Belize was the site of several Mayan city states until their decline at the end of the first millennium A.D. The British and Spanish disputed the region in the 17th and 18th centuries; it formally became the colony of British Honduras in 1854. Territorial disputes between the UK and Guatemala delayed the independence of Belize until 1981. Guatemala refused to recognize the new nation until 1992 and the two countries are involved in an ongoing border dispute. Tourism has become the mainstay of the economy. Current concerns include the country's heavy foreign debt burden, high unemployment, growing involvement in the Mexican and South American drug trade, high crime rates, and one of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in Central America.



Central America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, between Guatemala and Mexico

Geographic coordinates

17 15 N, 88 45 W

Map references

Central America and the Caribbean


total: 22,966 sq km
land: 22,806 sq km
water: 160 sq km

Area - comparative

slightly smaller than Massachusetts

Land boundaries

total: 542 km
border countries (2): Guatemala 266 km, Mexico 276 km


386 km

Maritime claims

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 negotiating a definitive agreement on territorial differences with Guatemala
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm


tropical; very hot and humid; rainy season (May to November); dry season (February to May)


flat, swampy coastal plain; low mountains in south


mean elevation: 173 m
elevation extremes: lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Doyle's Delight 1,160 m

Natural resources

arable land potential, timber, fish, hydropower

Land use

agricultural land: 6.9%
arable land 3.3%; permanent crops 1.4%; permanent pasture 2.2%
forest: 60.6%
other: 32.5% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

35 sq km (2012)

Natural hazards

frequent, devastating hurricanes (June to November) and coastal flooding (especially in south)

Environment - current issues

deforestation; water pollution from sewage, industrial effluents, agricultural runoff; solid and sewage waste disposal

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography - note

only country in Central America without a coastline on the North Pacific Ocean

People and Society


353,858 (July 2016 est.)


noun: Belizean(s)
adjective: Belizean

Ethnic groups

mestizo 52.9%, Creole 25.9%, Maya 11.3%, Garifuna 6.1%, East Indian 3.9%, Mennonite 3.6%, white 1.2%, Asian 1%, other 1.2%, unknown 0.3%
note: percentages add up to more than 100% because respondents were able to identify more than one ethnic origin (2010 est.)


English 62.9% (official), Spanish 56.6%, Creole 44.6%, Maya 10.5%, German 3.2%, Garifuna 2.9%, other 1.8%, unknown 0.3%, none 0.2% (cannot speak)
note: shares sum to more than 100% because some respondents gave more than one answer on the census (2010 est.)


Roman Catholic 40.1%, Protestant 31.5% (includes Pentecostal 8.4%, Seventh Day Adventist 5.4%, Anglican 4.7%, Mennonite 3.7%, Baptist 3.6%, Methodist 2.9%, Nazarene 2.8%), Jehovah's Witness 1.7%, other 10.5% (includes Baha'i, Buddhist, Hindu, Morman, Muslim, Rastafarian), unknown 0.6%, none 15.5% (2010 est.)

Demographic profile

Migration continues to transform Belize's population. About 16% of Belizeans live abroad, while immigrants constitute approximately 15% of Belize's population. Belizeans seeking job and educational opportunities have preferred to emigrate to the United States rather than former colonizer Great Britain because of the United States' closer proximity and stronger trade ties with Belize. Belizeans also emigrate to Canada, Mexico, and English-speaking Caribbean countries. The emigration of a large share of Creoles (Afro-Belizeans) and the influx of Central American immigrants, mainly Guatemalans, Salvadorans, and Hondurans, has changed Belize's ethnic composition. Mestizos have become the largest ethnic group, and Belize now has more native Spanish speakers than English or Creole speakers, despite English being the official language. In addition, Central American immigrants are establishing new communities in rural areas, which contrasts with the urbanization trend seen in neighboring countries. Recently, Chinese, European, and North American immigrants have become more frequent.
Immigration accounts for an increasing share of Belize's population growth rate, which is steadily falling due to fertility decline. Belize's declining birth rate and its increased life expectancy are creating an aging population. As the elderly population grows and nuclear families replace extended households, Belize's government will be challenged to balance a rising demand for pensions, social services, and healthcare for its senior citizens with the need to reduce poverty and social inequality and to improve sanitation.

