Belize is a country on the coast of Central America. Belize is bordered on the north by Mexico, to the south and west by Guatemala, and to the east by the Caribbean Sea. Its mainland is approximately 290 km (180 mi) long and 110 km (68 mi) wide. Belize has a population of about 350,000. Its abundance of terrestrial and marine species and its diversity of ecosystems gives Belize a unique place in the globally significant Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. Originally part of the British Empire, Belize shares a common colonial history with other Anglophone Caribbean countries. From 1862 to 1973, its name was “British Honduras”. It became an independent Commonwealth realm in 1981, retaining Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. In general, Belize is considered a Central American and Caribbean nation with strong ties to the entire Latin American and Caribbean region.
Form of Government
The structure of government is based on the British parliamentary system, and the legal system is modelled on the common law of England. The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who holds the title Queen of Belize. Since the Queen resides in the United Kingdom, she is represented in Belize by the Governor General. However, the Cabinet led by the Prime Minister of Belize ( head of the government) acts as advisor to the Governor General. Cabinet ministers are members of the political party with a majority in parliament and usually hold elected seats concurrent with their cabinet positions.
The bicameral National Assembly of Belize is composed of a House of Representatives and a Senate. The 31 members of the House are popularly elected to a maximum five-year term and introduce legislation affecting the development of Belize. The Governor General appoints the 12 member Senate. The Senate is headed by a president who is selected by its members. The Senate is responsible for debating and approving bills passed by the House of Representatives.
Belize is a full participating member of the United Nations (UN), Commonwealth of Nations, Organization of American States (OAS), Central American Integration System (SICA), Caribbean Community (CARICOM), CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), Association of Caribbean States (ACS), and the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). In 2001 the Caribbean Community heads of government voted on a measure declaring that the region should work towards replacing the UK’s Judicial Committee of the Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice.
English is the official language of Belize, a former British colony. English is the primary language of public education, government and most media outlets. However, the majority of Belizeans, regardless of ethnicity, speak an English-based creole called Belizean Creole (also referred to as Kriol) for most informal, social and interethnic dialogue. It is the only country in Central America that has English as its official language.
Belize has a economy that is based primarily on the export of petroleum and crude oil, agriculture, agro-based industry, and merchandising, with tourism and construction assuming greater importance. In agriculture, sugar, like in colonial times, remains the chief crop, accounting for nearly half of exports, while the banana industry is the populations’s largest employer. The country is also a producer of industrial minerals.
Belize is in the CST time zone.
Belize has a tropical climate with pronounced wet and dry seasons, although there are significant variations in weather patterns by region. Temperatures vary according to elevation, proximity to the coast, and the moderating effects of the northeast trade winds off the Caribbean. Average temperatures in the coastal regions range from 24 °C (75.2 °F) in January to 27 °C (80.6 °F) in July.
The Belize dollar is the official currency for Belize. The currency code (BZD) is normally abbreviated with the dollar sign $, or alternatively BZ$ to distinguish it from other dollar-denominated currencies. It is divided into 100 cents. The official value is pegged at 2 BZ$ = 1 US$ since 1978.
Religious freedom is guaranteed in Belize. According to the 2010 census 40.1% of Belizeans are Roman Catholics, 31.8% are Protestants (8.4% Pentecostal; 5.4% Adventist; 4.7% Anglican; 3.7% Mennonite; 3.6% Baptist; 2.9% Methodist; 2.8% Nazarene), 1.7% are Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Belize is divided into 6 districts. In the North is the Corozal District, the South is the Stann Creek and Toledo Districts, in the East is the Belize District and in the West the Cayo District.
Belize has four major asphalt-paved highways which are the George Price, Philip Goldson, Hummingbird and Southern Highways.