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Belize flag
Belize coat of arms
flag coat of arms
Motto : Sub umbra floreo
( Latin , "I bloom in the shade")
Official language English
Capital Belmopan
Form of government Parliamentary monarchy
Head of state Queen Elizabeth II

represented by Governor General
Sir Colville Young

Head of government Prime Minister Dean Barrow
surface 22,966 km²
population 408,487 (2019 estimate)
Population density 17.8 inhabitants per km²
gross domestic product
  • Nominal
  • Total ( PPP )
  • GDP / inh. (nominal)
  • GDP / inh. (KKP)
  • $ 1,743 million ( 168. )
  • $ 3,090 million ( 170. )
  • 4,636 USD ( 100th )
  • 8,220 USD ( 119. )
Human Development Index 0.708 (106.)
currency Belize Dollar (BZD)
independence September 21, 1981
(from the UK )
National anthem Land of the Free
Time zone UTC − 6
License Plate BZ
ISO 3166 BZ , BLZ, 084
Internet TLD .bz
Telephone code +501
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Belize satellite image

Belize [ beˈliːz ] is a state in Central America . It emerged from the British Honduras colony in 1981 . International borders exist with Mexico and Guatemala .

Belize is the only Central American state where English is the official language. About a third of the population has African ancestors . The culture of the country is influenced by the Maya . When Belize gained independence in 1981, it became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations .


The name of the state is derived from the Belize River . Its first recorded mention comes from the year 1677: The Dominican priest Fray José Delgado recorded the river, which he crossed on his journey along the coast, as "Río Balís" in his records. This name was given to him by his translator and is probably derived from the Mayan word belix , which means "muddy" or "cloudy water".


Belize is located in the southeast of the Yucatán Peninsula . It is bordered by Mexico to the north, Guatemala to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east . It is the only country in Central America that has no access to the Pacific .

Except for the Maya Mountains inland with up to 1122 m ( Victoria Peak ), Belize is slightly hilly to even. The country the size of Israel is the second smallest state on the American continent after El Salvador . Nevertheless, it has very different landscapes.

Limit with length
Guatemala 266 km
Mexico 250 km
all in all* 902 km
* including coastline

Large parts of the north are covered by a highly indented hill country made of chalk limestone , which is barely higher than 100 m above sea level and is covered with palm savannahs. Swampy alluvial plains extend up to 75 km (in the north) from the lagoon-rich coast inland.

Central Belize consists of sandy soil, it is the land of savannahs . Around 48 kilometers southwest of Belize City , the country rises to 460 to 1,120 meters above sea level: The Mountain Pine Ridge and the Maya Mountains are located here. Abundant rainfall gives rise to numerous streams that feed the Macal River from the heights in the northwest. The Macal River and Mopan Rivers eventually merge and form the main tributaries of the Belize River .

In the south of Belize - with the Maya Mountains as a watershed towards the southeast - rivers flow on their short routes to the Caribbean , lined with overhanging cliffs and caves. Over the years, the rivers have enriched the coastal belt with their cargo of sand, clay and silt so that citrus fruits and bananas are successfully produced here. With an annual rainfall of around 4,320 millimeters, the mountainous south of Belize awaits with tropical rainforest and pine forests at high altitudes.


Caye Caulker Island, Belize

The coast has numerous coral reefs , sandbanks and atolls - such as Lighthouse Reef, Glover Reef and the Turneffe Islands . The reef off Belize is after the Great Barrier Reef together with its cayes the second largest coral reef in the world and the longest in the western hemisphere as well as the hemisphere north of the equator. The barrier reef stretches along the entire coast of Belize and protects a large number of small reefs, sandbanks and over 1000 islands, the so-called cayes ( pronunciation : [ ki: s ]). Most of the cayes and the coast outside the cities and settlements are made up of dense, extensive mangrove forests, which also act as protection against coastal erosion .

Biggest cities

Belize City

The largest cities in Belize are (as of January 1, 2005): Belize City 61,461 inhabitants (capital until 1969), San Ignacio 16,812 inhabitants, Orange Walk Town 15,298 inhabitants, Belmopan 13,381 inhabitants and Dangriga 10,750 inhabitants.

Belmopan has been the country's capital since 1970 and the seat of government since 2000. The city was built on clearing the jungle at the foothills of the Maya Mountains and is located in the geographical center of the country. Belmopan's residents are mostly civil servants . The city is in the first phase of a 20-year development plan. The facade of the parliament building on Independence Hill was decorated with an ancient Mayan motif.