Age structure

0-14 years: 34.41% (male 62,139/female 59,611)
15-24 years: 20.71% (male 37,333/female 35,960)
25-54 years: 36.26% (male 64,968/female 63,346)
55-64 years: 4.84% (male 8,445/female 8,666)
65 years and over: 3.78% (male 6,291/female 7,099) (2016 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 56.8%
youth dependency ratio: 50.9%
elderly dependency ratio: 5.9%
potential support ratio: 17% (2015 est.)

Median age

total: 22.4 years
male: 22.2 years
female: 22.6 years (2016 est.)

Population growth rate

1.84% (2016 est.)

Birth rate

24.3 births/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Death rate

6 deaths/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Net migration rate

0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Population distribution

approximately 25 to 30% of the population lives in the former capital, Belize City; over half of the overall population is rural; population density is slightly higher in the north and east


urban population: 44% of total population (2015)
rate of urbanization: 1.93% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population

BELMOPAN (capital) 17,000 (2014)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.97 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.89 male(s)/female
total population: 1.03 male(s)/female (2016 est.)

Child labor - children ages 5-14

total number: 27,751
percentage: 40% (2001 est.)

Maternal mortality rate

28 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 19.3 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 21.6 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 16.9 deaths/1,000 live births (2016 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 68.7 years
male: 67.2 years
female: 70.4 years (2016 est.)

Total fertility rate

2.9 children born/woman (2016 est.)

Contraceptive prevalence rate

55.2% (2011)

Health expenditures

5.8% of GDP (2014)

Physicians density

0.83 physicians/1,000 population (2009)

Hospital bed density

1.1 beds/1,000 population (2012)

Drinking water source

urban: 98.9% of population
rural: 100% of population
total: 99.5% of population
urban: 1.1% of population
rural: 0% of population
total: 0.5% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access

urban: 93.5% of population
rural: 88.2% of population
total: 90.5% of population
urban: 6.5% of population
rural: 11.8% of population
total: 9.5% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate

1.52% (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS

3,600 (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

100 (2015 est.)

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever and malaria
note: active local transmission of Zika virus by Aedes species mosquitoes has been identified in this country (as of August 2016); it poses an important risk (a large number of cases possible) among US citizens if bitten by an infective mosquito; other less common ways to get Zika are through sex, via blood transfusion, or during pregnancy, in which the pregnant woman passes Zika virus to her fetus (2016)

Obesity - adult prevalence rate

20.6% (2014)

Children under the age of 5 years underweight

6.2% (2011)

Education expenditures

6.2% of GDP (2013)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 13 years
male: 13 years
female: 13 years (2013)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 25%
male: 18%
female: 35.6% (2012 est.)


Country name

conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Belize
former: British Honduras
etymology: may be named for the Belize River, whose name possibly derives from the Maya word "belix," meaning "muddy-watered"

Government type

parliamentary democracy (National Assembly) under a constitutional monarchy; a Commonwealth realm


name: Belmopan
geographic coordinates: 17 15 N, 88 46 W
time difference: UTC-6 (1 hour behind Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

Administrative divisions

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


21 September 1981 (from the UK)

National holiday

Battle of St. George's Caye Day (National Day), September 10, 1798; Independence Day, 21 September (1981)


previous 1954, 1963 (preindependence); latest signed and entered into force 21 September 1981; amended several times, last in 2012 (2016)

Legal system

English common law

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction


citizenship by birth: yes
citizenship by descent: yes
dual citizenship recognized: yes
residency requirement for naturalization: 5 years


