Belize is a small nation on the eastern coast of Central America, on the Caribbean Sea bordered by Mexico to the northwest and Guatemala to the west and south. The only English-speaking country in Central America, Belize was a British colony for more than a century and was known as British Honduras until 1973.
It became an independent nation in 1981. Belize is a member of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Sistema de Integracion Centro Americana (SICA) and considers itself to be culturally both Caribbean, and Central American.
The Maya civilization spread over Belize between 1500 BC and AD 300 and flourished until about AD 900.
The first Europeans arrived in the area in the early 16th century and settlement began with British privateers and shipwrecked English seamen as early as 1638.
Geography and People
Location: 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
conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Belize
former: British Honduras
Economy - overview:
In this small, essentially private-enterprise economy, tourism is the number one foreign exchange earner followed by exports of marine products, citrus, cane sugar, bananas, and garments. The government's expansionary monetary and fiscal policies, initiated in September 1998, led to sturdy GDP growth averaging nearly 4% in 1999-2007, though growth slipped to 2.1% in 2008 and -1.5% in 2009 as a result of the global slowdown, natural disasters, and the drop in the price of oil. Oil discoveries in 2006 bolstered economic growth. Exploration efforts continue and production increased a small amount in 2009. Major concerns continue to be the sizable trade deficit and sizable foreign debt. In February 2007, the government restructured nearly all of its public external commercial debt, which helped reduce interest payments and relieve some of the country's liquidity concerns. A key short-term objective remains the reduction of poverty with the help of international donors.
Communications, Transportation, Military & Transnational Issues
Telephones - main lines in use:
Telephones - mobile cellular:
general assessment: above-average system; trunk network depends primarily on microwave radio relay
domestic: fixed-line teledensity of 10 per 100 persons; mobile-cellular teledensity roughly 55 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 (Intelsat - 2, unknown - 6) (2008)