(pronounced "sa-EED MOO-sa")
"Our new economic initiatives are designed to inject substantial long-term capital into export industries and tourism while ensuring that the environment is protected and that the people participate in and benefit from development."
Belize is situated on the Caribbean coast of Central America, south of Mexico and east of Guatemala. It has an area of 22,966 sq km (8,867 sq mi) and a 280-km (174-mi) coastline. The north of the country consists of limestone lowlands, the south is dominated by the Maya Mountains, and off the coast lies the world's second-largest barrier reef, with dozens of small islands. The largest town is Belize City, with some 55,000 people. Belize City (the former capital) was twice ravaged by hurricanes, in 1931 and 1961, so a new capital, Belmopan, was built inland in 1970.
The population was estimated at 263,000 in 2002, and is composed of 49% mestizo (Spanish and Indian); 25% Creole (primarily African descent); 11% Ketchi, Mopan, and other Maya Indian; 6% Garifuna (African and Carib Indian); and 9% white, East Indian, and other. Migration is changing the ethnic composition of the population, as most of the thousands of Belizeans who move to the United States are Creole, while thousands of Spanish-speaking Central Americans have migrated into Belize. Although the official language is English, the majority of the population now speaks Spanish. About 25% of the population speaks Creole, a language derived from a mixture of English and various African languages.
Most schools are government-supported denominational schools, chiefly Roman Catholic. Approximately 50% of the population is Roman Catholic; 27% is Protestant, including Anglican, Methodist, Mennonite, Seventh-Day Adventist, Pentecostal, and Jehovah's Witness. There are also small groups of Mormons and Bahai.
The economy is chiefly agricultural (sugar and bananas are the major exports), supplemented by fishing, small-scale industry (fertilizer, beverages, cigarettes and food processing), merchandising, and most recently, tourism and construction. The United States and the United Kingdom are Belize's biggest trading partners. The unit of currency is the Belize dollar.
Office of the Prime Minister