Economy of Belize

Mother Earth Travel > Country Index > Belize Map Economy History

Forestry was the only economic activity of any consequence in Belize until well into the 20th century when the supply of accessible timber began to dwindle. Cane sugar then became the principal export and recently has been augmented by expanded production of citrus, bananas, seafood, and apparel. The country has about 809,000 hectares of arable land, only a small fraction of which is under cultivation. To curb land speculation, the government enacted legislation in 1973 that requires non-Belizeans to complete a development plan on land they purchase before obtaining title to plots of more than 10 acres of rural land or more than one-half acre of urban land.

Domestic industry is limited, constrained by relatively high-cost labor and energy and a small domestic market. The embassy knows of some 185 U.S. companies which have operations in Belize, including, Archer Daniels Midland, Texaco, and Esso. Tourism attracts the most foreign direct investment, although significant U.S. investment also is found in the energy, telecommunications, and agriculture sectors.

A combination of natural factors--climate, the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere, numerous islands, excellent fishing, safe waters for boating, jungle wildlife, and Mayan ruins--support the thriving tourist industry. Development costs are high, but the Government of Belize has designated tourism as its second development priority after agriculture. In 2000, tourist arrivals totaled 180,760--more than 110,000 from the U.S.--and tourist receipts amounted to $113.3 million.

GDP: purchasing power parity - $790 million (2000 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 4% (2000 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $3,200 (2000 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture:  18%
industry:  24%
services:  58% (2000 est.)
Population below poverty line: 33% (1999 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 2% (2000 est.)
Labor force: 71,000
note: shortage of skilled labor and all types of technical personnel (1997 est.)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 38%, industry 32%, services 30% (1994)
Unemployment rate: 12.8% (1999)
revenues:  $157 million
expenditures:  $279 million, including capital expenditures of $NA (1999 est.)
Industries: garment production, food processing, tourism, construction
Industrial production growth rate: 4.6% (1999)
Electricity - production: 185 million kWh (1999)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel:  56.76%
hydro:  43.24%
nuclear:  0%
other:  0% (1999)
Electricity - consumption: 172.1 million kWh (1999)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (1999)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (1999)
Agriculture - products: bananas, coca, citrus, sugarcane; lumber; fish, cultured shrimp
Exports: $235.7 million (f.o.b., 2000 est.)
Exports - commodities: sugar, bananas, citrus fruits, clothing, fish products, molasses, wood
Exports - partners: US 42%, UK 33%, EU 12%, Caricom 4.8%, Canada 2%, Mexico 1% (1999)
Imports: $413 million (c.i.f., 2000 est.)
Imports - commodities: machinery and transportation equipment, manufactured goods, food, fuels, chemicals, pharmaceuticals
Imports - partners: United States 58%, Mexico 12%, United Kingdom 5% EU 5%, Central America 5%, Caricom 4% (1998)
Debt - external: $338 million (1998)
Currency: 1 Belizean dollar (Bz$) = 100 cents

SOURCES: The World Factbook, U.S. Department of State

Mother Earth Travel > Country Index > Belize Map Economy History