Sustainability Now is an impossible goal when the people in a place are separated by large income and value gaps as well as many in the population having lack of access to other factors of human welfare. In Belize a key government objective remains the reduction of poverty and inequality with the help of international donors. Although Belize has the second highest per capita income in Central America, the average income figure masks a huge income disparity between rich and poor. The sizable trade deficit and heavy foreign debt burden continue to be major concerns.
Belize has a small, essentially private enterprise economy that is based primarily on agriculture, tourism, and services. A number of Government and international development agencies are involved in assisting the Government of Belize in its development through economic cooperation programs. The economy of Belize was traditionally based on forestry, mainly the export of logwood, mahogany and chicle. The country’s economy is now based on agricultural development. But in recent years there has been resurgence in forestry. The cultivation of newly discovered crude oil in the town of Spanish Lookout has presented new prospects and problems for this developing nation. Besides petroleum, Belize’s other primary exports are citrus, sugar, bananas, fish products (mainly lobster), timber and garments. Dairy farming is growing in importance and the livestock industry continues to grow.
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.
Domestic industry is limited, constrained by relatively high-cost labor 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.
Today the people and Government of Belize face a number of decisive challenges at this juncture in their history. Accordingly, the Government is committed to promoting the kind of socio-economic development which enhances the society’s capacity to cope with these challenges, positions the country favorably in the international economy, while ensuring the improvement in the general level of welfare of the citizens. The country’s 809 thousand hectares (2.0 million acres) of arable land offers tremendous opportunities for investment in a variety of activities. Of particular interest are developments in these areas:
- Light Manufacturing Industries
- Forestry-Based Industries
Tourism is a quickly growing industry throughout the country. A promotional campaign has been launched aimed at the nature-loving tourist. Belize is blessed with the second largest barrier reef in the world, three of the four atolls in the Caribbean, a large network of caves on land and in the sea, a wide variety of animals-including the endangered Jaguar, 500 species of birds, colorful flora and fauna. Over 600 Maya ruins, many rivers and a small easy-going and harmonious multiracial society characterize this Caribbean country in Central America. Just as recently as October 2014 the New York Times published an article on Belize beaches as the best in the Caribbean.
In 2013 the GDP of Belize was estimated at $1.637 billion with an annual growth rate of 2.3%. The country’s gross external debt was estimated to be $1.362 billion. The GDP by sector is Agriculture (9.7%), industry (19.4%), and services (59%). The population level of Belize estimated to be below the poverty level is 41% while the labor force is represented by approximately 120,500 people. Overall there is a shortage of skilled labor and all types of technical personnel. The labor force by occupation is characterized by agriculture (10.2%), industry (18.1%), and services (71.7%). The main industries are garment production, food processing, tourism, construction, and oil. The primary export goods from Belize are sugar, bananas, citrus, clothing, fish products, molasses, wood, and crude oil at an annual export value of $555.8 million. Major import goods include machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods, fuels, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, food, beverages, and tobacco.
The Government proposes to achieve sustained economic growth, real social progress and diversification of the Belizean economy in several ways:
- Increased public investment in economic and social infrastructure, maintenance of assets and the satisfaction of the basic human needs;
- Diversification of agriculture;
- Legislation that encourages capital formation and industrial activities;
- Development of our human resources and skills;
- Building of a sound physical and social infrastructure;
- Revitalizing a dynamic partnership between the public and private sectors.
Village Street Scene
Village Street Scene