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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
There are several insurance companies doing business in Belize.
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.
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.
Belize has no territories or colonies.
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