Provinces, provincial capitals and places

Honduras Guatemala Mexiko Corozal District Orange Walk District Belize District Stann Creek District Cayo District Toledo District
Belize provinces
Street in Dangriga

The country is divided into six provinces:

  1. Belize District :
  2. Cayo District :
  3. Corozal District :
  4. Orange Walk District :
  5. Stann Creek District :
  6. Toledo District :


The climate is subtropical in the north and tropical in the south , with trade winds predominantly blowing from the Caribbean . The monthly temperatures fluctuate between 24 ° C and 27 ° C, the average air temperature is 25.9 degrees Celsius. The humidity is easy to bear due to the wind from the sea. Most of the rain falls between June and October, which is also the time when the humidity is highest. The annual precipitation is 4450 mm in the south and only 1290 mm in the north.

Climate diagram of Belize City

The regional differences in weather , the different altitudes and geological conditions provide different habitats for flora and fauna. 49 different types of forests can be classified in this way. The maximum temperatures rarely exceed 36 degrees Celsius in summer, and in winter they almost never fall below 16 degrees Celsius, even at night.

The rainy season lasts from May to November and is often accompanied by cyclones from July. Natural disasters that occur regularly are therefore hurricanes and, as a result, floods. A hurricane destroyed the then capital Belize City in 1961 , and Belmopan became the capital in 1970.

National nature


The biodiversity of the flora is very large, especially in the tropical forests. There are several thousand species of plants, including over 200 orchids and over 500 different woods. The vegetation of Belize is tropical rainforest and scattered pine savannahs in the south, marshland in the lowlands and a coast almost completely covered with mangroves .

Belize's jungle areas represent one of the largest contiguous remnants of the tropical rainforest in Central America, which once covered large areas. This green heart of Belize can even be seen on satellite images from space. Ferns , palm trees , lianas and tropical hardwoods (including mahogany , Mexican cedar , and campech wood ) grow here . The pine forests are mainly formed from pitch pine .


The jaguar , already revered by the Maya , can still be found wild in the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary . There are also many different species of birds and many other animals such as river crocodiles , various snakes and butterflies .

natural reserve

38% of the land area and 10% of the sea area were under nature protection in 2018 . The largest national park is the Chiquibul National Park with 1157 km² in the Maya Mountains to the south, the 403 km² strict wilderness reserve Bladen Nature Reserve. The Rio Bravo nature reserve is only slightly smaller than Chiquibul , but it has a much weaker protection status. Other - much smaller - examples of Belize's nature reserves are the Five Blues Lake National Park , the Guanacaste National Park and the Laughing Bird Caye National Park.


Ethnic groups

The largest group of the population with almost 53% are the mestizos , who have whites and Indians as ancestors. These mestizos have immigrated from the surrounding countries. The so-called Creoles ( Creole ) in Belize are more or less dark-skinned and have Africans and whites as ancestors. Their ancestors came to Belize from the Lesser Antilles as slaves or immigrated as seasonal workers. They make up around 26% of the population.

The Maya make up about 11% of the population and speak three different Maya languages : Yucatec ( Mayathan ), Q'eqchi ' and Mopan . Most of the Maya are not originally from Belize, but immigrated from Mexico (Yucatec) and Guatemala (Q'eqchi '). Only the Mopan speakers, who make up around 4% of the population, are originally from Belize.

A special feature of the population diversity are the Garifuna or "Black Caribs", a culture that originated on St. Vincent from stranded West African slaves who mixed with Caribs and Arawak and later transferred to the Bay Islands, which at that time belonged to Jamaica, by the British colonial rulers were forcibly resettled before Honduras and spread from there on the east coast of Central America. They make up about 6% of the population.

Another ethnic group with around 4% are Mennonites of German descent . Most are Russian mennonites who immigrated from Mexico in 1958 . These speak Plautdietsch and partly belong to the conservative community of the old colonial Mennonites . A smaller subgroup, originally from the United States, immigrated in the late 1960s, speaks Pennsylvania German, and is an ancient Mennonite . In 2010 there were 11,574 Mennonites in Belize.

The rest of the population are immigrant Arabs , mostly Lebanese , but also Palestinians and Syrians , as well as Chinese and Indians . There are also whites who immigrated mostly from English-speaking countries.

The country is one of the Central American states with the lowest population density , but has above-average population growth.

