Belize

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PAGE LAST UPDATED ON NOVEMBER 9, 2011
Flag of Belize
(CONTAINS DESCRIPTION)
Location of Belize
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Map of Belize
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Photos of Belize
 
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OF BELIZE
 

Introduction

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Belize was the site of several Mayan city states until their decline at the end of the first millennium A.D. The British and Spanish disputed the region in the 17th and 18th centuries; it formally became the colony of British Honduras in 1854. Territorial disputes between the UK and Guatemala delayed the independence of Belize until 1981. Guatemala refused to recognize the new nation until 1992 and the two countries are involved in an ongoing border dispute. Guatemala and Belize plan to hold a simultaneous referendum to determine if this dispute will go before the International Court of Justice at The Hague, though they have not yet set a date. Tourism has become the mainstay of the economy. Current concerns include the country's heavy foreign debt burden, high unemployment, growing involvement in the Mexican and South American drug trade, high crime rates, and one of the highest prevalence rates of HIV/AIDS in Central America.
 
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Geography

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Central America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, between Guatemala and Mexico
 
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17 15 N, 88 45 W
 
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total: 22,966 sq km
country comparison to the world: 152
land: 22,806 sq km
water: 160 sq km
 
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slightly smaller than Massachusetts
 
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total: 516 km
border countries: Guatemala 266 km, Mexico 250 km
 
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386 km
 
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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 negotiating a definitive agreement on territorial differences with Guatemala
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
 
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tropical; very hot and humid; rainy season (May to November); dry season (February to May)
 
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flat, swampy coastal plain; low mountains in south
 
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lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Doyle's Delight 1,160 m
 
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arable land potential, timber, fish, hydropower
 
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arable land: 3.05%
permanent crops: 1.39%
other: 95.56% (2005)
 
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40 sq km (2008)
 
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18.6 cu km (2000)
 
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total: 0.15 cu km/yr (7%/73%/20%)
per capita: 556 cu m/yr (2000)
 
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frequent, devastating hurricanes (June to November) and coastal flooding (especially in south)
 
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deforestation; water pollution from sewage, industrial effluents, agricultural runoff; solid and sewage waste disposal
 
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party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
 
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only country in Central America without a coastline on the North Pacific Ocean
 
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People and Society

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noun: Belizean(s)
adjective: Belizean
 
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mestizo 48.7%, Creole 24.9%, Maya 10.6%, Garifuna 6.1%, other 9.7% (2000 census)
 
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Spanish 46%, Creole 32.9%, Mayan dialects 8.9%, English 3.9% (official), Garifuna 3.4% (Carib), German 3.3%, other 1.4%, unknown 0.2% (2000 census)
 
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Roman Catholic 49.6%, Protestant 25.5% (Pentecostal 7.4%, Anglican 5.3%, Seventh-Day Adventist 5.2%, Mennonite 4.1%, Methodist 3.5%), Jehovah's Witnesses 1.5%, other 14%, none 9.4% (2000)
 
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321,115 (July 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 177
 
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0-14 years: 36.8% (male 60,327/female 57,933)
15-64 years: 59.6% (male 96,886/female 94,605)
65 years and over: 3.5% (male 5,404/female 5,960) (2011 est.)
 
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total: 21 years
male: 20.8 years
female: 21.2 years (2011 est.)
 
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2.056% (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 45
 
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26.43 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 53
 
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5.87 deaths/1,000 population (July 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 169
 
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0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 75
 
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urban population: 52% of total population (2010)
rate of urbanization: 2.7% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
 
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BELMOPAN (capital) 20,000 (2009)
 
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at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.91 male(s)/female
total population: 1.03 male(s)/female (2011 est.)
 
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94 deaths/100,000 live births (2008)
country comparison to the world: 75
 
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total: 21.95 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 91
male: 24.43 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 19.35 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.)
 
