FROM CIA WORLD FACTBOOKBelize (formerly known as British Honduras)Currency: Belizean Dollar (BZD)
Exchange Rate: Belizean dollars per U.S. dollar - 2 (2008)
Nationality: Belizean (s)
Population: 314,522 (July 2010 est.)
Ethnic Groups: mestizo 48.7%, Creole 24.9%, Maya 10.6%, Garifuna 6.1%, other 9.7%
Religions: Roman Catholic 49.6%, Protestant 27% (Anglican 5.3%, Methodist 3.5%, Mennonite 4.1%, Seventh-Day Adventist 5.2%, Pentecostal 7.4%, Jehovah's Witnesses 1.5%), none 9.4%, other 14% (2000)
HIV/AIDS â€“ adult prevalance rate: 2.4%
Literacy: definition, age 15 and over can read and write 76%Historical Background: Territorial disputes between the UK and Guatemala delayed the independence of Belize (formerly British Honduras) until 1981. Guatemala refused to recognize the new nation until 1992. Tourism has become the mainstay of the economy. The country remains plagued by high unemployment, growing involvement in the South American drug trade, and increased urban crime.
Geography: Borders Guatemala and Mexico along the Caribbean Sean. The terrain is flat, swampy along the coast and features low mountains and forests inland.
Climate: Tropical and hot and humid. The rainy season runs from May to November, the dry season is from February to May.
Natural Hazards: frequent, devastating hurricanes (June to November) and coastal flooding (especially in south)
Environmental Current Issues: deforestation; water pollution from sewage, industrial effluents, agricultural runoff; solid and sewage waste disposal
Independence: September 21, 1981
Government: chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952), represented by Governor General Sir Colville YOUNG, Sr. (since 17 November 1993); head of government: Prime Minister Dean Barrow (since February 2008).
Economic Overview: In this small, essentially private enterprise economy the tourism industry is the number one foreign exchange earner followed by cane sugar, citrus, marine products, bananas, and garments. The government's expansionary monetary and fiscal policies, initiated in September 1998, led to GDP growth of 6.5% in 1999, 10.8% in 2000, 4.6% in 2001, and 3.7% in 2002. Major concerns continue to be the sizable trade deficit and foreign debt. A key short-term objective remains the reduction of poverty with the help of international donors.
GDP Per Capita: $3,600 (2005 est.)
Population Below the Poverty Line: 33% (1999 est.)
Unemployment Rate: 9.4% (2006)
Agricultural Products: bananas, coca, citrus, sugar; fish, cultured shrimp; lumber; garments.
International Disputes: Guatemalan squatters continue to settle along the border region; an OAS brokered Differendum in 2002 created a small adjustment to the land boundary, a large Guatemalan maritime corridor in Caribbean, a joint ecological park for disputed Sapodilla Cays, and a substantial US-UK financial package, but agreement was not brought to popular referendum leaving Guatemala to continue to claim the southern half of Belize.
Illicit Drugs: major transshipment point for cocaine; small-scale illicit producer of cannabis for the international drug trade; money-laundering activity related to narcotics trafficking and offshore sector.