (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of broad money 162/193

$1.539 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$1.336 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of domestic credit 155/191

$1.15 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$1 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares

$NA

Current account balance 69/197

-$111 million (2015 est.)

-$130 million (2014 est.)

Exports 169/224

$580.7 million (2015 est.)

$588.6 million (2014 est.)

Exports - commodities

sugar, bananas, citrus, clothing, fish products, molasses, wood, crude oil

Exports - partners

UK 20.5%, US 20.5%, Mexico 6%, Nigeria 5.7%, Cote d'Ivoire 4.8%, Netherlands 4.6%, Trinidad and Tobago 4.1% (2014)

Imports 180/223

$964.4 million (2015 est.)

$925.5 million (2014 est.)

Imports - commodities

machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods; fuels, chemicals, pharmaceuticals; food, beverages, tobacco

Imports - partners

US 21.8%, Mexico 10.8%, Cuba 9.6%, China 8.8%, Guatemala 8.5%, Trinidad and Tobago 5.2%, Spain 4.6% (2014)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold 142/170

$634.1 million (31 December 2015 est.)

$486.9 million (31 December 2014 est.)

Debt - external 158/206

$1.348 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

$1.249 billion (31 December 2013 est.)

Exchange rates

Belizean dollars (BZD) per US dollar -

2 (2015 est.)

2 (2014 est.)

2 (2013 est.)

2 (2012 est.)

2 (2011 est.)

Energy

Electricity - production 165/220

423 million kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - consumption 169/219

605 million kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - exports 108/218

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - imports 87/219

234 million kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity 160/214

194,100 kW (2012 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels 155/214

46.9% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels 52/214

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants 83/214

27.3% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources 6/212

25.8% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Crude oil - production 89/214

1,818 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Crude oil - exports 76/214

3,240 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - imports 162/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves 95/215

6.7 million bbl (1 January 2015 est.)

Refined petroleum products - production 159/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption 179/212

3,500 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports 156/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports 171/213

3,486 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Natural gas - production 160/216

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - consumption 120/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - exports 65/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - imports 164/214

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves 115/212

0 cu m (1 January 2014 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy 174/212

675,200 Mt (2012 est.)

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines 180/219

total subscriptions: 22,700

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 7 (2014 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular 182/217

total: 172,300

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 51 (2014 est.)

Telephone system

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)

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 (2007)

Radio broadcast stations

AM 1, FM 16, shortwave 0 (2006)

Television broadcast stations

7 (2008)

Internet country code

.bz

Internet hosts 152/232

3,392 (2012)

Internet users 170/217

total: 91,200

percent of population: 26.8% (2014 est.)

Transportation

Airports 92/236

47 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 6

2,438 to 3,047 m: 1

914 to 1,523 m: 2

under 914 m: 3 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 41

2,438 to 3,047 m: 1

914 to 1,523 m: 11

under 914 m: 29 (2013)

Roadways 170/223

total: 2,870 km

paved: 488 km

unpaved: 2,382 km (2011)

Waterways 70/107

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

Merchant marine 33/156

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)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Belize City, Big Creek

Military and Security

Military branches

Belize Defense Force (BDF): Army, BDF Air Wing (includes Special Boat Unit), BDF Volunteer Guard (2011)

Military service age and obligation

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)

Military expenditures

NA% (2012)

1.08% of GDP (2011)

NA% (2010)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

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

Illicit drugs

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)