Economy of Belize

Belize has a small, essentially private enterprise economy that is based primarily on agriculture, tourism, and services. The cultivation of newly discovered oil in the town of Spanish Lookout has presented new prospects and problems for this developing nation.[9] Belize's primary exports are citrus, sugar, and bananas. Belize's trade deficit has been growing, mostly as a result of low export prices for sugar and bananas.

The new government faces important challenges to economic stability. Rapid action to improve tax collection has been promised, but a lack of progress in reining in spending could bring the exchange rate under pressure. The Belize Dollar is fixed to the U.S. dollar at a rate of 2:1.[10]

Domestic industry is limited, constrained by relatively high-cost labour and energy and a small domestic market. Tourism attracts the most foreign direct investment although significant foreign investment is also found in the energy, telecommunications, and agricultural sectors.

Economy of Belize
Bliss and Radisson - Belize City
CurrencyBelize dollar (BZD)
1 April – 31 March
Trade organisations
GDP$1.770 billion (nominal 2016)
$3.088 billion (PPP 2016)
GDP rank169th (nominal 2016 IMF)
167th (PPP 2016 IMF)
GDP growth
3.8% (2015), -0.5% (2016),
1.2% (2017e), 2.0% (2018f) [1]
GDP per capita
$8,186 (2016)
GDP by sector
Agriculture (13%), industry (23%), services (64%) (2012 est.)
2.3% (2017)[2]
Population below poverty line
41.3% (2009)[2]
Labour force
139,456 (2012 est.)[3] note: shortage of skilled labor and all types of technical personnel
Labour force by occupation
Agriculture (10.2%), industry (18.1%), services (71.7%) (2007 est.)
Unemployment11.1% (2016)[2]
Main industries
Garment production, food processing, tourism, construction, oil
112th (2017)[4]
Exports$633 million (2013 est.)
Export goods
Sugar, bananas, citrus, clothing, fish products, molasses, wood, crude oil
Main export partners
 United Kingdom 30.8%
 United States 18.7%
 Nigeria 6.7%
 Trinidad and Tobago 4.8%
 Ireland 4.2%
 Jamaica 4.2% (2015)[5]
Import goods
Machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods, fuels, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, food, beverages, tobacco
Main import partners
 United States 26.6%
 Mexico 11.7%
 Cuba 10.2%
 Guatemala 9%
 China 7.5%
 Trinidad and Tobago 5.6% (2015)[6]  India 4% (2016)[7]
$1.048 billion (December 2013 est.)
Public finances
$1.229 billion (2013 est.)
Revenues$410.1 million (2013 est.)
Expenses$352.4 million (2013 est.)
CC (Domestic)
CC (Foreign)
CC (T&C Assessment)
(Standard & Poor's)[8]
Main data source: CIA World Fact Book
All values, unless otherwise stated, are in US dollars.


Belize's economy depended on forestry until well into the 20th century. Logwood, used to make dye, was Belize's initial main export. However, the supply outstripped the demand, especially as Europeans developed man-made dyes which were less expensive. Loggers turned to mahogany, which grew in abundance in the country's forests. The wood was prized for use in cabinets, ships, and railroad carriers.

While many merchants and traders became wealthy from the mahogany industry, ups and downs in the market had a large impact on the economy. In addition, new mahogany trees weren't being planted, because mahogany trees grow slowly; the rate of natural regrowth necessitated a large, long-term investment in tree farming, which was not made. As the 19th century progressed, loggers were forced to go deeper into the forests to find the trees, increasing labour costs.

Variations of mahogany exports over long periods of time were linked to the accessible supply of the resource. Thus, improvements in hauling methods helped the cutters satisfy increasing demands for mahogany by enabling them to extract timber from areas in the interior that had been previously inaccessible to them. Immediately after the introduction of cattle in the early 19th century, tractors in the 1920s, and lorries in the 1940s, production levels rose dramatically.

