Belize is an independent sovereign country located on the Caribbean coast of Central America, bordered by Mexico to the north, Guatemala to the west and south, and by the Caribbean Sea to the east. It is approximately two hours by plane from Houston and Miami. Direct flights are available via international carriers such as American Airlines, Continental Airlines, US Airway, Delta and TACA. Belize has the second-largest barrier reef in the world (185 miles long) and three of four coral atolls in the Western Hemisphere fall within Belize’s territory. Its total population now exceeds 300,000 with the major commercial center being Belize City. The population of Belize is ethnically diverse including descendants of the Maya, English settlers and other Caucasians, Creole, Garifuna, Chinese, Middle Eastern and East Indians. English is the official and spoken language of Belize but Spanish is widely spoken as well. Local currency is the Belize Dollar or BZ$. The Belize Dollar has been pegged to the US dollar at a fixed exchange rate of 2:1 (BZD: USD) for over 25 years.
Belize has a long-standing history of peace, stability and democracy. It became a British Crown Colony in 1862 and achieved independence from the United Kingdom on September 21, 1981. The political system is based on the British Westminster model with Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State being represented by a Belizean Governor General. The least of the Executive is the Prime Minister.
The Constitution of Belize which establishes the arms of Government, the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary and which enshrines certain fundamental human rights and freedoms (including equal protection of the law, right to privacy, protection from arbitrary deprivation of property, principles of fairness and natural justice, freedom of expression) stands as the supreme law of Belize. Further, Belize’s legal system and rule of law are firmly rooted in the English Common Law and supplemented by local legislation (with the Privy Council serving as the final court of appeal).
Agriculture traditionally constituted the major driver of Belize’s economy with such export products as sugar, citrus and banana. Tourism and Petroleum has now surpassed agriculture as the major foreign exchange earner and the international financial services industry has been contributing increasingly to the growth and development of the economy. Belize also benefits from a number of preferential market access arrangements, especially with the USA, Canada, and the European Community.
Belize has excellent satellite and fiber-optic telecommunication services including international roaming with its GSM network. Internet access is readily available through satellite, cable and DSL. International courier services for express delivery through such courier services as FedEx and DHL are well established. The combination of excellent communications facilities, professional service and modern international financial services legislation provides an attractive environment for the international investor.