Background: Territorial disputes between the UK and Guatemala delayed the independence of Belize (formerly British Honduras) until 1981. Guatemala refused to recognize the new nation until 1992. Tourism has become the mainstay of the economy. The country remains plagued by high unemployment, growing involvement in the South American drug trade, and increased urban crime.
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 the negotiation of a definitive agreement on territorial differences with Guatemala.
Land Use: arable land: 10%; permanent crops: 1%; permanent pastures: 2%; forests and woodland: 84%; other: 3% (2000 est.)
Current Environmental Issues: deforestation; water pollution from sewage, industrial effluents, agricultural runoff; solid waste disposal
International Environmental Agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
(All agreements have been signed and ratified.)
Population: 256,062 (July 2001 est.); Age structure: 0-14 years: 42.04% (male 54,876; female 52,780); 15-64 years: 54.43% (male 70,534; female 68,837); 65 years and over: 3.53% (male 4,403; female 4,632) (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS: Adults Prevalence Rate: 2.01% (1999 est.); People living with AIDS: 2,400 (1999 est.); HIV/AIDS deaths: 170 (1999 est.)
Ethnic groups: mestizo 43.7%, Creole 29.8%, Maya 10%, Garifuna 6.2%, other 10.3%
Literacy: 70.3% (both sexes)
International Organization Participation: ACP, C, Caricom, CDB, ECLAC, FAO, G-77, IADB, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, IOM, ITU, LAES, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO
Economy Overview: The small, essentially private enterprise economy is based primarily on agriculture, agro-based industry, and merchandising, with tourism and construction assuming greater importance. Sugar, the chief crop, accounts for nearly half of exports, while the banana industry is the country's largest employer. The government's tough austerity program in 1997 resulted in an economic slowdown that continued in 1998. The trade deficit has been growing, mostly as a result of low export prices for sugar and bananas. The tourist and construction sectors strengthened in early 1999, supporting growth of 6% in 1999 and 4% in 2000. Aided by international donors, the government's key short-term objective remains the reduction of poverty.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $790 million (2000 est.)
Airports: 44 (2000 est.); Airports - with paved runways: total: 4; 1,524 to
2,437 m: 1; 914 to 1,523 m: 1;
under 914 m: 2 (2000 est.)
Disputes - international: Guatemala periodically asserts claims to territory in southern Belize; to deter cross-border squatting, both states in 2000 agreed to a "line of adjacency" based on the de facto boundary, which is not recognized by Guatemala
Illicit drugs: minor transshipment point for cocaine; small-scale illicit producer of cannabis for the international drug trade; minor money-laundering center