The population groups were distributed as follows in 2010: Mestizos 52.9%, so-called Creoles (predominantly of African origin) 25.9%, Maya , 11.3%, Garifuna 6.1%, Mennonites of German origin 3.6%, Indians 3 , 9%, others 3.7%.

In 2017, 16% of the population were migrants. The most common countries of origin were Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

Population development

year population
1950 069,000
1960 092,000
1970 122,000
1980 144,000
1990 188,000
2000 247,000
2010 322,000
2016 367,000

Source: UN

age structure

40.1% of the population are under 15 years old (of which male 57,114 / female 54,877), 56.4% are between 15 and 64 years old (of which male 79,694 / female 77,881) and 3.5% are older than 65 years ( of which male 4768 / female 5123). The average life expectancy is 68.44 years (men: 66.54 years / women: 70.44 years). The average age of the population is 19.35 years (men: 19.21 years / women: 19.49 years).


In 2000 the religious affiliations were distributed as follows: Catholics are about 50% of the population, Pentecostals 7.4%, Anglicans 5.3%, Seventh-day Adventists 5.2%, Mennonites 4.1%, Methodists 3.5% and Jehovah's Witnesses 1.5%. Around 1.0% of the population (around 2800 people) are Muslim , other religious communities (including traditional Mesoamerican religions ) make up 13%, and 9.4% without religious affiliation.


The languages ​​in Belize are English ( official language ), English-Creole (Patois), Spanish , Garifuna , Maya languages and Plautdietsch . Standard German is also used as the language of worship and religious instruction, especially among the Mennonites who speak Low German . In addition, Pennsylvania German is used in some (Mennonite) colonies .

According to the 2010 census, language skills are distributed as follows (several languages ​​per speaker could be given):

Languages ​​in Belize (2010)
language speaker
number percent
Number of people 292.263
Creole 130,467 44.6
German 9,364 3.2
English 183.903 62.9
Garifuna 8,442 2.9
Maya Ketchi 17,581 6.0
Maya Mopan 10,649 3.6
Spanish 165.296 56.6
other 7,847 2.7
no language or no information 1,537 0.5


Altun Ha, Belize

Before the Europeans

Already around 2000 BC BC the region of today's Belize was settled by the Maya . However, the Maya living in Belize today are only a small part of the descendants of the ancient Maya population of Belize; the majority did not immigrate from surrounding regions until the colonial era. Significant archaeological finds from that period were discovered in Cuello (Orange Walk District) . During the "classical period" of the Maya civilization (around 250–900), cultural centers arose in Altun Ha , Xunantunich , Cahal Pech , Lamanai , Lubaantun , El Pilar and Caracol . Around the year 900, the Mayan heyday came to an end and the population collapsed in the southern lowlands, including Belize. These lowlands were then either empty or very sparsely populated.

Colonial times

Mahogany industry in Belize around 1930

Little is known about the centuries that followed. It is certain that descendants of the Maya continued to inhabit the country and still lived there when the Spanish conquerors came to the region in the 16th century . In 1617, the area became part of the Yucatán General Capitol in the viceroyalty of New Spain , which was headed by a governor . The Real Audiencia of Mexico was responsible for jurisdiction and administrative supervision .

Many indigenous people fled inland. There were repeated battles with the European (Spanish and later British) colonizers. The country was of particular interest to Europeans because of its tropical woods. Due to the persistent resistance of the residents and the impassable terrain, however, they concentrated their activities on the areas of the later countries Mexico and Honduras , where gold and silver could also be found.

However, the coasts of Belize offered an ideal retreat for British pirates , who made their raids against the Spanish fleets from there . It wasn't until 1670 that this piracy came to a standstill when Britain and Spain signed a treaty in Madrid to end the practice. The Baymen , as the pirates or privateers were called because they were mainly in the Gulf (Bay) of Honduras , were forced to look for other sources of income and found them in the trade in tropical timber. In 1763, with the Treaty of Paris, Spain gave them permission to extract wood in a certain part of Belize. For around 100 years it remained the main source of income for the British settlers in the region. Slavery soon went hand in hand with forest work . The work was strenuous and from the 18th century onwards, European settlers began using African slaves for it. Until 1790, the share of slave labor in the total registered population, without the Maya, which was not counted, was around 75%. It was not until 1833 that slavery was abolished in the British Empire in the wake of the industrial revolution that created new relations of production. While slave owners were compensated for the loss of their “property”, that is, the freed slaves, they received neither compensation nor were they allowed to acquire land.

