Country Profile: Belize
Belize is located on the Central American mainland forming part of the Yucatan Peninsula and shares borders with Mexico (North and part of Northwest) and Guatemala (South and rest of Northwest). Its Eastern border is the Caribbean Sea. It covers a land area of 8,867 square miles or 22,966 square kilometers of which 95% is located on the mainland, and 5.0% is distributed over more than 1,060 islands. Total national territory including territorial sea is 18,000 sq miles or 46,620 square kilometers.
Belize is a sovereign state, and received its independence from the United Kingdom in 1981. The country is governed by a representative democracy with a bicameral legislature based on the Westminster model. The Head of State is the Governor General and the Head of Government is the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister and the Cabinet form the executive branch, while the National Assembly forms a bicameral legislature comprising of a 31 member elected House of Representatives and a 12 member appointed Senate.
Belize consists of six districts, comprised of cities, towns and villages. The capital city is Belmopan. The northern districts of Corozal and Orange walk consist predominantly of Mestizo and Spanish-speaking ethnic groups. The Belize district is comprised primarily of English-speaking Creole. The Cayo district in the centre of the country is mixed, but all four districts have Mennonite communities. The majority of the population in the South is a mix of Garifuna and Mayan with the majority of the Garifuna population in the Stann Creek district and the majority of the Mayan population in the Toledo district. According to the Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB) as at September 2014, the population count stood at approximately 360,838. The ethnic composition as reported in the 2010 population census is as follows: 52.9 % Mestizo, 25.9 % Creole, 11.3% Mayan, 6.1% Garifuna, 3.6% Mennonite, 3.9% East Indian, 1.0% Chinese and 1.2% other.
Belize is a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth, the Organization of American States, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the World Trade Organization, the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group, The Association of Caribbean States, and the Central America Integration System.
Landscape, Production, and Attractions
Belize City landscape is a low coastal plain of mainly swamp land. However, higher terrain is located in the West and Southern districts of Belize in which the major attraction is eco-tourism.
Sugar production is concentrated in the northern districts and citrus, bananas and other horticulture production dominate the southern and western districts. Eco-tourism is a major attraction in the cayes and western and southern districts of Belize.
Belize’s currency is the Belize Dollar. Belize operates on a fixed exchange rate regime of approximately Bz$2.00 to US$1.00.
Belize’s official language is English. However, Spanish and indigenous languages of both the Maya1 and the Garifuna are spoken in Belize.