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 Belize [Country Flag of Belize]
Geography
People
Government
Economy
Communications
Transportation
Military
Transnational Issues
[Country map of Belize]

Belize

Geography

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Location: Middle 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: 22,960 sq km
land: 22,800 sq km
water: 160 sq km

Area—comparative: slightly smaller than Massachusetts

Land boundaries:
total: 516 km
border countries: Guatemala 266 km, Mexico 250 km

Coastline: 386 km

Maritime claims:
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
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 the negotiation of a definitive agreement on territorial differences with Guatemala

Climate: tropical; very hot and humid; rainy season (May to February)

Terrain: flat, swampy coastal plain; low mountains in south

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Victoria Peak 1,160 m

Natural resources: arable land potential, timber, fish

Land use:
arable land: 2%
permanent crops: 1%
permanent pastures: 2%
forests and woodland: 92%
other: 3% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: 20 sq km (1993 est.)

Natural hazards: frequent, devastating hurricanes (September to December) and coastal flooding (especially in south)

Environment—current issues: deforestation; water pollution from sewage, industrial effluents, agricultural runoff

Environment—international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Marine Dumping, Ship Pollution, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography—note: national capital moved 80 km inland from Belize City to Belmopan because of hurricanes; only country in Central America without a coastline on the North Pacific Ocean

People

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Population: 230,160 (July 1998 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 42% (male 49,486; female 47,596)
15-64 years: 54% (male 63,259; female 61,567)
65 years and over: 4% (male 4,048; female 4,204) (July 1998 est.)

Population growth rate: 2.42% (1998 est.)

Birth rate: 31.05 births/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Death rate: 5.5 deaths/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Net migration rate: -1.38 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.96 male(s)/female (1998 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 32.36 deaths/1,000 live births (1998 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 68.97 years
male: 67.01 years
female: 71.03 years (1998 est.)

Total fertility rate: 3.87 children born/woman (1998 est.)

Nationality:
noun: Belizean(s)
adjective: Belizean

Ethnic groups: mestizo 44%, Creole 30%, Maya 11%, Garifuna 7%, other 8%

Religions: Roman Catholic 62%, Protestant 30% (Anglican 12%, Methodist 6%, Mennonite 4%, Seventh-Day Adventist 3%, Pentecostal 2%, Jehovah's Witnesses 1%, other 2%), none 2%, other 6% (1980)

Languages: English (official), Spanish, Mayan, Garifuna (Carib)

Literacy:
definition: age 14 and over has ever attended school
total population: 70.3%
male: 70.3%
female: 70.3% (1991 est.)
note: other sources list the literacy rate as high as 75%

Government

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Country name:
conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Belize
former: British Honduras

Data code: BH

Government type: parliamentary democracy

National capital: Belmopan

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

Independence: 21 September 1981 (from UK)

National holiday: Independence Day, 21 September (1981)

Constitution: 21 September 1981

Legal system: English law

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II of the UK (since 6 February 1952), represented by Governor General Sir Colville YOUNG (since 17 November 1993)
head of government: Prime Minister Manuel ESQUIVEL (since July 1993); Deputy Prime Minister Dean BARROW (since NA July 1993)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister
elections: none; the queen is a hereditary monarch; governor general appointed by the queen; prime minister appointed by the governor general

Legislative branch: bicameral National Assembly consists of the Senate (8 members; members are appointed for five-year terms, five on the advice of the prime minister, two on the advice of the leader of the opposition, and one after consultation with the Belize Advisory Council—this council serves as an independent body to advise the governor general with respect to difficult decisions such as granting pardons, commutations, stays of execution, the removal of justices of appeal who appear to be incompetent, etc.) and the National Assembly (29 seats; members are elected by direct popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: National Assembly—last held 30 June 1993 (next to be held no later than September 1998)
election results: percent of vote by party—NA; seats by party—PUP 13, UDP 15, NABR 1

Judicial branch: Supreme Court, the chief justice is appointed by the governor general on advice of the prime minister

Political parties and leaders: People's United Party or PUP [Said MUSA]; United Democratic Party or UDP [Manuel ESQUIVEL, Dean BARROW]; National Alliance for Belizean Rights or NABR [Philip GOLDSON]

Political pressure groups and leaders: Society for the Promotion of Education and Research or SPEAR [Assad SHOMAN]; United Workers Front

International organization participation: ACP, C, Caricom, CDB, ECLAC, FAO, G-77, IADB, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ITU, LAES, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WHO, WMO, WTrO

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador James Schofield MURPHY
chancery: 2535 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 332-9636
FAX: [1] (202) 332-6888
consulate(s) general: Los Angeles
mailing address: 5825 W. Sunset Boulevard, Suite 206, Hollywood, CA 90028
telephone: [1] (213) 469-7343

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Carolyn CURIEL
embassy: Gabourel Lane and Hutson Street, Belize City
mailing address: P. O. Box 286, Unit 7401, APO AA 34025
telephone: [501] (2) 77161 through 77163
FAX: [501] (2) 30802

