STEP

Title Research

Belize

Belize can trace its history back to 1500BC when the Mayan civilisation flourished. Although Columbus discovered Belize on one of his voyages, the country was kept secure from European occupation until the mid 17th century when British buccaneers settled among the logwood forests along the coast. Britain sent officials there in the late 18th century. In 1862, the settlement of Belize was declared a British colony and was named ‘British Honduras’. In 1964, it achieved self-governance. It changed its name to Belize again in 1973 and finally became independent in 1981, joining the British Commonwealth and United Nations.
New developments

Proposed new legislation includes the introduction of the Limited Liability Companies Bill.

1. Introduction

a. History and background

Belize can trace its history back to 1500BC when the Mayan civilisation flourished. Although Columbus discovered Belize on one of his voyages, the country was kept secure from European occupation until the mid 17th century when British buccaneers settled among the logwood forests along the coast. Britain sent officials there in the late 18th century. In 1862, the settlement of Belize was declared a British colony and was named ‘British Honduras’. In 1964, it achieved self-governance. It changed its name to Belize again in 1973 and finally became independent in 1981, joining the British Commonwealth and United Nations.

Belize is situated on the east coast of Central America bordering the Caribbean Sea, with Yucatán to the north, Guatemala to the west, and Honduras to the south. It is the only country in Central America that recognises English as its first language, with Spanish as its second language. It has a multi-ethnic, multi-religious population of about 275,000. This population consists of descendants of the original Mayan culture, Caribbeans, Caucasians, Chinese and East Indians.

The country encompasses 22,963 square kilometres. It has a subtropical climate with topography ranging from coastal plains through savannah-type vegetation to rainforest in the mountainous western area that borders Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras. It possesses the largest coral barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere.

Agriculture constitutes the major economic activity and provides sugar, citrus and banana exports. Other crops grown but less exported are cashew nuts, rice and beans. Tourism and eco-tourism are well-established, and the financial sector is growing. The enactments of the International Business Companies Act1990 and the Trusts Act1992 (1992 Act) have encouraged the development of an active offshore industry.

The capital is Belmopan, with the business centre operating in Belize City.

The currency is the Belize dollar (BZE), which is tied to the US dollar (USD) at the rate of BZE2 to USD1.

b. Legal system

The political and legal systems are based on the English model, and the law is English common law supplemented by local law. There is a Legislative Assembly (Parliament), with the British Commonwealth represented by the Governor General. There are lower and upper courts, the highest of which is the Supreme Court. Appeals are made from the Court of Appeal to the Privy Council, which is based in England. Belize, as well as being a member of the British Commonwealth, is also a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

Editorial board
Glen CH Wilson TEP
Bay Trust International Limited, Belize

Advert

Article Search

© 2011 Society of Trust & Estate Practitioners