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total population: 68.23 years
country comparison to the world: 155
male: 66.53 years
female: 70.02 years (2011 est.)
 
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3.21 children born/woman (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 52
 
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3.3% of GDP (2009)
country comparison to the world: 174
 
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0.828 physicians/1,000 population (2009)
country comparison to the world: 110
 
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1.1 beds/1,000 population (2009)
country comparison to the world: 144
 
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improved:
urban: 99% of population
rural: 100% of population
total: 99% of population
unimproved:
urban: 1% of population
rural: 0% of population
total: 1% of population (2008)
 
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improved:
urban: 93% of population
rural: 86% of population
total: 90% of population
unimproved:
urban: 7% of population
rural: 14% of population
total: 10% of population (2008)
 
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2.3% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 28
 
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4,800 (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 119
 
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fewer than 500 (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 82
 
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degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever and malaria
water contact disease: leptospirosis (2009)
 
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4.9% (2006)
country comparison to the world: 86
 
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5.7% of GDP (2008)
country comparison to the world: 36
 
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definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 76.9%
male: 76.7%
female: 77.1% (2000 census)
 
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total: 12 years
male: 12 years
female: 13 years (2009)
 
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total: 19.5%
country comparison to the world: 60
male: 13.8%
female: 28.8% (2005)
 
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Government

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conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Belize
former: British Honduras
 
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parliamentary democracy and a Commonwealth realm
 
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name: Belmopan
geographic coordinates: 17 15 N, 88 46 W
time difference: UTC-6 (1 hour behind Washington, DC during Standard Time)
 
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6 districts; Belize, Cayo, Corozal, Orange Walk, Stann Creek, Toledo
 
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21 September 1981 (from the UK)
 
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Independence Day, 21 September (1981)
 
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21 September 1981
 
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English common law
 
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has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction
 
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18 years of age; universal
 
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chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor General Sir Colville YOUNG, Sr. (since 17 November 1993)
head of government: Prime Minister Dean Oliver BARROW (since 8 February 2008); Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar VEGA (since 12 February 2008)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister from the General Assembly
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elections: the monarchy is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition usually appointed prime minister by the governor general; prime minister recommends the deputy prime minister
 
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bicameral National Assembly consists of the Senate (12 seats; members appointed by the governor general - 6 on the advice of the prime minister, 3 on the advice of the leader of the opposition, and 1 each on the advice of the Belize Council of Churches and Evangelical Association of Churches, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Belize Better Business Bureau, and the National Trade Union Congress and the Civil Society Steering Committee; to serve five-year terms) and the House of Representatives (31 seats; members are elected by direct popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: House of Representatives - last held on 6 February 2008 (next to be held in 2013)
election results: percent of vote by party - UDP 56.3%, PUP 40.9%; seats by party - UDP 25, PUP 6
 
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Supreme Court (the chief justice is appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister); Court of Appeal; Privy Council in the UK; member of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ); Summary Jurisdiction Courts (criminal) and District Courts (civil jurisdiction)
 
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National Alliance for Belizean Rights or NABR; National Reform Party or NRP [Cornelius DUECK]; People's National Party or PNP [Wil MAHEIA]; People's United Party or PUP [John BRICENO]; United Democratic Party or UDP [Dean BARROW]; Vision Inspired by the People or VIP [Paul MORGAN]; We the People Reform Movement or WTP [Hipolito BAUTISTA]
 
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Society for the Promotion of Education and Research or SPEAR [Nicole HAYLOCK]; Association of Concerned Belizeans or ACB [David VASQUEZ]; National Trade Union Congress of Belize or NTUC/B [Rene GOMEZ]
 
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ACP, AOSIS, C, Caricom, CDB, FAO, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ITU, LAES, MIGA, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, PetroCaribe, RG, SICA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
 
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chief of mission: Ambassador Nestor MENDEZ
chancery: 2535 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 332-9636
FAX: [1] (202) 332-6888
consulate(s) general: Los Angeles
 
