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Christian Burn of Grand Baymen – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
The economy of Belize is a feast or famine kind of economy because the GDP is largely supported by tourism. US $552 million just from Ambergris Caye alone accrued into the government of Belize because of tourism, accommodation taxes, hotel application taxes, licensing fees, cruise ship taxes, restaurant and bars taxes, etc.
 
Ambergris Caye has 1,774 rooms out of 7,000 registered rooms in the country. The tourism industry is the second largest revenue earner for Belize (the first is agriculture) and the main economic driving force for Ambergris Caye. Tourism contributed an estimated $1.2 billion to the country's economy in 2013, and 46% of that revenue collected by the government of Belize is contributed as a result of the economic activities of Ambergris Caye, which is $552 million.
 
Tourism is the largest sector for employment. Ambergris Caye in particular, offers more of a middle class existence rather than the extremes, so you have a little bit more moderation on Ambergris Caye relative to affluence. The rest of the country, especially the rural areas, tend to be very poor, but overall I think the Belizean people are lifted because of tourism and because the population density is so low that they are able to survive quite well as a result.
Virginia Krohn of Villa Cayo Belize – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Scotiabank,  Belize – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThe economy of Belize is down a little bit this year. We have a higher crime rate due to the immigration of criminal elements from other countries.  These people generally fight amongst themselves but it does raise the overall crime and murder rate for the country.  Very little of this crime element is against expats or tourists.   
 
The US is also putting a lot of sanctions on the banks and cutting off affiliations, which is making it difficult for the banks to function.
 
As an example, Belize Bank had a relationship with Bank of America where they interchanged money and credit freely with Belize.  Bank America cut off their relationship with Belize and the all of the Belize Banks had to scramble to find other US bank affiliates.  What that does to a business in Belize can be as simple as making it difficult to accept a US credit card.  I can run the card and get approval but the bank has to get the money for you or it is just a piece of paper. 
 
The US doesn’t want any big money leaving the States yet people are selling out and putting their money in offshore accounts in the Caymans, here in Belize, Panama, etc. Overall, most of the economy of Belize is tourism, which requires banking. If banking is affected, so is the whole economy.
 
(Canadian multinational bank, Scotiabank,  Belize, pictured.)
 
 
Santiago Gomez of International Services Ltd – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
shrimp-stuffed french toast in Placencia, Belize resort – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThe economy in Belize depends on the US economy because there are lots of tourists from the US who come to Belize.  When the US people have problems, we also have problems and maybe bigger problems.  What happens when there is a problem in the US is that sometimes our exports are not as good as the previous years and then people do not have work and that is the most important thing--- for people to have work in Belize.
 
The biggest problem with the businesses recently is that the banks are being tougher when lending; because they have been very strict and it is the same thing happening in the United States, from what I understand.  The banks want more deposits and more collateral, and all kinds of issues that really deter people from borrowing money.
 
The economy in Belize is basically tourism based, and then there’s agriculture, and maybe fishing.  We export sugar, and a lot of citrus and bananas.  We also export lobster, conches, and shrimp.  Those are the major parts of the economy that we have and this is important because they employ a lot of people and that is the thing that the government wants us to so that they could improve the standards of living.
 
 Construction is also becoming a bigger part of the economy because business people want to do local construction to develop their business.   
 
(Shrimp-stuffed French toast at Maya Beach Hotel Bistro, Placencia, Belize, pictured.) 
Phil Hahn of Carmelita Gardens – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
tourist Bleize – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingCapitalism is alive and well in Belize. There are certain economic sectors that the government meddles in more than others, but for the most part it is a free market. Generally speaking the economy is driven by agriculture, tourism and recently oil. However, it appears that the future of Belize will be in the former two. Belize is also one of the best jurisdictions for off-shore corporations and financial industries, but only a small amount of revenue from those sectors flows into the local economy.
 
When you think of the economy of Belize you have to remember that the scale is very small compared to the US and many other world economies. However, certain similarities can be drawn to the U.S. like Crony Capitalism. In the US, at their larger scale, major corporations hire lobbyists to get laws passed and contracts granted. Here, even small businessmen have to try to play that game.  Once again, because of the scale it affects the entire economy.  
 
Whenever I think of this situation I recall when I left my hometown in the Midwest at the age of 18 and relocated to the South where I was immediately introduced to the “Good Ol’ Boy” (GOB) system. Funny thing is I didn’t realize what a tight GOB I had left behind in my hometown. It’s generally the same everywhere and Belize is no different. Not that everyone is a xenophobe, but they tend to be a bit leery of newcomers until they have proven themselves. I must say, I do find it amusing that in Belize the “Government of Belize” is referred to as the GOB.
 
