General Information on Belize
Geography and Affiliations
Belize (formerly British Honduras) was a British Colony before attaining independence on the 21st September 1981. Belize has been described as a Caribbean Island washed ashore Central America. Belize is bounded on the north by Mexico; on the west and south by Guatemala and on the east by the Caribbean Sea. Belize is a full participating member of CARICOM (Caribbean Community), Sistema de la Integracion Centroamericana, the Organization of American States and the United Nations. Belize is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.
Form of Government
Belize maintains a peaceful and stable democracy. It is a constitutional monarchy with two legislative houses (Senate [12 members]; House of Representative [31 members]). The Head of State is British Queen Elizabeth II represented by Governor General, Colville Young. The political system is based on the British Westminster Model and there are two principal political parties, namely, the People's United Party (PUP) and the United Democratic Party (UDP). Governments serve for a tenure of five years.
Belize's legal system is a direct offspring of the English common law system. The Supreme Court is the high court of first instance with appeals lying to the itinerant Court of Appeal comprising of three judges. Appeals thereafter lie to the Caribbean Court of Justice based in Trinidad. Up until July 2010, Belize's final appellate court was the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council which sits in London, England.
English is the official language, however, creole, an English derived dialect is commonly spoken throughout the country. Spanish is also spoken by a majority of the population.
Belize's small economy is largely propelled by private enterprise. The economy is based primarily on agriculture, agro-based industry, tourism and oil.
The official currency is the Belize dollar. The Belize dollar is pegged to the US dollar at the rate of two Belize dollars to one US dollar.
GMT-6, same as US Central Standard Time. Belize does not observe daylight savings time.
Belize lies at the heart of the ancient Maya civilization and is home to the second largest barrier reef in the world, which has been declared a World Heritage Site. Belize has hundreds of cave systems and lays claim to the largest cave system in all of Central America. Scuba diving, snorkelling, fishing, bird watching, rafting and jungle tours are but a few of the tourist attractions in Belize.
Belize has a tropical climate with marked dry and rainy seasons. Average temperatures in the coastal regions range from 24 °C (75.2 °F) in January to 27 °C (80.6 °F) in July. Temperatures are slightly higher inland, except for the southern highland plateaus, where it is noticeably cooler year round. Overall, the seasons are marked more by differences in humidity and rainfall than in temperature.