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chief of mission: Ambassador Vinai THUMMALAPALLY
embassy: Floral Park Road, Belmopan City, Cayo District
mailing address: P.O. Box 497, Belmopan City, Cayo District, Belize
telephone: [501] 822-4011
FAX: [501] 822-4012
 
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blue with a narrow red stripe along the top and the bottom edges; centered is a large white disk bearing the coat of arms; the coat of arms features a shield flanked by two workers in front of a mahogany tree with the related motto SUB UMBRA FLOREO (I Flourish in the Shade) on a scroll at the bottom, all encircled by a green garland of 50 mahogany leaves; the colors are those of the two main political parties: blue for the PUP and red for the UDP; various elements of the coat of arms - the figures, the tools, the mahogany tree, and the garland of leaves - recall the logging industry that led to British settlement of Belize
note: Belize's flag is the only national flag that depicts human beings; two British overseas territories, Montserrat and the British Virgin Islands, also depict humans
 
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Baird's tapir (a large, browsing, forest-dwelling mammal); keel-billed toucan
 
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name: "Land of the Free"
lyrics/music: Samuel Alfred HAYNES/Selwyn Walford YOUNG
note: adopted 1981; as a Commonwealth country, in addition to the national anthem, "God Save the Queen" serves as the royal anthem (see United Kingdom)
 
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Economy

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Tourism is the number one foreign exchange earner in this small economy, 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 GDP growth averaging nearly 4% in 1999-2007. Oil discoveries in 2006 bolstered this growth. Exploration efforts have continued and production has increased a small amount. In February 2007, the government restructured nearly all of its public external commercial debt, which helped reduce interest payments and relieved some of the country's liquidity concerns. Growth slipped to 0% in 2009 and 1.5% in 2010 as a result of the global slowdown, natural disasters, and the drop in the price of oil. With weak economic growth and a large public debt burden, fiscal spending is likely to be tight. A key government objective remains the reduction of poverty and inequality with the help of international donors. Although Belize has the second highest per capita income in Central America, the average income figure masks a huge income disparity between rich and poor. The 2010 Poverty Assessment shows that more than 4 out of 10 people live in poverty. The sizable trade deficit and heavy foreign debt burden continue to be major concerns.
 
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$2.651 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 181
$2.599 billion (2009 est.)
$2.6 billion (2008 est.)
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
 
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$1.396 billion (2010 est.)
 
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2% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 145
0% (2009 est.)
3.8% (2008 est.)
 
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$8,400 (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 119
$8,400 (2009 est.)
$8,600 (2008 est.)
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
 
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agriculture: 21.6%
industry: 20.2%
services: 58.2% (2010 est.)
 
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120,500
country comparison to the world: 178
note: shortage of skilled labor and all types of technical personnel (2008 est.)
 
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agriculture: 10.2%
industry: 18.1%
services: 71.7% (2007)
 
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13.1% (2009)
country comparison to the world: 139
8.2% (2008)
 
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43% (2010 est.)
 
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lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
 
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24.3% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 67
 
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revenues: $350 million
expenditures: $400 million (2010 est.)
 
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25.1% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 125
 
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-3.6% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 113
 
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83% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 17
83.4% of GDP (2009 est.)
 
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0.9% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 20
-1.1% (2009 est.)
 
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18% (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 21
12% (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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13.9% (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 69
14.1% (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$354 million (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 165
$356.7 million (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$1.282 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 156
$1.084 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$950 million (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 153
$1 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$NA
 
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bananas, cacao, citrus, sugar; fish, cultured shrimp; lumber
 
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garment production, food processing, tourism, construction, oil
 
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1.4% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 143
 
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215.5 million kWh (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 177
 
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200.4 million kWh (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 183
 
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0 kWh (2009 est.)
 
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0 kWh (2009 est.)
 