When the supply of accessible timber dwindled and logging became too unprofitable in the 20th century, the country's economy shifted to new sectors. Cane sugar became the principal export and recently has been augmented by expanded production of citrus, bananas, seafood, and apparel. The country has about 8,090 km² of arable land, only a small fraction of which is under cultivation. To curb land speculation, the government enacted legislation in 1973 that requires non-Belizeans to complete a development plan on land they purchase before obtaining title to plots of more than 10 acres (40,000 m²) of rural land or more than one-half acre (2,000 m²) of urban land.

Economic sectors


Banana production accounted for 16 percent of total Belizean exports in 1999.[11]

Citrus fruits are Belize's second most important agricultural crop.[11]


Belize farming gm
Agriculture is a key part of the economy

A major constraint on a functioning market economy in Belize continues to be the scarcity of infrastructure investments. Although electricity, telephone, and water utilities are all relatively good, Belize has the most expensive electricity in the region. Several capital projects are currently underway. The largest of these is a $15 million rural electrification program to be jointly implemented by the government and Belize Electricity Limited (BEL).


Ports in Belize City, Dangriga, and Big Creek handle regularly scheduled shipping from the U.S. and the United Kingdom although draft is limited to a maximum of 10 feet in Belize City and 15 feet in southern ports. International air service is provided by Westjet, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Continental Airlines, Southwest Airlines, U.S. Airways, and TACA to/from gateways in Toronto, Dallas, Texas, Houston, Texas, Charlotte, North Carolina, Miami, Florida, and San Salvador.


A combination of factors—climate, the Belize Barrier Reef (longest in the Western Hemisphere), 127 offshore Cayes (islands), excellent fishing, safe waters for boating, scuba diving, and snorkeling, abundant jungle flora and fauna, and numerous Mayan ruins—support the thriving tourism and ecotourism industry. Development costs are high, but the Government of Belize has designated tourism as its second development priority after agriculture.

In 2011, tourist arrivals totaled 888,191 (mostly from the U.S.) and tourist receipts amounted to $260 million.[12] The travel and tourism industry in 2011 directly contributed 350.6 million BZD (176 million USD) to Belize's GDP (12.0% of GDP). This primarily reflects the economic activity directly generated by industries supported by tourists, such as hotels, restaurants, leisure industries, travel agents, airlines and other transportation services. The total contribution to GDP in 2011 (including wider effects from investment, the supply chain, and induced income impacts) was 971.9 million BZD (486 million USD) (33.2% of GDP). Travel and tourism directly generated 14,500 jobs in 2011 (10.9% of total employment) and, including indirect and induced effects, supported 40,000 jobs (30.1% of total employment).[13]


Belize Export Treemap 2015
A proportional representation of Belizean exports in 2015

Belize's economic performance is highly susceptible to external market changes. Although moderate growth has been achieved in recent years, the achievements are vulnerable to world commodity price fluctuations and continuation of preferential trading agreements, especially with the U.S. (cane sugar) and UK (bananas).

Belize continues to rely heavily on foreign trade with the United States as its number one trading partner. Total imports in 2000 totaled $446 million while total exports were only $349.9 million. In 2000, the U.S. accounted for 48.5% of Belize's total exports and provided 49.7% of all Belizean imports. Other major trading partners include the European Union, Canada, Mexico, and Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states. Belize established a preferential trade agreement with Guatemala in 2010.

Belize aims to stimulate the growth of commercial agriculture through CARICOM. Belizean trade with the rest of the Caribbean is small compared to that with the United States and Europe. Belize is a beneficiary of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), a U.S. Government program to stimulate investment in Caribbean nations by providing duty-free access to the U.S. market for most Caribbean products.

Significant U.S. private investments in citrus and shrimp farms have been made in Belize under CBI. U.S. trade preferences allowing for duty-free re-import of finished apparel cut from U.S. textiles have significantly expanded the apparel industry. EU and UK preferences also have been vital for the expansion and prosperity of the sugar and banana industries.