British colonial rule

Central America was still under the control of the Spaniards at the time, but the British settlers gradually gave them more control. On September 10, 1798, the battle of St. George's Caye finally saw the decisive military defeat of the Spaniards and the country was now de facto under British rule. In 1862 it became the British Crown Colony of British Honduras . The settlers, the Baymen , led a largely independent and self-determined life under Spanish rule and maintained that even under British rule. As a legal basis, a kind of basic law or constitution, " Burnaby's Code " served from 1765 .

In 1847–1901 the so-called caste war broke out on the Yucatán peninsula (Mexico) between the original inhabitants, the Maya, and the Spanish-born upper class. The British residents of British Honduras supplied the rebellious Maya with weapons and ammunition - which opened up a welcome source of income for them. The country became a target for refugees as the war progressed: first from members of the Mexican upper class who fled the insurgents, and later, when they regained control, Maya. As farmers, the latter had a great influence on the development of the northern provinces of the country with their agricultural skills.

At the beginning of the 20th century the resistance of the mainly non-European population (Maya, descendants of slaves) against the British colonial masters increased. Soldiers who served in the British Army during the First World War were only used in labor camps there because of their skin color, which further increased discontent. The interwar period and the Second World War made the economic situation even worse and the drive for independence stronger. India's independence in 1947 also intensified these efforts. Political parties had emerged by 1962 and the country's administration was largely independent. In 1973 the name was changed from "British Honduras" to "Belize".


Riots in Belize (January 21, 2005)

On September 21, 1981, independence from Great Britain finally took place . However, the relationship with neighboring Guatemala , which made territorial claims and could only be prevented from military action by the United Nations-supported stay in Belize, remained problematic . It was not until 1992 that the Guatemalan government signed a treaty that recognized Belize's independence, but did not clarify claims to territories in the west of the country. Negotiations have been taking place between the two countries since 2000.

In the first parliamentary elections after independence in 1984, the United Democratic Party (UDP) was victorious ; Prime Minister was Manuel Esquivel . Five years later, George Cadle Price , previously the first minister or prime minister before independence, took over the post of head of government for the People's United Party (PUP). In 1993 he again had to leave it to Esquivel and the UDP. Layoffs in the public sector and price hikes resulted in an overwhelming election victory for the PUP in 1998. Said W. Musa became the new prime minister . He owed his re-election in 2003 mainly to extensive infrastructure measures and the creation of living space and jobs. However, this drove up national debt, so that in 2004 the government was forced to launch an austerity program.

Belize was largely spared the wars and civil wars that other Central and South American countries went through. But at the beginning of 2005 there was unrest in Belize due to the state budget situation and planned tax increases .

In February 2008, the PUP was replaced by a landslide victory for UDP. Governing Prime Minister is Dean Oliver Barrow .



According to the Constitution, which came into force on September 21, 1981, Belize is a parliamentary monarchy in the Commonwealth. The head of state is the British Queen, currently Elizabeth II , who is represented by a Governor General. The government is led by the Prime Minister. The House of Representatives and the Senate form the legislature. The deputies are elected directly every five years, the senators are appointed on the proposal of the government, the opposition and an advisory board made up of entrepreneurs, trade unions and clergy .

Head of state

The head of state is Elizabeth II, Queen of Belize and thus the current holder of the Belizean throne. Her official title is Elizabeth The Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of Belize and of Her Other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth . Its representative in the country is Governor General Sir Colville Young (since November 17, 1993).


The executive branch consists of a cabinet of currently 14 members and four state ministers. In administrative terms, Belize is divided into the six districts of Belize, Cayo, Corozal, Orange Walk, Stann Creek and Toledo. There are elected self-governing bodies (town boards) in the district capitals. In the course of strengthening local self-government, village councils were also elected in March 2001. Head of government is Dean Barrow ( UDP ), who is also Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, Defense and Public Service.

houses of Parliament

Legislation is incumbent on the National Assembly, which consists of two chambers and has a legislative period of no more than five years. The House of Representatives consists of 31 members directly elected by majority voting. Of the thirteen senators, six or seven including the Senate President are appointed by the governor general on the proposal of the government, three on the proposal of the opposition, and three on the proposal of an advisory board made up of employers, trade unions and churches.

The current, more economically liberal ruling party UDP has held 17 of the 31 seats in the House of Representatives since the elections in March 2012, the opposition, the more populist and participatory PUP , 14 seats.


The independence of the courts in Belize is protected by the constitution. In practice, however, the executive can exert influence because, on the one hand, judges and attorneys general have to conclude or extend their employment contracts with the government, and on the other hand, prominent government representatives often continue their legal practice even during their public office.