18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor General Sir Colville YOUNG, Sr. (since 17 November 1993)
head of government: Prime Minister Dean Oliver BARROW (since 8 February 2008); Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar VEGA (since 12 February 2008)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister from among members of the National Assembly
elections/appointments: the monarchy is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or majority coalition usually appointed prime minister by the governor general; prime minister recommends the deputy prime minister

Legislative branch

description: bicameral National Assembly consists of the Senate (12 seats; members appointed by the governor general - 6 on the advice of the prime minister, 3 on the advice of the leader of the opposition, and 1 each on the advice of the Belize Council of Churches and Evangelical Association of Churches, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Belize Better Business Bureau, and the National Trade Union Congress and the Civil Society Steering Committee; members serve 5-year terms) and the House of Representatives (31 seats; members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote to serve 5-year terms)
elections: House of Representatives - last held on 4 November 2015 (next to be held in or before 2020)
election results: percent of vote by party - UDP 50.52%, PUP 47.77%, other 1.71%; seats by party - UDP 19, PUP 12

Judicial branch

highest court(s): Supreme Court of Judicature (consists of the Court of Appeal with the court president and 3 justices, and the Supreme Court with the chief justice and 2 judges); in 2005, Belize ceased final appeals in civil and criminal cases to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (in London), replacing it with the Caribbean Court of Justice, the judicial organ of the Caribbean Community
judge selection and term of office: Court of Appeal president and justices appointed by the governor general upon advice of the prime minister after consultation with the National Assembly opposition leader; justices' tenures vary by terms of appointment; Supreme Court chief justice appointed by the governor-general upon the advice of the prime minister and the National Assembly opposition leader; other judges appointed by the governor-general upon the advice of the Judicial and Legal Services Section of the Public Services Commission and with the concurrence of the prime minister after consultation with the National Assembly opposition leader; judges can be appointed beyond age 65 but must retire by age 75; in 2013, the Supreme Court chief justice overturned a constitutional amendment that had restricted Court of Appeal judge appointments to as short as 1 year
subordinate courts: Summary Jurisdiction Courts (criminal) and district courts (civil)

Political parties and leaders

Belize Progressive Party or BPP [Patrick ROGERS] (formed in 2015 from a merger of the People's National Party, elements of the VIP, and other smaller political groups)
People's United Party or PUP [vacant]
United Democratic Party or UDP [Dean Oliver BARROW]

Political pressure groups and leaders

National Trade Union Congress of Belize or NTUC/B [Marvin MORA]

International organization participation


Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Patrick ANDREWS (since 17 September 2015)
chancery: 2535 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 332-9636
FAX: [1] (202) 332-6888
consulate(s) general: Los Angeles

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Carlos Roberto MORENO (since 24 June 2014)
embassy: Floral Park Road, Belmopan City, Cayo District
mailing address: P.O. Box 497, Belmopan City, Cayo District, Belize
telephone: [501] 822-4011
FAX: [501] 822-4012

National symbol(s)

Baird's tapir (a large, browsing, forest-dwelling mammal), keel-billed toucan, Black Orchid; national colors: red, blue

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 of 50 mahogany leaves; the colors are those of the two main political parties: blue for the PUP and red for the UDP; various elements of the coat of arms - the figures, the tools, the mahogany tree, and the garland of leaves - recall the logging industry that led to British settlement of Belize
note: Belize's flag is the only national flag that depicts human beings; two British overseas territories, Montserrat and the British Virgin Islands, also depict humans

National anthem

name: "Land of the Free"
lyrics/music: Samuel Alfred HAYNES/Selwyn Walford YOUNG
note: adopted 1981; as a Commonwealth country, in addition to the national anthem, "God Save the Queen" serves as the royal anthem (see United Kingdom)


Economy - overview

Tourism is the number one foreign exchange earner in this small economy, followed by exports of crude oil, marine products, sugar, citrus, and bananas.

