Government is in the process of changing its regulation of the offshore financial sector in response to the criticisms from the OECD which labelled it as a 'tax haven'. Belize has signed a letter of commitment with the OECD agreeing to exchange information with overseas authorities in criminal tax matters by 31 December 2003 and in civil tax matters by 31 December 2005. Belize was not labelled as 'uncooperative' in preventing money laundering by the Financial Action Task Force. Legislation permitting bearer shares and other privacy features are in the process of being changed. Belize has anti-money-laundering legislation, a Central Bank and a Financial Services Commission. About 10,000 international business companies are registered. Belize also offers ship, trust, and offshore banking registration. Belize's financial services legislation includes the:
- Money Laundering (Prevention) Act 1996
- Offshore Banking Act 1996
- Registration of Merchant Ships Act 1989
- Registration of Merchant Ships (Amendment) Act 1996
- International Business Companies Act 1990
- International Business Companies (Amendment) Act 1995
- Trusts Act 1992
- International Insurance Act 1999
- Mutual Funds Act 1999
- Limited Liability Partnerships Act 1999
- Protected Cell Companies Act, 1999
- Limited Life Companies Act, 1999
- International Financial Services Commission Act, 1999
- Export Processing Zone (EPZ) Act 1990
- Commercial Free Zone Act (CFZ), 1994
- Computer Wagering Licensing Act, 1995
The Computer Wagering Licensing Act allows gambling over the Internet. Belize ended its economic citizenship programme in January 2002.
The corporate tax rate in 2003 was 25%. The business tax is 1.25%. Business tax assessed during the year is credited against the corporate income tax liability, and, at the end of the tax year, any excess corporate tax liability is cancelled provided a corporate income tax return is filed (source: KPMG).
Belize Trade and Investment Development Service
#14 Orchid Garden St, Belmopan, Belize
Tel: (501) 8 23737/20178
Fax: (501) 8 20595
Web site: http://www.belizeinvest.org.bz/
Population (end-2003 IMF estimate)
258,000; Meztizos 48%, Creole 24.9%.
Belmopan is the administrative capital, while Belize City is the main commercial centre.
The Belize dollar is pegged at US$1 = BZ$2
Belize's official language is English. Spanish and a Creole dialect are widely spoken.
Based on the English legal system. Belize has magistrates courts and a Supreme Court. Final appeals go to the Privy Council in the UK.
An independent parliamentary democracy with the British monarch as the head of state and represented by a governor-general who must be a Belizean. The prime minister and cabinet form the executive branch and are chosen by the 29-member elected House of Representatives from the majority party. House of Representative members are elected by plurality vote from single-seat constituencies. The governor-general appoints seven of the eight members of the Senate on the advice of the governing and opposition parties and appoints the eighth on the advice of the Belize Advisory Council. House of Representative and Senate members serve a maximum of five years.
Governor-general: Sir Colville Young.
Prime minister and minister of finance, defence and the public service: Said Musa
Cabinet (18 August 2004)
Deputy prime minister and minister of natural resources minister of state in the ministry of finance: John Briceño
Health and the environment: Vildo Marin
Home affairs and investment: Ralph Fonseca
National development: Assad Shoman
Tourism, culture and enterprise: Mark Espat
Attorney general, education, youth and sports: Mark Espat
Foreign affairs and NEMO: Godfrey Smith
Works, minister of state in the ministry of finance: Jose Coye
Housing and transport: Cordel Hyde
Local government and labour: Cordel Hyde
Agriculture: Servulo Baeza
Human development: Servulo Baeza
Foreign trade: Servulo Baeza
Fisheries, cooperatives and commerce and industry: Mike Espat
Energy and communications: Ainslie Leslie
People's United Party (PUP): leader Said Musa
United Democratic Party (UDP): leader Dean Barrow.
In the 5 March 2003 general elections the PUP were re-elected as the country’s government, with voters giving them 22 seats out of 29 in the country’s parliament. The PUB received 53.2% of the votes cast. The UDP won the remaining seven seats with 45.6% of the vote. In the August 1998 election the PUP won 26 of the 29 House of Representative seats. The UDP won the remaining three. The next elections must be held by March 2008.
The service sector, including tourism and the offshore sector, accounted for 44.1% of GDP in 1999. Agriculture (sugar and bananas) and mining accounted for 19.6% of GDP, while manufacturing and construction accounted for 19.9%. The current government is boosting public spending on infrastructure and housing, reducing taxes, and promoting tourism and foreign direct investment. Money is being raised through privatizing the remaining public enterprises. The authorities are also committed to maintaining the exchange rate peg at BZ$2 per US$1 to limit inflation and to preserve confidence, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Gross domestic product (2002)
Real GDP growth: 4.3%. US$850 million at market prices
Balance of payments (current account): deficit of US$159.8 million. Exports: US$307 million. Imports: US$497.9 million.
Net Official Reserves (December 2002)
Inflation rate (CPI) (2002)
Labour force (2002)
Work force: 90,800. By occupation: agriculture 29%, services 18%, government 16%, commerce 17%, manufacturing 10%, construction 5%, other 5%. Unemployment 9.1%.
Government accounts (2003-2004 projected)
Recurrent revenues: US$224.1 million. Recurrent expenditures: US$208.6 million. Capital expenditures: US$69 million. Total deficit: US$25.8 million after grants. Financial year: 1 April-31 March,
National debt (December 2002)
Public sector outstanding external debt: US$525 million
Public holidays (2004)
1 January (New Year's Day), 9 March (Baron Bliss Day), 9 April (Good Friday), 10 April (Holy Saturday), 12 April (Easter Monday), 1 May (Labour Day), 27 May (Commonwealth Day), 10 September (St. George's Day), 21 September (Independence Day), 13 October (Pan American Day), 19 November (Garifuna Settlement Day), 25 December (Christmas), 26 December (Boxing Day).
GMT -6 hours with no daylight savings time.
Belize Trade and Investment Development Service
International Monetary Fund (www.imf.org)
Caribbean Development Bank (http://www.caribank.org)
Standard & Poor's (http://www.standardandpoors.com/)
CIA Fact Book (www.cia.gov)
Holiday Festival (http://www.holidayfestival.com/)