The highest court of cassation for Belize today is the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). In spring 2001, Belize and the majority of its CARICOM partners signed the founding act for the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the future supreme criminal and civil law instance in the region, replacing the British Privy Council. In September 2004 the government also submitted a law to parliament on participation in the trust fund to finance the CCJ.

Within Belize, the Magistrates' Court have jurisdiction over minor offenses or civil matters. The Supreme Court is the next higher instance or responsible for capital crimes . The third instance is the Court of Appeal .

The Belize Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the death penalty in April 1998. The last execution in Belize took place in 1985. Before being replaced by the CCJ, the Privy Council in London, as the court of last instance, granted a stay of enforcement or decided on commutation. Against the background of increasing violent crime z. In some cases with drug transit as the background, the public is demanding that enforcement be resumed. Both the government and the opposition responded to these wishes, and in September 2002 the government submitted proposals for appropriate constitutional amendments to parliament (House of Representatives), but withdrew them again in June 2003. This is linked to the expectation of support, particularly from the EU, in improving the police , judiciary and penal system .

Male homosexuality was still a criminal offense in Belize until August 10, 2016, making it the last country in Central America to have such a ban. The ban was lifted as unconstitutional by the highest court.


Belize has had a two-party system since 1961, although it is not constitutionally enshrined. Any adult Belizean can stand as a candidate in one of the 31 constituencies.


The National Trade Union Congress of Belize is the umbrella organization of individual sector unions; the Christian Workers' Union and the Democratic Independent Union are less important .


The " Belize Defense Force " (BDF) consists of professional soldiers and volunteers with a strength of about 1,500 men (other sources: 1,050 men), of which about 700 reservists and two trains (platoon) with soldiers. The BDF is led by a brigadier general , a colonel and seven lieutenant colonels . Traditionally, the BDF cooperates primarily with the British Army (British Army Training Support Unit Belize - BATSUB) and the US Army (equipment and training aid). In 2007 a staff officer of the BDF took part in a general staff course at the command academy of the Bundeswehr in Hamburg for the first time.

Coast guard

The Belizean Coast Guard Service (BCGS) was established in November 2005 by pooling resources from the Belize Defense Force Navy, the police, customs, immigration and port authorities. The main task is to combat (drug) smuggling. The Coast Guard receives substantial funding and support through an anti-drug program from the US State Department (Counternarcotics and Law Enforcement Country Program: Belize). Since the Coast Guard does not have radar, it only operates in daylight.


  • eight speed boats (former Colombian drug boats with powerful outboard motors, which were confiscated, without radar and GPS)
  • The Belize Defense Force provides an aircraft if necessary.

Foreign policy

Belize is in a border dispute with Guatemala . Guatemala suggested leaving the dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) , which the Belizean government refuses. On October 6, 2013, a simultaneous referendum in both countries should clarify whether the ICJ should be referred to the case. Guatemala let this deadline pass. In spring 2014, under the leadership of the OAS, an attempt was made to hold another referendum in an agreement. A joint date originally planned for September 2015 was postponed by an amendment agreement signed by both sides in May 2015, which enables referendums to be held at different times. In 2018, a majority of 96% of Guatemalans voted for the proposed method of conflict resolution. On May 8, 2019, the referendum took place in Belize, in which 55% of the voters also voted for the commissioning of the International Court of Justice.

Belize is a member of the following organizations: United Nations , Commonwealth , CARICOM , Movement of Non-Aligned States , AKP , OAS , CELAC , ACS ; IMF , Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), SICA , AOSIS


The college attached to the regional University of the West Indies was expanded to the University of Belize in 2000 . It has a human science and a natural science department. However, your degrees are only partially recognized abroad (i.e. USA ). Spanish is the only compulsory foreign language taught. The literacy rate in 2015 was 82.7% of the adult population.


Although the economy has grown strongly in recent years, the high national debt of 85% of gross domestic product severely limits the ability to act in economic policy. Around a third of the population still lives below the poverty line. In 2019, the country ranks 123rd out of 180 countries in the index for economic freedom .

The main branch of industry is the extraction of precious woods , especially mahogany . In addition to the use of modern sawmills, the stock of timber is also being reforested as planned. The tree trunks are still transported in the floods of the rivers.

