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Country Reports

Belize Country Report

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Risk Level

Low
Moderate
Elevated
High
Very High
Severe
Extreme

Overview

Executive Summary

Prime Minister Dean Barrow leads the United Democratic Party (UDP) with 19 of the 31 seats in the House of Representatives. He is constitutionally required to step down ahead of 2020 elections meaning a UDP leadership convention is expected by the first quarter of 2020 with Deputy Prime Minister Patrick Faber, Minister of Defense John Saldivar, and Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte as leading candidates; none are expected to implement significant policy changes. The current legislative agenda includes review of the legal framework for foreign direct investment (FDI) and for companies operating in Belize: international tax, correspondence banking, and business practice statutes have been subjected to international criticism for their weak oversight. Priority FDI sectors include business process outsourcing (BPO), construction, renewable energy, and tourism. FDI combined with consumer spending and supported by stable remittance inflows and controlled consumer prices are key drivers of economic growth, which IHS Markit forecasts at 2.0 of GDP in 2019, versus 1.9% of GDP in 2018. GDP growth is being achieved despite previous fiscal mismanagement, ongoing liquidity concerns, and the overall lack of confidence in Belizean fiscal responsibility due to external debt levels. Belize voted to refer a border dispute with Guatemala to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on 8 May. The issue was highly politicised with the UDP supporting the motion against the Opposition People's United Party (PUP). The results will likely improve bilateral relations as well as the UDP's chances in 2020's general election.Persistent gang-led violence, particularly in south-side Belize City, means that homicide rates remain one of the highest per-capital rates in the world at 35.9 per 100,000, on par with South Africa. There have been about five murders of foreign nationals annually, including a US tourist in June 2019, but armed robbery assaults remain the greatest risk for visitors.
Last update: July 9, 2019

Operational Outlook

Companies operating in Belize are likely to face operational challenges over bureaucratic delays and infrastructure limitations. The process of acquiring permits is slow, largely due to the number of approvals required from multiple state agencies. Occasional union strikes disrupt operations, but the public sector tends to be the source of industrial action rather than private enterprises. Belize’s government has expropriated privately owned utilities but has said that no other sectors would be targeted, offering various fiscal incentives for new investment; primarily through the national investment promotion agency, Belize Trade and Investment Development Service (BELTRAIDE).

Last update: July 10, 2019

Terrorism

Elevated

There are no reported terrorist groups operating in Belize with the capacity to target assets. The main cause of crime is inter-gang conflicts in Belize City, where a per capita homicide rate of over 90 per 100,000 makes it one of the world's most violent urban centres. Hotspots are located primarily to the south of the city over the BelChina Bridge, beyond the Western Highway and Cemetery Road. The risk of attacks against commercial properties is low and foreigners are not directly targeted. A growing cartel presence from Mexico increases violence volatility, especially along Belize's poorly monitored coastal zones.

Last update: June 21, 2019

Crime

Persistent gang-led violence, particularly in the south side of Belize City, means that homicide rates remain among the highest per capita in the world at 35.9 per 100,000, on par with South Africa. Robbery, assaults, and muggings are most likely in Belize City, San Pedro, and Corozal. A growing number of expatriates residing in Belize have been violently killed and robbed in a variety of circumstances over the past five years. This means resistance to armed robberies and hold-ups, even in public spaces, increases the risk of death and injury for individuals. Sexual assault is also an important risk to note for female travellers.

Last update: July 23, 2019

War Risks

An ongoing territorial dispute between Belize and Guatemala continues to be negotiated diplomatically, with bilateral armed conflict risks further reduced by the positive results of referenda held in both countries to refer the matter to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). A series of non-lethal border incidents involving the Belize Defence Force and Guatemalan civilian and military individuals over the course of the last 24 months are likely to de-escalate as the countries implement the next steps in the ICJ legal process.