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

Economy

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Economy—overview: The small, essentially private enterprise economy is based primarily on agriculture, agro-based industry, and merchandising, with tourism and construction assuming greater importance. Sugar, the chief crop, accounts for more than one-third of exports, while the banana industry is the country's largest employer. The government's tough austerity program in 1997 resulted in an economic slowdown that is likely to continue in 1998. Political tension in the run-up to the elections will tend to discourage investment, already suffering as a result of tight monetary and fiscal policies. The trade deficit has been growing, mostly as a result of low export prices for sugar and bananas and could increase further if a pre-election boost in government spending leads to a rise in imports. The ruling in 1997 by the World Trade Organization against the European Union's banana import regime—which had granted Belize preferential treatment - is also hurting the prospects for growth, and could contribute to an increase in already high unemployment.

GDP: purchasing power parity—$680 million (1997 est.)

GDP—real growth rate: 2.9% (1997 est.)

GDP—per capita: purchasing power parity—$3,000 (1997 est.)

GDP—composition by sector:
agriculture: 20%
industry: 27%
services: 53% (1996 est.)

Inflation rate—consumer price index: 1% (1997 est.)

Labor force:
total: 71,000
by occupation: agriculture 30%, services 16%, government 15.4%, commerce 11.2%, manufacturing 10.3%
note: shortage of skilled labor and all types of technical personnel (1997 est.)

Unemployment rate: 13% (1997 est.)

Budget:
revenues: $140 million
expenditures: $142 million, including capital expenditures of $NA (FY97/98 est.)

Industries: garment production, food processing, tourism, construction

Industrial production growth rate: 0.2% (1996 est.)

Electricity—capacity: 23,000 kW (1995)

Electricity—production: 105 million kWh (1995)

Electricity—consumption per capita: 491 kWh (1995)

Agriculture—products: bananas, coca, citrus, sugarcane; lumber; fish, cultured shrimp

Exports:
total value: $166 million (f.o.b., 1996)
commodities: sugar, citrus fruits, bananas, clothing, fish products, molasses, wood
partners: US 44%, UK 42%, other EU 5%, Canada 3% (1996)

Imports:
total value: $262 million (c.i.f., 1996)
commodities: machinery and transportation equipment, food, manufactured goods, fuels, chemicals, pharmaceuticals
partners: US 55%, Mexico 12%, UK 5% (1997)

Debt—external: $217 million (1996)

Economic aid:
recipient: ODA, $NA

Currency: 1 Belizean dollar (Bz$) = 100 cents

Exchange rates: Belizean dollars (Bz$) per US$1—2.0000 (fixed rate)

Fiscal year: 1 April—31 March

Communications

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Telephones: 29,000 (1996 est.)

Telephone system: above-average system
domestic: trunk network depends primarily on microwave radio relay
international: satellite earth station—1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean)

Radio broadcast stations: AM 6, FM 9, shortwave 1

Radios: NA

Television broadcast stations: 2

Televisions: 27,048 (1993 est.)

Transportation

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Railways: 0 km

Highways:
total: 2,248 km
paved: 427 km
unpaved: 1,821 km (1996 est.)

Waterways: 825 km river network used by shallow-draft craft; seasonally navigable

Ports and harbors: Belize City, Big Creek, Corozol, Punta Gorda

Merchant marine:
total: 265 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 1,298,562 GRT/2,055,027 DWT
ships by type: bulk 26, cargo 184, chemical tanker 4, combination bulk 1, container 6, liquefied gas tanker 1, oil tanker 26, passenger-cargo 2, refrigerated cargo 8, roll-on/roll-off cargo 4, specialized tanker 2, vehicle carrier 1
note: a flag of convenience registry; includes ships of 8 countries: Cuba 1, Cyprus 1, Greece 1, Hong Kong 1, Panama 1, Singapore 2, UAE 2, and US 1 (1997 est.)

Airports: 44 (1997 est.)

Airports—with paved runways:
total: 3
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
under 914 m: 2 (1997 est.)

Airports—with unpaved runways:
total: 41
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 10
under 914 m: 30 (1997 est.)

Military

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Military branches: Belize Defense Force (includes Ground Forces, Maritime Wing, Air Wing, and Volunteer Guard), Belize National Police

Military manpower—military age: 18 years of age

Military manpower—availability:
males age 15-49: 56,142 (1998 est.)

Military manpower—fit for military service:
males: 33,328 (1998 est.)

Military manpower—reaching military age annually:
males: 2,536 (1998 est.)

Military expenditures—dollar figure: $15 million (FY97/98)

Military expenditures—percent of GDP: 2%

Transnational Issues

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Disputes—international: border with Guatemala in dispute; talks to resolve the dispute are ongoing

Illicit drugs: transshipment point for cocaine; small-scale illicit producer of cannabis for the international drug trade; minor money-laundering center