Belize International Business Companies

In 1990, Belize enacted the International Business Companies Act based on the British Virgin Islands model. In ten years, Belize has registered more than 15,000 IBCs. A Belizean IBC is a corporate vehicle for international financial transactions and allows the investor to engage in activities including asset protection, operating bank accounts, brokerage accounts, ship ownership, and commission arrangements.

The IBC legislation was supplemented in 1992 with the enactment of a Trusts Act which provides for both onshore and offshore trusts.[14]

Belize IBCs have the following features:

Progressive legislation

  • The IBC Act was introduced in 1990 to implement competitive offshore legislation for Belize IBCs which was subsequently amended to reflect the changes required to provide efficient Belize offshore services.

Efficient incorporation/registration

  • Belize incorporation is very efficient under normal circumstances, a Belize IBC can be incorporated in a couple of working days.

Flexibility in company structure

  • There is no requirement for a secretary, resident or otherwise
  • Only one director or shareholder required for the company formation
  • Shareholder(s) and director(s) may be the same person
  • The shareholder(s) and director(s) can be a natural person or a corporate body
  • There is no requirement for appointing local shareholder(s) and director(s)

Privacy of identity of principals

  • The documents for Belize offshore Incorporation do not carry the name or identity of any shareholder or director. The names or identities of these persons do not appear in any public record.

Taxation in Belize

  • According to the IBC Act of 1990, offshore companies are exempted from all taxes.[15]


The following table shows the main economic indicators in 1980–2017.[16]

Year 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
GDP in $
0.20 Bln. 0.29 Bln. 0.62 Bln. 0.94 Bln. 1.36 Bln. 1.98 Bln. 2.14 Bln. 2.22 Bln. 2.34 Bln. 2.37 Bln. 2.48 Bln. 2.59 Bln. 2.73 Bln. 2.80 Bln. 2.96 Bln. 3.11 Bln. 3.13 Bln. 3.21 Bln.
GDP per capita in $
1,367 1,717 3,281 4,324 5,456 6,799 7,098 7,126 7,254 7,350 7,668 7,785 8,017 7,994 8,295 8,480 8,329 8,324
GDP growth
5.0 % −1.4 % 11.2 % 0.7 % 13.0 % 2.6 % 4.6 % 1.1 % 3.2 % 0.8 % 3.3 % 2.1 % 3.7 % 0.7 % 4.0 % 3.8 % −0.5 % 0.8 %
(in Percent)
7.0 % 4.1 % 2.0 % 2.9 % 0.6 % 3.7 % 4.2 % 2.3 % 6.4 % −1.1 % 0.9 % 1.7 % 1.2 % 0.5 % 1.2 % −0.9 % 0.7 % 1.1 %
Unemployment rate
(in Percent)
... ... ... ... ... 100 % 94 % 92 % 86 % 93 % 88 % 82 % 79 % 79 % 77 % 81 % 96 % 99 %

See also


  1. ^ "World Bank forecasts for Belize, June 2018 (p. 152)" (PDF). World Bank. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  2. ^ a b c "Statistics of the Nation". Statistical Institute of Belize. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  3. ^ "Labor Force, Total". The World Bank. Retrieved 29 November 2014.
  4. ^ "Ease of Doing Business in Belize". Retrieved 2017-01-24.
  5. ^ "Export Partners of Belize". CIA World Factbook. 2015. Retrieved 2017-04-05.
  6. ^ "Import Partners of Belize". CIA World Factbook. 2015. Retrieved 2017-04-05.
  7. ^ "Import Partners of Belize". CIA World Factbook. 2015. Retrieved 2017-04-05.
  8. ^ "Sovereign Ratings List". Standard & Poor's. January 6, 2017. Retrieved November 28, 2014.
  9. ^ Burnett, John (2006). Maya Homeland. Large Oil Field Is Found in Belize; the Angling Begins, 4 January 2007.
  10. ^ Belize dollar
  11. ^ a b "Belize:Agriculture". Nations Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on 28 September 2008. Retrieved August 30, 2008.
  12. ^ "Doing Business in Belize: 2012 Country Commercial Guide for U.S. Companies" (PDF). U.S. Commercial Service, U.S. Department of Commerce. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
  13. ^ "BELIZE Travel & Tourism Economic Impact Report 2012" (PDF). World Travel & Tourism Council. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-05-31. Retrieved 2012-11-29.
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-12-16. Retrieved 2008-10-16.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Report for Selected Countries and Subjects". Retrieved 2018-09-25.

