Connecting Central America: Aldous Huxley’s Belize
Famed author and world traveler Aldous Huxley wrote in Beyond The Mexique Bay (1934)
“If the world had any ends Belize would be one of them. It is not on the way from anywhere, to anywhere else. It is all but uninhabited.” Huxley’s off-the-cuff observation is one of the most famous made by a writer about Belize. More than eighty years ago he was one of the few adventurers daring enough to visit what at that time was one of the most remote corners of the then mighty British Empire.
An absolutely fascinating country located in Central America, the only English and Spanish speaking nation immediately south of Mexico with which it shares a land border.
Belize’s relatively undiscovered status has been one of the country’s most exotic come-on over the centuries and the inhabitants from the time of its modern history have liked it just that way. The area was the center of the vast Mayan Civilization founded about 2,000 B.C. Dozens of pyramids and temples – most not yet excavated – can be found throughout the country once known as British Honduras.
The country has a wonderfully diverse society, made up of a multiplicity of cultures and speaking many languages. English is the official language but Spanish is widely spoken as the major ethnic group of Belize is now Latino. But most Belizeans are bilingual in English and Spanish and most everyone speaks and understands Creole which is an English derived dialect. The education system is in English and is well regarded by immigrants.
Small, open economy with high vulnerability to external shocks. The country remains relatively dependent on the agricultural sector, which accounted for 11.6% of GDP in 2014. The U.S. remained the largest single destination with a market share of around 30% (followed by the UK with a share of around 20%). The country remains vulnerable to bad local climate conditions, lower commodity and petroleum prices as well as a weaker US and UK economy. Source: Deutsche Bank Research Frontier Country Report 2014.
Being a Third World country in the full sense of the phrase, investors and businessmen can expect significant challenges in setting up a business in Belize. But the government has been making efforts to make the investment climate more attractive – see our Doing Business In Belize article.
The country has a small but active private sector. Like most developing countries much of the economy is informal. The two main private sector advocacy groups are the Belize Chamber of Commerce and the Belize Business Bureau.
The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) publication produced by the World Bank, “Snapshot Caribbean – Benchmarking FDI Competitiveness in Caribbean Countries”, recently looked at three sectors: Export Services, Food Processing, and Tourism Investment in Belize. These are three of the five priority sectors for export and investment promotion in Belize.