BELIZE





CAPITAL : Belmopan

FLAG : The national flag consists of the Belize coat of arms on a white disk centered in a blue rectangular field with a narrow red stripe at the top and the bottom.

ANTHEM : Land of the Free.

MONETARY UNIT : The Belize dollar ( B $), formerly tied to the UK pound sterling and now pegged to the US dollar, is a paper currency of 100 cents. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 25, 50 cents and 1 dollar, and notes of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 dollars. B $1= US $0.50 (or US $1= B $2.00; as of February 2003).

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES : Imperial weights and measures are used. The exception is the measuring of petroleum products, for which the US gallon is standard.

HOLIDAYS : New Year's Day, 1 January; Baron Bliss Day, 9 March; Labor Day, 1 May; Commonwealth Day, 24 May; National Day, 10 September; Independence Day, 21 September; Columbus Day, 12 October; Garifuna Day, 19 November; Christmas, 25 December; Boxing Day, 26 December. Movable holidays are Good Friday and Easter Monday.

TIME : 6 AM = noon GMT.


FLORA AND FAUNA

Most of the forest cover consists of mixed hardwoods—mainly mahogany, cedar, and sapodilla (the source of chicle). In the flat regions there are extensive tracts of pine. The coastal land and the cays are covered with mangrove. Indigenous fauna include armadillo, opossum, deer, and monkeys; common reptiles include iguana and snakes.

ETHNIC GROUPS

According to the latest estimates, 46% of the population is Mestizo (mixed White and Maya); nearly 28% is Creole (of African descent); another 10% is Maya; 6% is Garifuna (Carib); and nearly 10% is comprised of various other groups, including those of Arab, European, Chinese, Asian Indian, North American, and Syrian-Lebanese ancestry.

LANGUAGES

The official language is English. At least 80% of the people can speak standard English and/or a Creole patois. Spanish is spoken by approximately 60% of the population; for one-third to one-half it is the first language. Although English is the language of instruction, other languages spoken include Garifuna (Carib), Mayan and other Amerindian languages, and, in the Mennonite colony, Low German.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Belize is divided into six administrative districts: Corozal, Orange Walk, Belize City, El Cayo, Stann Creek, and Toledo. Except for Belize City, which has an elected city council of nine members, each is administered by a seven-member elected town board. Local government at the village level is through village councils.

ARMED FORCES

The armed forces consisted of 1,050 active personnel in 2002, supported by 700 reserves. The army had three infantry battalions, a maritime wing with 14 patrol craft, and an air wing with no combat aircraft. The defense budget was US $7.7 million in 2000–01, or 1.9% of GDP.

FISHING

Fishing resources and development are good. In 2000, the total catch was 61,059 tons. Lobster is the leading product; of the US $30.9 million in export earnings were derived from fishing in 2000. In the mid-1990s, shrimp production increased by 75% as a result of three new shrimp farms opening in 1992. Whiteleg shrimp and spiny lobster are the leading species by volume.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

University College of Belize and Wesley College, both in Belize City, offer some scientific and technical training, but Belizean students must go abroad for advanced study. The National Library Service operates a Technical/Reference Library in Belize City.

INSURANCE

There are several insurance companies doing business in Belize.

TAXATION

Income tax is levied on companies and individuals. Corporate taxes are set at a fixed rate of 35% of the chargeable income; personal income tax is levied on those earning more than US $10,000 per year, at a flat rate of 25%. A company granted a development concession has a tax holiday of up to 25 years. The Sales Tax Act of 1999 implemented a 12% tax on alcohol, tobacco, and fuel, and a 8% tax on all other items.

FAMOUS BELIZEANS

George C. Price (b. 1919), leader of the PUP, became the country's first premier in 1964. Manuel Esquivel (b. 1940), leader of the UDP, was prime minister from 1984 to 1998.

DEPENDENCIES

Belize has no territories or colonies.

Read about the Culture of Belize. More about Belize's Culture.

Read about the Geography of Belize.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ball, Joseph W. Cahal Pech, the Ancient Maya, and Modern Belize: The Story of an Archaeological Park. San Diego: San Diego State University Press, 1993.

Health in the Americas, 2002 edition. Washington, D.C.: Pan American Health Organization, Pan American Sanitary Bureau, Regional Office of the World Health Organization, 2002.

Hennessy, Huw (ed.). Guatemala, Belize, and the Yucatán. Maspeth, N.Y.: Langenscheidt, 2000.

Kelly, Joyce. An Archaeological Guide to Northern Central America: Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1996.

McClaurin, Irma. Women of Belize: Gender and Change in Central America. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1996.

McKillop, Heather Irene. Salt: White Gold of the Ancient Maya. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2002.

Merrill, Tim (ed.). Guyana and Belize: Country Studies, 2nd ed. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1993.

Simmons, Donald C. Confederate Settlements in British Honduras. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2001.

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