In June 2000, Belize was listed by the OECD as a country where tax evasion and money laundering are possible. It had until 2005 to remedy these conditions and thus avoid sanctions. The loose laws have since been tightened. Still, Belize is a tax haven. Since the country has a "beneficiary", i. H. If you have unlimited access to the British Commonwealth, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the EU, you can - if you acquire citizenship of Belize - travel to all European countries as well as Australia, Canada, Hong Kong and Singapore without a visa. In Russia, this citizenship can be purchased.

In August 2012, the Belizean government announced that it would not be able to service the interest rate due on a government bond of US $ 500 million and entered into debt restructuring negotiations with the creditors . The leading rating agencies then downgraded Belize's credit rating to default.

On January 28, 2016, the EU Commission presented a package of measures to combat tax evasion , including Belize on the black list of tax havens .

Key figures

All GDP values ​​are given in US dollars ( purchasing power parity ).

year 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
(purchasing power parity)
0.20 billion 0.29 billion 0.62 billion 0.94 billion 1.36 billion 1.98 billion 2.14 billion 2.22 billion 2.34 billion 2.37 billion 2.48 billion 2.59 billion 2.73 billion 2.80 billion 2.96 billion 3.11 billion 3.13 billion 3.21 billion
GDP per capita
(purchasing power parity)
1,367 1,717 3,281 4,324 5,456 6,799 7,098 7.126 7,254 7,350 7,668 7,785 8,017 7,994 8,295 8,480 8,329 8,324
GDP growth
5.0% −1.4% 11.2% 0.7% 13.0% 2.6% 4.6% 1.1% 3.2% 0.8% 3.3% 2.1% 3.7% 0.7% 4.0% 3.8% −0.5% 0.8%
(in percent)
7.0% 4.1% 2.0% 2.9% 0.6% 3.7% 4.2% 2.3% 6.4% −1.1% 0.9% 1.7% 1.2% 0.5% 1.2% −0.9% 0.7% 1.1%
Public debt
(as a percentage of GDP)
... ... ... ... ... 100% 94% 92% 86% 93% 88% 82% 79% 79% 77% 81% 96% 99%


The soils that are suitable for agricultural use are rarely used: people grow corn , beans , rice , cassava , plantains and vegetables on small areas for their own needs. The largest and most modern farms and dairy farming, especially in the Belize River valley and in the Orange Walk district, are largely run by the Mennonite ethnic group . On the contained mostly foreign-owned large plantations are sugarcane , citrus fruits , bananas , cocoa and coconuts grown. Precious woods, especially mahogany, are felled in the tropical rainforest . Abundant fish stocks form the basis for well-developed coastal fishing. Agriculture, fishing and forestry provide more than half of the export revenues.

Agriculture generates around 20% of the gross domestic product and over 60% of the export revenues; it employs almost a third of the working population.


The poorly developed industry is limited to the manufacture of textiles and wood and food processing.

The share of the manufacturing industry, including the energy sector, in GDP is around 26% (18% of jobs).


Around 200,000 tourists (mainly from the USA) come to the country every year. The reef coast is very popular with divers and surfers , and those interested in culture visit the Mayan ruins at Orange Walk. The native flora and fauna can be admired at the Belize Zoo . Cruise tourism is also important. The further expansion of the tourism sector is being held back by the lack of large hotel complexes and simple infrastructure.

The share of tourism in the total economic output is estimated at around 10%.


Services generate a total of 56.5% of the national product.

Foreign trade

According to government reports, the trade deficit widened in 2001/02 and a. due to the removal of the hurricane damage (2000: Hurricane "Keith", 2001: "Iris") from 170.1 million US dollars (2000) to 186.7 million US dollars (2001) and 196.6 ( 2003). In 2003 imports were worth 541 million US dollars, while exports totaled 344.4 million US dollars.

With a share of almost 50% of the total Belizean trade volume (2001: 47.2% of all imports, 50.5% of all exports) the USA has a dominant position; they are followed by Great Britain (Belizean exports: 23%, imports 2.7%), Mexico (exports: 1%, imports: 11.2%) and the EU (excluding the UK: exports 6.7%, imports 3.8%) . However, the extensive "small border trade" with Mexico (i.e. mainly Mexican imports) is hardly recorded. In terms of exports, in addition to agricultural and fishery products in various processing stages, the textile sector (contract processing for the USA under the preferential conditions of the “Caribbean Basin Initiative” expanded by Congress in May 2000) plays a role. In 2003, trade with Germany was of little quantitative importance with German exports of EUR 4.762 million (2002: EUR 7.34 million) and imports of EUR 1.69 million (2002: EUR 2.17 million). In the first half of 2004 the trend continued to decline.


