Belize City Economy

Belize (bɛˈliːz) (formerly British Honduras), is a country in Central America. Belize has a diverse society, composed of many cultures and speaking many languages. Although Kriol and Spanish are spoken among the population, Belize is the only country in Central America where English is the official language. It is bordered by Mexico to the north, Guatemala to the south and west, and the Caribbean Sea to the east.

With 8,867 square miles (22,960 km²) of territory and 320,000 people (2008 est.), the population density is the lowest in the Central American region and one of the lowest in the world. However, the country's population growth rate, 2.21% (2008 est.), is the highest in the region and one of the highest in the western hemisphere. Belize's abundance of biologically significant and unique ecosystems contributes to Mesoamerica's designation as a biodiversity hotspot.

Belize is culturally unique among Central American nations. It is the only nation in Central America with a British colonial heritage, and is the only constituent nation of the Commonwealth of Nations in its region. Culturally, Belize has ties to both Latin America and the Caribbean but considers itself Central American.

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Belize has a small, essentially private enterprise economy that is based primarily on agriculture, agro-based industry, and merchandising, with tourism and construction recently assuming greater importance. In 2006, the exploitation of a newly discovered crude oil field near the town of Spanish Lookout, has presented new prospects and problems for this developing nation. It has yet to be seen if significant economic expansion will be made by this. To date, oil production equal 3,000 bbl/day (2007 est.) and oil exports equal 1,960 bbl/day (2006 est.). The country is a producer of industrial minerals.Sugar, the chief crop, accounts for nearly half of exports, while the banana industry is the country's largest employer.

The new government faces important challenges to economic stability. Rapid action to improve tax collection has been promised, but a lack of progress in reining in spending could bring the exchange rate under pressure. The tourist and construction sectors strengthened in early 1999, leading to a preliminary estimate of revived growth at 4%. Infrastructure continues to be a major challenge for the economic development of Belize. Belize has the most expensive electricity in the region. Trade is important and the major trading partners are the United States, Mexico, the European Union, and Central America.