External links

  • Tariffs applied by Belize as provided by ITC's Market Access Map, an online database of customs tariffs and market requirements.

Belikin is the leading domestically produced beer brand in Belize.

Belikin is brewed by the Belize Brewing Company, Ltd. which is owned by the Bowen family. The Belize Brewing Company was established in 1969, and began brewing Belikin Beer and Belikin Stout brand name in 1971. Its tagline is "The Beer of Belize".

The name "Belikin" comes from the Maya language and means "Route to the East". This is a term which some have suggested is the origin of the name of "Belize" (although the most accepted derivation says the name comes from the Belize River, meaning "muddy"). The Belikin label features a drawing of a Pre-Columbian Maya temple-pyramid at Altun Ha.

The most common Belikin is a light lager beer. Lighthouse Lager, Belikin Premium and a stout beer are also brewed and sold under the Belikin name.

The brewery is based in Ladyville, Belize District.

Belize dollar

The Belize dollar is the official currency in Belize (currency code BZD). It is normally abbreviated with the dollar sign $, or alternatively BZ$ to distinguish it from other dollar-denominated currencies.

It is divided into 100 cents. The official value is pegged at 2 BZ$ = 1 US$.

Bert Tucker

Adalbert Alexander Tucker (1944–2014) was a Belizean diplomat and politician. He was the Ambassador for Foreign Trade in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 2008. He is best known for his community ecological activism for the Belize River Valley Development Program (BELRIV).

BELRIV is a community-based cultural and ecology project to promote sustainable development. He pioneered and developed the BELRIV 'OASIS' project. He graduated from the University of the West Indies, and Harvard. He was an excellent community organizer, international consultant, community environmental project coordinator, activist, humanist, Pan Africanist (Pan-Africanism), Internationalist, renaissance man, scholar, technocrat, writer, and poet."A very passionate nationalist; very powerful sense of humor; a tremendous memory and just a very kind individual. He really was into education. He saw education as being vital for us".

Central Bank of Belize

The Central Bank of Belize is the central bank of Belize, established in 1982. A. Joy Grant serves as the present Governor of the Central Bank of Belize.

Coins of the Belize dollar

On June 1, 1973, the British colony of British Honduras changed its name to Belize, but its status remained unchanged until 1981, when Belize was granted independence.

Development Finance Corporation Belize

Development Finance Corporation (DFC) is the only development bank in Belize, Central America. Established in September 27, 1963, the bank provides micro sector enterprise (small business) loans, home loans, student Loans, productive sector loans (agriculture, manufacturing, fisheries, etc.) and in 2016, renewable energy and energy efficiency loans for businesses. Since 2009, the DFC has invested over $160 million in the people and economy of Belize. DFC is not a cash-deposit Bank. The Corporation accesses financing from larger regional and international lending institutions at attractive rates for lending to Belizeans Citizens, Residents, companies, cooperatives and other bodies with Belizean majority share Interest. Its purpose is to support the strengthening and expansion of Belize’s economy by providing developmental financing on an economically sustainable and environmentally acceptable basis to individuals, businesses and organizations.

Hurricane Greta–Olivia

Hurricane Greta–Olivia was one of ten named Atlantic hurricanes to cross over Central America into the eastern Pacific while remaining a tropical cyclone. The seventh named storm of the 1978 Atlantic hurricane season, Greta formed from a tropical wave just northwest of Trinidad on September 13, and despite being in a climatologically unfavorable area, gradually intensified while moving west-northwestward. On September 16, it became a hurricane south of Jamaica. Two days later, the well-defined eye approached northeastern Honduras but veered to the northwest. After reaching peak winds of 130 mph (215 km/h) that day, Greta weakened while paralleling the northern Honduras coast just offshore. On September 19, it made landfall on Belize near Dangriga and quickly weakened into a tropical depression while crossing Guatemala and southeastern Mexico. After entering the eastern Pacific, the system re-intensified into a hurricane and was renamed Olivia, which weakened before dissipating over Chiapas on September 23.

