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Countries > Belize (British Honduras) Belize (British Honduras) Flag
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Capital: Belmopan
Population: 540,900
Description: English, the official language, is spoken by about three-fourths of the population. Spanish is the mother tongue of about 15 percent, many of whom speak English as well. Maya, or Yucatec, is widely spoken in the northern third of the country, while Kekehi, of the Mayan family, is spoken in a small area of the southwest. Carib is spoken along the southern coast.
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Belize (British Honduras) Map

Geography

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, Law of the Sea, 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

Population: 256,062 (July 2001 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 42.04% (male 54,876; female 52,780)
15-64 years: 54.43% (male 70,534; female 68,837)
65 years and over: 3.53% (male 4,403; female 4,632) (2001 est.)

Population growth rate: 2.7% (2001 est.)

Birth rate: 31.69 births/1,000 population (2001 est.)

Death rate: 4.7 deaths/1,000 population (2001 est.)

Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2001 est.)

Sex ratio:
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: 0.95 male(s)/female
total population: 1.03 male(s)/female (2001 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 25.14 deaths/1,000 live births (2001 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 71.19 years
male: 68.91 years
female: 73.57 years (2001 est.)

Total fertility rate: 4.05 children born/woman (2001 est.)

Nationality:
noun: Belizean(s)
adjective: Belizean

Ethnic groups: mestizo 43.7%, Creole 29.8%, Maya 10%, Garifuna 6.2%, other 10.3%

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 age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 70.3%
male: 70.3%
female: 70.3% (1991 est.)
note : other sources list the literacy rate as high as 75%

Government

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 Said MUSA (since 27 August 1998); Deputy Prime Minister John BRICENO (since 1 September 1998)
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: Na House of Representatives - last held 27 August 1998 (next to be held by NA August 2003)
election results: percent of vote by party - PUP 59.2%, UDP 40.8%; seats by party - PUP 26, UDP 3

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, Doug SINGH]

Political pressure groups and leaders: Society for the Promotion of Education and Research or SPEAR [Diane HAYLOCK]; United Worker's 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 Lisa M. SHOMAN
chancery: 2535 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 332-9636
FAX : [1] (202) 332-6888
consulate(s) general: Los Angeles
consulate(s): New York

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

Economy - overview: The small, essentially private enterprise economy is based primarily on agriculture, agro-based industry, and merchandising, with tourism and construction assuming increasing importance. Agriculture accounts for about 20% of GDP and provides 75% of export earnings, while sugar, the chief crop, accounts for almost 40% of hard currency earnings. The US, Belize's main trading partner, is assisting in efforts to reduce dependency on sugar with an agricultural diversification program.

GDP: purchasing power parity - $790 million (2000 est.)

GDP - real growth rate: 4% (2000 est.)

GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $3,200 (2000 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 18%
industry: 24%
services : 58% (2000 est.)

Inflation rate - consumer price index: 2% (2000 est.)

Labor force:
total : 71,000
by occupation: agriculture 38%, industry 32%, services 30% (1994)
note: shortage of skilled labor and all types of technical personnel (1997 est.)

Unemployment rate: 12.8% (1999)

Budget:
revenues: $157 million
expenditures: $279 million, including capital expenditures of $NA (1999 est.)

Industries: garment production, food processing, tourism, construction

Industrial production growth rate:4.6% (1999)

Electricity - capacity: 34,000 kW (1995)

Electricity - production:185 million kWh (1999)

Electricity - consumption per capita: kWh172.1 million kWh (1999)

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

Exports:
total value: $235.7 million (f.o.b., 2000 est.)
commodities: sugar, citrus fruits, bananas, clothing, fish products, molasses, wood
partners : US 42%, UK 33%, EU 12%, Caricom 4.8%, Canada 2%, Mexico 1% (1999)

Imports:
total value: $413 million (c.i.f., 2000 est.)
commodities: machinery and transportation equipment, food, manufactured goods, fuels, chemicals, pharmaceuticals
partners : US 58%, Mexico 12%, UK 5% EU 5%, Central America 5%, Caricom 4% (1998)

Debt - external: $338 million (1998)

Economic aid:
recipient : ODA, $NA

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

Exchange rates: Belizean dollars (Bz$) per US$1 - 2.00 (fixed rate)

Fiscal year: 1 April - 31 March

Communications

Telephones: 31,000 (1997)

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 1, FM 12, shortwave 0 (1998)

Radios: 133,000 (1997)

Television broadcast stations:2 (1997)

Televisions: 41,000 (1997)

Transportation

Railways: 0 km

Highways:
total: 2,872 km
paved: 488 km
unpaved : 2,384 km (1998 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: 402 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 1,575,851 GRT/2,241,731 DWT
ships by type: bulk 27, cargo 265, chemical tanker 6, combination ore/oil 1, container 14, passenger 1, passenger/cargo 2, petroleum tanker 56, refrigerated cargo 18, roll on/roll off 7, short-sea passenger 1, specialized tanker 1, vehicle carrier 3

Airports: 44 (2000 est.)

Airports - with paved runways:
total : 4
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
under 914 m: 2 (2000 est.)

Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 40
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 10
under 914 m: 29 (2000 est.)

Military

Military branches: Belize Defense Force (includes Army, Navy, Air Force, and Volunteer Guard), Belize National Police

Military manpower - military age: 18 years of age

Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 62,698 (2001 est.)

Military manpower - fit for military service:
males : 37,174 (2001 est.)

Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males : 2,847 (2001 est.)

Military expenditures - dollar figure: $17 million (FY98/99)

Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 2.4% (FY98/99)

Transnational Issues

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