Belize's main import goods are machinery, fuels, food and all kinds of consumer goods.


The main export goods of Belize are sugar, citrus fruits, bananas, cocoa, coconuts, beef, fish, crabs, precious woods and clothing.

State budget

The state budget in 2016 comprised expenditures equivalent to US $ 650 million , which was offset by income equivalent to US $ 500 million. This results in a budget deficit of 8.5% of GDP .

National debt was 94% of GDP at the beginning of 2019.

Government expenditure accounted for (in% of GDP):


Belize has 2,872 km of road, 488 km of which is paved or paved. Main roads connect the eight cities in the country. In the rainy season , traffic is often partially interrupted by heavy downpours, especially near the ferry ports. The road network is not as good as that of other Central American countries, but it is constantly being expanded, especially in the north. Driving overland after dark should be avoided. There are petrol stations on the main roads that connect Belize City with Mexico and Guatemala, and in larger cities. There is no breakdown assistance. There is right-hand traffic .
There are 43 airfields in the country, 5 of which have a paved runway. Scheduled flights connect the larger cities every day. Maya Island Air and Tropic Air fly daily from Belize City to San Pedro (Ambergris Caye) as well as Caribee Air Service and Javier's Flying Service and to all major locations. Small planes can be rented. Various charter services fly from Belize City to the more remote regions. The main international airport is Philip SW Goldson International Airport in Ladyville outside of Belize City.
There are 825 km of navigable waterways, which can only be used by small ships. The sugar factories operate a motorboat service on the coast, there are no timetables. Smaller motor boats connect the Cayes on the coast with Belize City. Boats were once the only means of transport inland on the Belize, Hondo and New River . However, they have almost disappeared since the paved roads were built.

The cheapest way to travel in Belize is by bus. Buses run on scheduled services and are clean, spacious and efficient compared to other Central American standards.


The media in Belize faces recognizable problems with the freedom of reporting. In the 2019 press freedom ranking published by Reporters Without Borders , the country was ranked 53rd out of 180 countries.

Telecommunication and internet

About 41,000 landline telephone lines are in operation in Belize and the national telephone company is called "Belize Telemedia Limited". There is also the private provider "SMART", which is mostly used by the local population. Both are available nationwide. Phone cards are available in numerous locations. The prepaid cards are loaded at the so-called "TOP-UP" ​​stations, which usually include every supermarket.

There are around 350,000 cell phones in the country, BTL alone has 270,000 GSM customers. There are reception / transmission options for mobile communications in all six districts. Both providers offer both GSM in the 1900 MHz band and LTE as so-called 4G. Mobile phones can also be used at BTL u. a. at Phillip Goldson International Airport (PGIA). In order to be able to make mobile phone calls in Belize with your own phone, an open PCS-1900 mobile phone is required. Mobile phones can be activated in a BTL or "Digicell" branch or SMART. Prepaid cards can be purchased in many stores across the country.

More than 165,000 people used the internet in 2016 (45% of the population). Internet providers include BTL and Belize Web, SMART, and many regional cable companies and wireless providers. There is an “E-Mail Service Center” in the BTL office in Belize City and internet cafes in city centers and tourist areas. In most cafes and bars, guests can use free WiFi.

The use of Internet telephony (e.g. with Skype ), Whatsapp, Facetime etc. is no longer prevented by any of the providers.


After the state Broadcasting Corporation of Belize was dissolved (1998), there are several radio stations and two television stations, Channel 5 and Channel 7. The news can be accessed daily via video stream on the website.


There are no daily newspapers in Belize, only four weekly papers with a small circulation:

Belize Times (PUP sheet), Reporter (independent), Guardian (previously “People's Pulse”, UDP sheet), Amandala (independent, but per PUP). The San Pedro Sun is issued in San Pedro on Ambergris Caye but is available across the country.


Characterized by the coexistence of different ethnicities or ethnic-religious groups (mestizos, Creoles, indigenous peoples , Garifunas, Mennonites, etc.), a corresponding cultural diversity can be found. As expected, African and Latin American influences have a large share, especially in popular belief, in the local cuisine and music; But there are also special features to be found in sports or social interaction.

Popular belief

Belize is rich in myths and legends, in which spirits and natural beings can be found, some of which behave benevolently towards people but also evil and / or dangerous. Popular figures are Anansi , Tata Duende , Cadejo , X'tabai , or La Llorona , which is not only known in Belize . In addition, the belief in spiritual healing and ethnic religions (especially Obeah ) is widespread.


