As of February 2000, proposals for foreign investments and applications for incentives are processed by BELTRAIDE—Belize Trade and Investment Development Service—formerly the Trade and Investment Promotion Service (TIPS). BELTRAIDE was designed as a one-stop shop for investors. In 2002, it was identifying as priority areas for investment agroindustries and food processing, tourism, aquaculture and horticulture, light manufacturing and assembly plants, deep-sea fishing, and forestry-related industries. An Aliens Land-Holding Ordinance governs real estate investment through licensing procedures.
Several incentive packages are available, outlined in the Fiscal Incentives Act of 1990, the International Business and Public Companies (IBC) Act, the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) Act of 1990, and the Commercial Free Zone (CFZ) Act of 1995. No sectors are closed to foreign investment, but special permits and licenses for activities mostly reserved for Belize citizens—merchandising, sugar cane cultivation, internal transportation, beekeeping, accounting, beauty salons, etc.—may not be granted to foreigners. Fiscal incentives include tax holidays up to 25 years, tax and duty exemptions, reduced rents, and guaranteed repatriation of initial investment and profits.
IBCs are offered a host of tax exemptions and other incentives. EPZs offer duty exemptions on imports of capital equipment, spare parts, office furniture, and intermediate goods; tax exemptions; tax holidays of 20 years with options to extend; and no-cost work permits for professional and technical staff and up to 20% of the workforce. CFZ businesses are offered comparable incentives tailored to commercial enterprises. Three locations are designated EPZs-CFZs: the San Andres EPZ, eight miles from the Mexican border; an area adjacent to the Philip Goldson International Airport; and Price Barracks near Belize City.
Foreign direct investment was only US $7 million in 1987. In 1997, FDI was US $11.9 million, but rose to US $19 million 1998, and peaked at US $56 million in 1999. In 2000, FDI inflow was US $27.6 million and in 2001, US $34.2 million. In 1999, amendments to existing legislation and new legislation—the Gaming Control Act, the Retired Persons (Incentive) Act, the Limited Liability Partnership Act, the Mutual Funds Act, the International Insurance Act, the Belize Business Bureau Act, and the International Financial Services—provided the legal framework for expanded offshore services, e-commerce and real estate development. The government also began the sale of Belize citizenship to those willing to pay from $35,000 up to $50,000 for the honor, especially to those from the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Canada. In 2003, more CFZs were being created in Belize City, Benque Viejo del Carmen and Punta Gorda. E-zones, equipped with the latest information technology, were fused with the EPZs. All concessions must be negotiated through BELTRAIDE.