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- GDP (PPP):
- $3.0 billion
- 1.5% growth
- 2.5% 5-year compound annual growth
- $8,373 per capita
- Inflation (CPI):
- FDI Inflow:
Belize has an uneven record in economic reform, and more dynamic growth is constrained by lingering policy weaknesses in many parts of the economy. Entrepreneurial activity remains limited, and recovery from the recent economic slowdown has been narrowly based. Burdensome tariff and nontariff barriers, together with the high cost of domestic financing, hinder private-sector development and economic diversification.
Overall economic freedom in Belize remains limited by other institutional weaknesses. The regulatory infrastructure is inefficient and raises the cost of conducting entrepreneurial activity. The judicial system remains vulnerable to political interference, and corruption is common. The Caribbean Financial Action Task Force has tightened anti–money laundering and antiterrorism financing controls in Belize, particularly in light of the recent Panama Papers leaks.
Belize is a parliamentary democracy. Prime Minister Dean Barrow of the center-right United Democratic Party was elected in 2015 to his third and constitutionally final consecutive five-year term. The economy relies primarily on tourism, followed by exports of marine products, citrus, sugar, and bananas. Although tourism receipts are up, economic growth slowed considerably after agriculture and fisheries contracted sharply in 2015, with shrimp farms affected by bacterial infection and banana production affected by severe drought. Multimillion-dollar compensation to the former owners of Belize Telemedia, nationalized by the government in 2009, will add to budgetary pressures.
Unreliable land title certificates have led to numerous property disputes involving foreign investors and landowners. The judiciary, although independent, is often influenced by the executive. Belize is the only Central American country that is not a party to the U.N. Convention Against Corruption. Since 2009, Transparency International has not had access to enough data to include Belize in its annual Corruption Perceptions Index.
The top income and corporate tax rates are 25 percent; petroleum profits are taxed at 40 percent. Other taxes include a goods and services tax and a stamp duty. The overall tax burden equals 24.8 percent of total domestic income. Government spending has amounted to 32.3 percent of total output (GDP) over the past three years, and budget deficits have averaged 4.2 percent of GDP. Public debt is equivalent to 76.3 percent of GDP.
Entrepreneurial activity often faces such challenges as poor enforcement of the commercial code and lack of transparency. The nonsalary cost of employing a worker is relatively low, and terminating labor contracts is not cumbersome. However, a formal labor market has not been fully developed. The government maintains price controls on various products such as rice, sugar, and flour and subsidizes the cost of electricity.
Trade is extremely important to Belize’s economy; the value of exports and imports taken together equals 126 percent of GDP. The average applied tariff rate is 10.0 percent. Bureaucratic barriers may discourage foreign investment. The financial system is small but growing, and obtaining credit is relatively straightforward. The government influences the allocation of credit through the quasi-government banks.