Taking a similar path to Hurricane Fifi four years prior, Greta threatened to reproduce the devastating effects of the catastrophic storm; however, damage and loss of life was significantly less than feared. In Honduras, about 1,200 homes were damaged, about half of which in towns along the coastline. The storm damaged about 75% of the houses on Roatán along the offshore Bay Islands, and there was one death in the country. In the Belize Barrier Reef, Greta downed trees and produced high waves, while on the mainland, there was minimal flooding despite a high storm surge. In Dangriga where it made landfall, the hurricane damaged or destroyed 125 houses and the primary hospital. In Belize City, a tornado flipped over a truck and damaged four houses. Damage in Belize was estimated at $25 million (1978 USD), and there were four deaths.

Index of Belize-related articles

The following is an alphabetical list of topics related to the nation of Belize.

Index of Central America-related articles

This is an Index of Central America-related articles. This index defines Central America as the seven nations of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama.

International Merchant Marine Registry of Belize

The International Merchant Marine Registry of Belize (IMMARBE) is the body appointed by the Government of Belize to register ships under the Belizean flag.

List of Belize-related topics

The following is an alphabetical list of topics related to the nation of Belize.

Marion M. Ganey

Fr. Marion M. Ganey, S.J., (1904–1984) was a Catholic priest, member of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), and missionary to British Honduras, Central America, from 1937 to 1953, where he was instigator of the credit union and cooperatives movement. He became increasingly prominent in this movement, being invited to the Fiji Islands in 1953 and laboring to establish the movement there and throughout the South Pacific until his death in Fiji in 1984.

Outline of Belize

The following outline is provided as an overview of and introduction to Belize:

Belize – country located on the north eastern coast of Central America and the only country in the area where English is the official language, although Kriol and Spanish are more commonly spoken. Belize has a diverse society, comprising many cultures and languages and it is the only nation in the region with a British colonial heritage but as a part of the Western Caribbean Zone, it also shares a common heritage with the Caribbean portions of other Central American countries.

Revenue stamps of British Honduras

British Honduras (now known as Belize) issued revenue stamps in 1899. The only issue consisted of contemporary postage stamps overprinted "REVENUE". Four values exist - 5c, 10c, 25c and 50c on 1s, and there are two different sizes of the overprint - 11mm and 12mm long. Additionally there are a number of varieties in the overpint which are very collectible, such as "BEVENUE", "REVENU " and "REVE UE". Despite being intended for fiscal use, they were also valid for postal use.

No other revenues from British Honduras or Belize are known since postage stamps were used for fiscal purposes.

Telecommunications in Belize

Telecommunications in Belize include radio, television, fixed and mobile telephones, and the Internet.

The National Agriculture and Trade Show (Belize)

The National Agriculture and Trade Show (NATS) which was established in the year 1970, is an annual public event that is held in Belmopan city which is the capital of Belize. It is a family oriented event created in order for farmers as well as numerous businesses and organizations to showcase and sell their products to the Belizean public. Approximately 40,000 to 45,000 individuals visit the Trade Show over the three days that it is held for.

Tourism in Belize

Tourism in Belize has grown considerably recently, and it is now the second largest industry in the nation. Belizean Prime Minister Dean Barrow has stated his intention to use tourism to combat poverty throughout the country. The growth in tourism has positively affected the agricultural, commercial, and finance industries, as well as the construction industry. The results for Belize's tourism-driven economy have been significant, with the nation welcoming almost one million tourists in a calendar year for the first time in its history in 2012.

Associate members
Related organizations
Greater Antilles
Leeward Antilles
Leeward Islands
Windward Islands
Other islands
Continental coasts
Economy of the Americas
Sovereign states

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