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4,252 bbl/day (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 96
 
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7,000 bbl/day (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 162
 
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0 bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 152
 
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7,326 bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 147
 
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6.7 million bbl (1 January 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 93
 
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0 cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 102
 
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0 cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 152
 
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0 cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 61
 
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0 cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 159
 
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0 cu m (1 January 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 113
 
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-$24.1 million (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 68
-$82.8 million (2009 est.)
 
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$475.7 million (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 170
$383.9 million (2009 est.)
 
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sugar, bananas, citrus, clothing, fish products, molasses, wood, crude oil
 
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US 30.3%, UK 20.8%, Costa Rica 12.7%, Cote dIvoire 4.6%, Nigeria 4.6% (2010)
 
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$647.2 million (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 184
$620.5 million (2009 est.)
 
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machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods; fuels, chemicals, pharmaceuticals; food, beverages, tobacco
 
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US 34%, Mexico 14.3%, Cuba 9.5%, Guatemala 7.6%, China 4.7%, Trinidad and Tobago 4.3% (2010)
 
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$201.7 million (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 164
$213.7 million (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$1.01 billion (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 151
$954.1 million (2008 est.)
 
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Belizean dollars (BZD) per US dollar -
2 (2010)
2 (2009)
2 (2008)
2 (2007)
2 (2006)
 
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Communications

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30,300 (2010)
country comparison to the world: 182
 
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194,200 (2010)
country comparison to the world: 177
 
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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 60 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)
 
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8 privately-owned TV stations; multi-channel cable TV provides access to foreign stations; about 25 radio stations broadcasting on roughly 50 different frequencies; state-run radio was privatized in 1998 (2007)
 
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.bz
 
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2,880 (2010)
country comparison to the world: 147
 
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36,000 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 178
 
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Transportation

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45 (2010)
country comparison to the world: 96
 
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total: 4
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 2 (2010)
 
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total: 41
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 13
under 914 m: 27 (2010)
 
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total: 3,007 km
country comparison to the world: 166
paved: 575 km
unpaved: 2,432 km (2006)
 
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825 km (navigable only by small craft) (2010)
country comparison to the world: 71
 
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total: 231
country comparison to the world: 33
by type: barge carrier 1, bulk carrier 37, cargo 146, chemical tanker 1, passenger 1, passenger/cargo 1, petroleum tanker 7, refrigerated cargo 27, roll on/roll off 10
foreign-owned: 171 (Chile 1, China 64, Croatia 1, Cyprus 1, Estonia 1, Germany 1, Greece 2, Iceland 2, Italy 3, Japan 1, Latvia 10, Lithuania 2, Netherlands 1, Nigeria 2, Norway 3, Peru 1, Russia 32, Singapore 7, Spain 1, Syria 2, Turkey 18, UAE 5, UK 4, Ukraine 6) (2010)
 
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Belize City, Big Creek
 
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Military

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Belize Defense Force (BDF): Army, BDF Air Wing (includes Special Boat Unit), BDF Volunteer Guard (2011)
 
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18 years of age for voluntary military service; law allows for conscription only if volunteers are insufficient; conscription has never been implemented; volunteers typically outnumber available positions by 3:1 (2008)
 
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males age 16-49: 81,284
females age 16-49: 79,185 (2010 est.)
 
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males age 16-49: 59,431
females age 16-49: 57,221 (2010 est.)
 
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male: 3,723
female: 3,584 (2010 est.)
 
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1.4% of GDP (2009)
country comparison to the world: 105
 
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Transnational Issues

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Guatemala persists in its territorial claim to half of Belize, but agrees to Line of Adjacency to keep Guatemalan squatters out of Belize's forested interior; Belize and Mexico are working to solve minor border demarcation discrepancies arising from inaccuracies in the 1898 border treaty
 
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transshipment point for cocaine; small-scale illicit producer of cannabis, primarily for local consumption; offshore sector money-laundering activity related to narcotics trafficking and other crimes (2008)
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