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General Information

Size: Approximately 22,960 square kilometers; land area 21,400 square kilometers. Topography: Country divided into two main physiographic regions. Maya Mountains and associated basins and plateaus dominate southern half of country. Second region comprises northern lowlands and is drained by numerous rivers and streams. Coastline is flat and swampy and marked by many lagoons.

Climate: Subtropical climate with pronounced wet and dry seasons; rainy season from approximately June to December, dry season from about January to May. Temperatures vary with elevation and proximity to coast and show little seasonal variation.


SOCIETY

Population: Estimated at 191,000 in 1990. Rate of annual growth estimated at 3.0 percent during 1980s.

Education and Literacy: Official literacy rate of 92 percent unreliable, although more realistic figures still favorable by comparison with neighboring countries. Considerable regional inequalities in provision and quality of schooling. Formal education managed by joint partnership of church and state. Compulsory education for youth between ages of five and fourteen years (primary only). Socioeconomic and academic barriers constrain access to secondary and postsecondary education. One university, the University College of Belize, located in Belize City.

Health and Welfare: Malaria and enteritis most serious diseases. Significant incidence of moderate to severe malnutrition, particularly among children in rural areas and recent immigrants. Medical care for general population inadequate, especially in rural areas.

Ethnic Groups: By official estimates in late 1980s, roughly 40 percent of population Creole (all or partly African descent), 33 percent Mestizo (Hispanics), 10 percent Maya, 7 percent Garifuna (Afro-Carib), and smaller communities of East Indians, Chinese, Arabs, and Europeans. Extensive migrations during 1980s, however, may have altered ethnic balance.

Language: English official language; local dialect of English–Belizean Creole–widely spoken by all population groups. Spanish widely spoken outside of Belize City. Additional languages in use include Mayan dialects (Yucatecan, Mopán, and Kekchí), Garifuna, and Low German.

Religion: Majority Roman Catholic, with significant Protestant minorities. Most Anglicans and Methodists reside in Belize City. Evangelical Protestant missionaries active and gaining adherents, especially in rural areas.


ECONOMY

Gross Domestic Product (GDP): US$373 million, or US$1,958 per capita in 1991.

Agriculture: Although its relative importance to economy declined during the 1980s, agriculture remained one of the largest sectors in economy accounting for 15 percent of GDP in 1990. Three crops–sugar, citrus fruits, and bananas–predominated.

Manufacturing: Small but growing segment of the economy, accounting for 12 percent of the GDP in 1989, consisted primarily of sugar refining and garment industry. Exports: US$108 million in 1990 (estimated). Major commodities included sugar, clothing, shrimp, molasses, citrus, and bananas.

Imports: US$194 million in 1990 (estimated).

Major commodities: machinery, food, manufactured goods, fuel, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals.

Currency: Belizean dollar (Bz$) divided into 100 cents. In 1991 US$1=Bz$2 (fixed rate).

Fiscal year: April 1 to March 31.


TRANSPORTATION AND COMMUNICATIONS

Railroads: None.

Roads: Over 2,700 kilometers, of which about 500 kilometers paved, 1,600 gravel, and the rest earthen. Inland waterways: Over 800 kilometers of river that can be used by shallow-draught craft.

Ports: Belize City, principal port. Facilities at Big Creek in south of Belize being expanded.

Airports: Belize International (also known as Philip Goldson International) near Belize City the country’s major airport.

Telecommunications: Adequate system. In 1991 over 8,600 telephones, or 4.6 per 100 inhabitants. Broadcast facilities included six amplitude modulation (AM) radio, five frequency modulation (FM) radio, and one television station. One Intelsat satellite ground station used for international communications.


GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS

Government: Under 1991 constitution, constitutional monarchy with parliamentary government based on British model. Government divided into three independent branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. British monarch titular head of state, but represented by appointed governor general. Real political power held by prime minister, cabinet, and National Assembly composed of twenty-eight-member, elected House of Representatives and appointed Senate, usually of eight members. Prime minister elected by House of Representatives from its own ranks; members of both House of Representatives and Senate may be appointed to cabinet. Country divided into six districts; there is no corresponding district government. In Belize City and seven other towns, municipal councils elected. The judiciary branch has three levels: Magistrates’ courts, Supreme Court, and Court of Appeal.

International Organizations: Member of United Nations and its specialized agencies; Organization of American States; Commonwealth of Nations; Caribbean Community and Common Market; and Nonaligned Movement.


NATIONAL SECURITY

Army: Belize Defence Force (BDF) with total strength of approximately 700. About 1,500 British troops (one infantry battalion) stationed in Ladyville near Belize City.

Navy: Small fifty-member maritime element with main base in Belize City. Ships of British Royal Navy made regular stops in Belize City.

Air Force: Fifteen-member air wing operated out of Belize International Airport. One British Army Air Corps flight and onehalf squadron of the Royal Air Force with fighters and groundattack aircraft stationed in southern Belize. Military Equipment (1990): British equipment. Ground element of BDF equipped with light infantry weapons, maritime element used two 20-meter patrol boats, air wing operated two small aircraft, one of which armed.

Defense Budget: Almost US$10 million in 1989, 14 percent of total government expenditures. Additionally, Britain spent estimated US$18 million to maintain British forces in Belize.

Internal Security Forces: Belize National Police, about 500 members