Last update: July 26, 2019

Social Stability

Elevated

Protests in Belize are sporadic but have the potential to escalate up to several days, as happened during the 11-day strike by the Belize National Teachers’ Union in October 2016. Demonstrations are generally held in Belmopan and Belize City. Throughout 2019, issues likely to provoke anti-government demonstrations include public dissatisfaction with the International Court of Justice referendum ballot outcome, crime risks, government corruption scandals, and rising fuel prices. However, these issues are unlikely to threaten government stability. Occasionally, anti-government protests disrupt cruise docking facilities, but other transportation such as supply trains and cargo transport networks are rarely affected.

Last update: May 11, 2019

Health Risk

Very high

Vaccines Required to Enter the Country

Yellow fever: There is no risk of contracting yellow fever in Belize. However, the government requires proof of vaccination for travelers arriving from countries with a risk of yellow fever transmission. A single dose of YF vaccine is sufficient to confer sustained life-long immunity against the disease.

Vaccines Recommended for All Travelers

Routine vaccinations: Consult your doctor to ensure all routine vaccinations - such as for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, influenza, measles, mumps, pertussis, rubella, varicella, etc. - are up to date (include booster shots if necessary).

Vaccines Recommended for Most Travelers

Hepatitis A: The vaccine is given in two doses, six months apart, and is nearly 100 percent effective. The WHO recommends the vaccine be integrated into national routine immunization schedules for children aged one year or older.

Typhoid fever: The typhoid fever vaccine can be administered via injection (administered in one dose) or orally (four doses). The vaccine is only 50-80 percent effective, so travelers to areas with a risk of exposure to typhoid fever, a bacterial disease, should also take hygienic precautions (e.g. drink only bottled water, avoid undercooked foods, wash hands regularly, etc.). Children can be given the shot beginning at two years of age (six for the oral vaccine).

Vaccines Recommended for Some Travelers

Hepatitis B: The WHO recommends that all infants receive their first dose of vaccine as soon as possible after birth, preferably within 24 hours. The birth dose should be followed by two or three doses to complete the primary series. Routine booster doses are not routinely recommended for any age group.

Rabies: The rabies vaccination is typically only recommended for travel to remote areas and if the traveler will be at high risk of exposure (e.g. undertaking activities that will bring them into contact with dogs, cats, bats, or other mammals). The vaccination is administered in three doses over a three-to-four week period. Post exposure prophylaxis is also available and should be administered as soon as possible following contact with an animal suspected of being infected (e.g. bites and scratches).

Malaria: There is a low risk of contracting malaria. As such, doctors usually advise travelers to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites rather than prescribing antimalarial medications.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Natural Risks

Severe

Travelers should pay close attention to weather reports between the months of June and November as tropical storms can strike the country, particularly in coastal regions. The storm season typically peaks in September and October. Hurricane Earl made landfall in the country in August 2016, resulting in significant flooding, wind damage, and mass power outages.

Flooding can occur year round and often results in transportation disruptions.

The south of the country is subject to earthquakes, although they are typically of low magnitude.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Transportation

Moderate

With the exception of main highways, roads are often in poor condition and traffic accidents present a significant risk. Avoid travel outside cities after dark and during heavy rains. Additionally, roads are not well marked and local driving habits make driving in the country dangerous, especially after nightfall.

Keep in mind that police checkpoints are routine and widespread; stop whenever asked and cooperate with security forces. Cases of extortion at false checkpoints set up by criminals are rare. 

For security reasons, take only official taxis (identifiable by their green license plates), picked up from taxi stands as opposed to hailed on the street.

Water taxis, used to link Belize City with the nearby cay islands, are generally safe. Air travel is also safe.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Practical Information

Climate

Belize's climate is subtropical, hot, and humid. The dry season, when temperatures are milder, days are sunny, and rain is relatively rare, lasts from February to April in the north of the country. It rains daily between June and August. Annual rainfall is higher in the south than in the north. In the Maya Mountains (south and west of the country) days are hot and humid during and nights are cool throughout the year.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +501
Police: 911

Electricity

Voltage: 110/220 V ~ 60 Hz

Outlets:

Last update: April 5, 2019