Belize Country Report
Belize is currently governed by three-term Prime Minister Dean Barrow whose United Democratic Part (UDP) holds a strong legislative majority. Public utilities were nationalised in 2009–13 but the government has pledged to avoid future expropriations and promote foreign investment in national infrastructure and service projects. Limited strikes or industrial actions are likely in public union and tourism sectors. IHS Markit expects that the Belizean economy will be supported by relatively stable US growth with an expected GDP growth rate of 2.10%. However, Belize has been struggling to contain a spike in violence over the last decade which will continue to affect its investor attractiveness. In 2016, homicides rose 16% year-on-year to 138 reported incidents or about 46 per100,000, which declined to 133 cases in 2017.
Companies operating in Belize are likely to face operational challenges over bureaucratic delays and infrastructure limitations. The process of acquiring permits can be slow, largely due to the number of approvals required from multiple state agencies and sporadic regulatory alterations. Unions can disrupt operations through strikes but the public sector tends to be the focus of industrial action rather than private enterprises. Belize's government has expropriated privately owned utilities but has said that no other sectors will be targeted, offering various fiscal incentives for new investment; primarily through the national investment promotion agency, Belize Trade and Investment Development Service (BELTRAIDE).
There are no reported terrorist groups in operating in Belize with the capacity to target assets. Belize's main insecurity driver 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.
An ongoing territorial dispute between Belize and Guatemala continues to be negotiated diplomatically but there is a low risk of bilateral armed conflict. Belize is scheduled to hold a referendum in 2019 over whether to refer the dispute to the International Court of Justice, with Guatemala having voted yes in April 2018. A series of border incidents involving the Belize Defence Force and Guatemalan civilian and military individuals over the course of the last 24 months has increased the urgency of finding resolution to the matter.
Protest risks in Belize tend to be sporadic but can escalate up to 11 days as in the case of the October 2016 Belize National Teachers' Union strike held to demand good governance measures. Demonstrations are most generally held in Belmopan, Belize City, and San Ignacio. Through 2018, issues likely to provoke anti-government demonstrations include government passport and land scandals as well as gas prices and minimum wage hikes, but these are not large enough to threaten the stability of the government. Occasionally, anti-government protests can disrupt cruise docking facilities, but supply trains and cargo transport networks are rarely affected.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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