The government's expansionary monetary and fiscal policies, initiated in September 1998, led to GDP growth averaging nearly 4% in 1999-2007. Oil discoveries in 2006 bolstered this growth and oil exploration continues, but production has fallen in recent y

Although Belize has the third highest per capita income in Central America, the average income figure masks a huge income disparity between rich and poor, and a key government objective remains reducing poverty and inequality with the help of internationa

GDP (purchasing power parity)

$3.088 billion (2016 est.)
$3.088 billion (2015 est.)
$3.056 billion (2014 est.)
note: data are in 2016 dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$1.77 billion (2015 est.)

GDP - real growth rate

0% (2016 est.)
1% (2015 est.)
4.1% (2014 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP)

$8,200 (2016 est.)
$8,400 (2015 est.)
$8,600 (2014 est.)
note: data are in 2016 dollars

Gross national saving

7.6% of GDP (2016 est.)
13.7% of GDP (2015 est.)
11.5% of GDP (2014 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 72.1%
government consumption: 17.2%
investment in fixed capital: 20.3%
investment in inventories: 0.8%
exports of goods and services: 52.6%
imports of goods and services: -63% (2016 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 11.7%
industry: 14.5%
services: 59.9% (2016 est.)

Agriculture - products

bananas, cacao, citrus, sugar; fish, cultured shrimp; lumber


garment production, food processing, tourism, construction, oil

Industrial production growth rate

-1% (2016 est.)

Labor force

note: shortage of skilled labor and all types of technical personnel (2008 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 10.2%
industry: 18.1%
services: 71.7% (2007 est.)

Unemployment rate

12.9% (2014 est.)
14.1% (2013 est.)

Population below poverty line

41% (2013 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%


revenues: $500 million
expenditures: $650 million (2016 est.)

Taxes and other revenues

28.2% of GDP (2016 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

-8.5% of GDP (2016 est.)

Public debt

86.3% of GDP (2016 est.)
82.4% of GDP (2015 est.)

Fiscal year

1 April - 31 March

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

0.9% (2016 est.)
-0.9% (2015 est.)

Central bank discount rate

18% (31 December 2010)
12% (31 December 2009)

Commercial bank prime lending rate

10.8% (31 December 2016 est.)
10.32% (31 December 2015 est.)

Stock of narrow money

$765.5 million (31 December 2016 est.)
$764.3 million (31 December 2015 est.)

Stock of broad money

$1.785 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$1.437 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

Stock of domestic credit

$1.45 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$1.174 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares


Current account balance

-$220 million (2016 est.)
-$172 million (2015 est.)


$519.5 million (2016 est.)
$537.9 million (2015 est.)

Exports - commodities

sugar, bananas, citrus, clothing, fish products, molasses, wood, crude oil

Exports - partners

UK 30.8%, US 18.7%, Nigeria 6.7%, Trinidad and Tobago 4.8%, Ireland 4.2%, Jamaica 4.2% (2015)


$895.5 million (2016 est.)
$961.3 million (2015 est.)

Imports - commodities

machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods; fuels, chemicals, pharmaceuticals; food, beverages, tobacco

Imports - partners

US 26.6%, Mexico 11.7%, Cuba 10.2%, Guatemala 9%, China 7.5%, Trinidad and Tobago 5.6% (2015)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$409.3 million (31 December 2016 est.)
$437.2 million (31 December 2015 est.)

Debt - external

$1.327 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$1.309 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

Exchange rates

Belizean dollars (BZD) per US dollar -
2 (2016 est.)
2 (2015 est.)
2 (2014 est.)
2 (2013 est.)
2 (2012 est.)


Electricity - access

electrification - total population: 100% (2016)

Electricity - production

300 million kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - consumption

400 million kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - exports

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - imports

200 million kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity

200,000 kW (2014 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels

46.9% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants

27.3% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources

25.8% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Crude oil - production

2,000 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Crude oil - exports

3,000 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Crude oil - imports

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves

6.7 million bbl (1 January 2016 es)

Refined petroleum products - production

33.05 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption

3,700 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports

3,638 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Natural gas - production

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - consumption

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - exports

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - imports

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves

0 cu m (1 January 2014 es)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy

700,000 Mt (2013 est.)


Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 21,000
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 6 (July 2015 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular

total: 170,000
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 49 (July 2015 est.)

Telephone system

general assessment: above-average system; trunk network depends primarily on microwave radio relay
domestic: fixed-line teledensity of only about 6 per 100 persons; mobile-cellular teledensity approaching 50 per 100 persons
international: country code - 501; landing point for the Americas Region Caribbean Ring System (ARCOS-1) fiber-optic telecommunications submarine cable that provides links to South and Central America, parts of the Caribbean, and the US; satellite earth station - 8 (Int (2015)

Broadcast media

8 privately owned TV stations; multi-channel cable TV provides access to foreign stations; about 25 radio stations broadcasting on roughly 50 different frequencies; state-run radio was privatized in 1998 (2007)

Internet country code


Internet users

total: 144,000
percent of population: 41.6% (July 2015 est.)


National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 2
inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 28
annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 935,603
annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 2,463,420 mt-km (2015)

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix

V3 (2016)


47 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 6
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 3 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 41
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 11
under 914 m: 29 (2013)


total: 2,870 km
paved: 488 km
unpaved: 2,382 km (2011)


825 km (navigable only by small craft) (2011)

Merchant marine

total: 247
by type: barge carrier 1, bulk carrier 33, cargo 156, chemical tanker 2, liquefied gas 1, passenger/cargo 4, petroleum tanker 9, refrigerated cargo 30, roll on/roll off 10, specialized tanker 1
foreign-owned: 152 (Bulgaria 1, China 61, Croatia 1, Estonia 1, Greece 2, Iceland 1, Italy 3, Latvia 9, Lithuania 1, Netherlands 1, Norway 2, Russia 30, Singapore 4, Switzerland 1, Syria 4, Thailand 1, Turkey 16, UAE 3, UK 4, Ukraine 6) (2010)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Belize City, Big Creek


Military branches

Belize Defense Force (BDF): Army, BDF Air Wing (includes Special Boat Unit), BDF Volunteer Guard (2011)

Military service age and obligation

18 years of age for voluntary military service; laws allow for conscription only if volunteers are insufficient; conscription has never been implemented; volunteers typically outnumber available positions by 3:1; initial service obligation 12 years (2012)

Military expenditures

NA% (2012)
1.08% of GDP (2011)
NA% (2010)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

Guatemala persists in its territorial claim to half of Belize, but agrees to the Line of Adjacency to keep Guatemalan squatters out of Belize's forested interior; both countries agreed in April 2012 to hold simultaneous referenda, scheduled for 6 October 2013, to decide whether to refer the dispute to the ICJ for binding resolution, but this vote was suspended indefinitely; Belize and Mexico are working to solve minor border demarcation discrepancies arising from inaccuracies in the 1898 border treaty

Trafficking in persons

current situation: Belize is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking; the coerced prostitution of women and children by family members has not led to arrests; child sex tourism, involving primarily US citizens, is on the rise; sex trafficking and forced labor of Belizean and foreign women and LGBT individuals occurs in bars, nightclubs, brothels, and domestic service; workers from Central America, Mexico, and Asia may fall victim to forced labor in restaurants, shops, agriculture, and fishing
tier rating: Tier 3 – Belize does not comply fully with the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so; authorities did not initiate any new trafficking investigations of prosecutions, and cases from previous years remain pending; law enforcement efforts to use informal means to identify and refer victims were ineffective and draft procedures for referring victims to services are still not finalized; trafficking victims were more commonly arrested, detained, or deported based on immigration violations than provided with assistance; the government did not make progress in implementing the 2012-2014 anti-trafficking national strategic plan (2015)

Illicit drugs

transshipment point for cocaine; small-scale illicit producer of cannabis, primarily for local consumption; offshore sector money-laundering activity related to narcotics trafficking and other crimes (2008)