A former British colony known as British Honduras, Belize gained its independence in 1981. While it retains links with England, Queen Elizabeth II is the Belizean Head of State; executive power now lies with the elected Prime Minister.
Every five (5) years, political parties contest the general elections for the opportunity to form the government. The party which wins enough seats to control the legislature is invited to form the government by the Queen's representative, the Belizean Governor General.
The leader of the majority party is appointed Prime Minister and he selects his cabinet, usually from among his party members who have contested and won their constituency in the elections. The Prime Minister and his cabinet are responsible to the legislature which consists of all 28 elected members and from all parties.
The legislature is responsible for the enactment of the countries laws.
The second House within the parliament is the Senate. The senate consists of five appointments by the Government, two appointments by the opposition and one appointment by the Belize Advisory Committee.
On attaining independence, Belize got its own constitution by which the country is guided. Notwithstanding the constitution, the laws are based on British Common law and Statute. The legislature enacts new statute or amends existing statute from time to time as deemed necessary.
The Governor General, who is the Queen's representative as Head of State, must be Belizean by law. Among his responsibilities is to appoint a Judiciary which is independent of the executive branch and the Legislative branch of Government.
There is an established court hierarchy which consists of six judicial districts with wide jurisdiction, and district courts which exercise jurisdiction over civil matters.
Appeals are first heard by the Supreme Court, further appeals are heard by the Court of Appeal and finally if necessary by the Privy Council in England.
International travel to Belize may be by the five international carriers which provide daily service to the international airport at Belize from the United States and Central America.
Telephone, telex and telefax communications facilities to and from Belize are available and provided by the monopoly, Belize Telecommunications Ltd (BTL).
BTL also make available, throughout most of Belize, internet access from a satellite earth station at the capital, Belmopan.
Express deliveries through international courier services are well established.
Electricity at 110/220 volts, guaranteed by Belize Electricity Ltd. (BEL) is provided through most of the more populated centers of the country. There are on-going projects to expand the Belizean Electricity Grid.
Water, while available, shortages may be experienced in the low rainfall areas from time to time. Bottled or boiled water is recommended for drinking.
Business and the Economy
Belize was traditionally an agricultural economy. The major crops being bananas, sugarcane and citrus, have been affected by changes in trade regimes which offered preferential market access to major markets.
A diversification effort has been launched to widen the economic base. Resources are now used for the development of the tourism, manufacturing and financial services sectors.
Targeting an eco-tourism market is the strategy employed by government. Visitors are encouraged to exploit the scuba diving and fishing off the Barrier Reef off the east coast of Belize in the Caribbean Sea. The Belize Barrier Reef is the longest of its kind in the northern hemisphere and second in the world.
Also of tourism interest are the ancient Mayan Ruins, which have the highest concentration in Central America.
The northern border of Belize with Mexico is of strategic importance to the expansion of the manufacturing sector. The North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, which has created the largest trading bloc in the world, provides for easy and duty free access to US markets with trucking of goods through Mexico to the southern border of the U.S. The deep water port at Belize City also provides an alternative mode of transportation for components and finished products.
The Financial Services Sector is supported by creative legislation enacted by parliament to encourage investment in offshore international enterprises or the Belizean IBC. Belize Incorporation of a Belize IBC under the International Business Companies Act of 1990 empowers investors to incorporate tax free Belizean companies with legitimate global business and investment interests or aspirations. Incorporating in Belize is simple. Since the passage of the IBC Act, Belize has emerged as a global location for offshore company formation.