Typical breakfast dishes are Fry Jacks (deep-fried flatbreads), Johnny Cakes (flatbreads made from cornmeal), or tortillas. Cheese, frijoles refritos (bean porridge) or differently prepared eggs are also eaten. Overall, Latin American cuisine plays a major role (e.g. tortillas, rice, beans), with quantitative variations of the individual ethnicities (fish and other seafood, chicken, cassava, coleslaw). Local fruit and vegetables are also common.


In addition to music exports from Jamaica, the Caribbean and the USA, the music of three population groups is particularly important. While the mestizo with the cumbia a salsa - and Merengue prefer -like music style, the Creoles developed from bonds of Soca / Calypso and Buru , the music of the lumberjack, the Brukdown . Another style of music is Mento , increasingly influenced by Jamaicans. Both Brukdown and Mento are more expressions of the simple, rural population, although Wilfred Peters (1939–2010) and his Boom & Chimes Band, the main exponent of Brukdown, enjoyed enormous popularity throughout Belize.

The descendants of African slaves, the Garifunas, left the strongest impression. Their traditional pieces, dominated by drums and provided with a cappella chants, circular dances, binary or triplet rhythms and sisera, hand rattles made from calabashes , have been preserved and continuously developed over the centuries. Many other currents arose over it. The best-known example is the punta skirt , which, enriched with electronic instruments, developed from an original fertility dance . Famous representatives of this variety are u. a. Andy Palacio (1960-2008) and Pen Cayetano .


So far only one novel has been translated into German from Belize - “Beka” ( Beka Lamb , 1982) by Zee Edgell (* 1940), which tells the story of a Creole girl between matriarchy and the awakening national movement during the 1950s, when the country was still was a British colony. Her novel Time and the River (2007) deals with the subject of slavery in the early 19th century.

sport and freetime

In addition to the more well-known and popular sports such as soccer, basketball, volleyball, softball, cricket, boxing, athletics and cycling, there are also rarities such as Jai Alai or the unexpected such as ice hockey. The Cross Country Cycling Classic , a cycling race that has been held annually on the Easter weekend since 1928, has gained international attention . Belize has been taking part in the Summer Olympics regularly since 1968 , but so far without winning any medals.

The barrier reef off the coast , the second largest of its kind in the world after the Australian Great Barrier Reef , which is used by the locals as a popular recreation area for all types of water sports, mainly during the school holidays and over the Easter holidays, is of both tourist and sporting importance .

Family and Social

Polite manners are important to most Belize residents. It is not uncommon for people to greet each other who have never met before, or for acquaintances to be so engrossed in conversation that they forget everything around them.

A steadily growing number of families are led by single parents , mostly women. Influenced by this development, many young people forego official marriage and live in a marriage-like community, the so-called common-law marriage . It is unusual to live in the parental household when you are over 20 years old. While the trend is towards a single head of the family, there are significant numbers of grandparents who raise their grandchildren, with or without the support of a parent. In 2009 a woman had an average of 2.8 children.


public holidays

  • January 1st: New Year
  • March 9: Baron Bliss Day ( National Heroes and Benefactors Day )
  • Good Friday
  • Easter Monday
  • May 1st: Labor Day
  • May 21: Commonwealth Day
  • September 10: St. George's Caye Day
  • September 21: National Day (Independence Day)
  • October 10: Columbus Day ( Panamerican Day )
  • NOVEMBER 19: Garifuna Day ( Garifuna Settlement Day )
  • 25./26. December: Christmas ( Christmas Day , Boxing Day )


  • Saskia Thorbecke: Belize. In: Wolfgang Gieler , Markus Porsche-Ludwig (Hrsg.): State dictionary America: Geography, history, culture, politics and economy. Peter Lang, Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-631-77017-7 , pp. 61–72.
  • Renate Johanna Mayr: Belize. Tracking the path of its history; from the heart of the Mayan empire to a retreat for buccaneers, a safe-haven for ex-pirates and pioneers, a crown colony and a modern nation . Lit, Vienna 2014, ISBN 978-3-643-90481-2 .
  • Manfred Rauschert: Adventure Belize. Reports of an unknown country in Central America . Keil Verlag, Bonn 1984.

Web links

Commons : Belize  album containing pictures, videos and audio files
Wikimedia Atlas: Belize  - geographical and historical maps
Wikivoyage: Belize  Travel Guide
Wiktionary: Belize  - Explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

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Coordinates: 17 °  N , 89 °  W