Nonetheless, Belize is a developing country and what was once a “wild west” environment is becoming more sophisticated and more regulated. Some people like it, but many do not. Regardless, change is afoot and when there is change there is opportunity. The opportunities will continue to be small scale, which can favor the small businessperson.
 
However, it is wise for the budding entrepreneur to understand that due to the relatively tiny population in Belize there isn't room or need in the market for several different companies serving any one particular segment.  There just isn’t that much demand for any particular product or even category of products to justify many differentiated companies serving what would be considered a small quantity of customers.  As a result, you will tend to see just one or just a few companies in each of these particular niches; subsequently there will be less competition among the few providers that exist.
 
So, while it is possible for the “little guy” to be successful in business here in Belize, it depends on the business that is chosen.  As an example, it is very difficult for a little guy to try to get into the beverage industry. It takes so much start-up capital and it’s a very difficult business to begin with.  Also, keeping with this example, the beverage industry in Belize is an established enterprise that’s been here for generations, so that’s a tough business.  However, there are lots of other types of businesses that can be successful and we are now seeing emerging businesses that didn’t exist before. 
 
Regardless of the business it is important to note that there is a very elaborate system of import duty in Belize covering just about anything you can think of. As with most import duties, the government is trying to protect a local market. While it happens in every country in the world and it is understandable, it can cause a lot of economic endeavors that import goods to be choked. Often times it doesn’t make sense to import something for resale because the import tax drives the cost too high.
 
 As tourism becomes more and more a major part of the economy, it brings with it a demand for products and services that didn’t exist. While large companies that are already importing may have an advantage with certain products the small businesses may have an advantage with certain services since they can be more flexible.  Small businesses can react to market changes quicker than a large company can.  So there’s certainly opportunity. 
 
Belize is a still a developing country in which you can still identify niches that need to be filled. Often times it’s a smaller niche that the big boys or monopolies aren’t filling, a “mom and pop” type business.
 
It’s common when people come on our tours that they ask us questions about business opportunities in Belize.  We tell them that if they think like an entrepreneur in the 3 days they are on our tour, if they keep their eyes and ears open, they will come up with at least half a dozen ideas that could be implemented and make a good businesses.  And sure enough, when the tour is over they have a list of 5-10 ideas, which we sit down and go over with them.
 
A few of them are good, but to make it in Belize, you probably need to have 3 or 4 businesses because the domestic market rarely supports one new business at the level that someone would need to be comfortable or to support a reasonable lifestyle.  We see that amongst Belizeans they will do construction work, raise tilapia farm and grow some citrus or some other crop. The successful small business people in Belize tend to have a few irons in fire. There are so many niche markets that exist or are merging, that if you have an entrepreneurial view of things, you’ll find a way to make it.
 
(Tourists to Belize who have camped and kayaked together, pictured.)
 
Frik De Meyere of Boris Mannsfeld & Associates – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Belize street outside traditional village – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingBelize has a small population of $300,000 people. 70% are younger than 22 and the main reason for that is the youth of the country. In Belize, we are just on our 30th year of independence.
 
70% of the population in Belize are younger than 22, so do your calculations. This country is similar to the US and Europe after the World War II or the baby boomer generation.  After independence 30 years ago, the economy started growing, roads were built, and the world changed down here.  They built social security, they built schools, they built roads. People just got started having more kids.
 
The economy in Belize is traditional. Belize is an agricultural country, based on sugar cane, bananas and citrus. The rest of the economy is tourism and nothing else. In my personal opinion, there will never be any other big industry to develop here. We do not have a single industrial park in the whole country; not one. I have seen the all scouting by all those big car manufacturers and other production companies that are very active in Mexican and Guatemalan countries in the production of cement, glass, windows and other big scale production companies, but they don’t put up their own facilities here in Belize because there are no roads, there are no harbors of a decent size, there is no guarantee of electricity, and there is no guarantee of anything. You wouldn’t even see 5,000 people located together anywhere in the whole country.  Even if you wanted to build a factory to cater to 5,000 people, you need to build 5,000 houses around that. It just isn’t working in this type of country.
 
It’s a governmental thing. The government just can’t afford it. They cannot give you the guarantee of any of those, because they do not have the money. Not a lot of those thousands of people who live here in Belize are paying their taxes. Going back to the population count, we have 300,000 people and 70% of them are the kids who don’t work yet. The 30% that are left to work at low-income jobs do not pay taxes. Only a few thousand people pay taxes. It’s a few million-dollar budget per ministry for the whole country, including assumed fees and wages. There is nothing left.

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