Belize: Doing business and staying in touch
Doing Business in Belize
Lightweight suits are often worn, although dress is more casual. Ties are rarely worn in business meetings. You should make appointments, and business cards are acceptable. This is a child-friendly culture so it's considered polite to enquire about a colleague's family.
Mon-Fri 0800-1200 and 1300-1700. Some businesses are open Saturdays.
The economy of Belize took a real beating due to a disastrous 2008 season. Cane sugar accounts for almost half the country's exports followed closely by orange concentrates. Bananas, fish (farmed shrimp, cobia and tilapia), papayas and grapefruits are also an important secondary industry. With the exception of marine products, growth in these sectors has slowed considerably due to crop failures and the aftermath of several hurricanes. The oil sector grew by 3.4% in 2008 as a result of the sweet crude oil that was discovered in 2006.
The tourism industry, a vital part of the economy, also suffered with a 2.1% decline in overnight tourists and a 19% decline in cruises. The southern region was severely damaged by Hurricane Arthur. Natural catastrophes caused $66 million worth of structural damages, slowing the economy by 1.5% in 2009 with inflation increasing to 4.3% and unemployment hitting just above 12%.
2010, however, showed a weak recovery in economic growth, despite other hurricanes making appearances. Tourism is back up and cruise ships are back in force.
US$1.35 billion (2009, World Bank).
Sugar, citrus concentrates, bananas, papayas, cultured shrimp and fish.
Machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods, fuels, chemical products and pharmaceuticals.
Main trading partners
USA, UK, Central America, EU (Finland, Spain) and Canada.
Keeping in Touch in Belize
Stay away from the blue and yellow phones in tourist areas. You'll pay close to $US40 per minute for long distance calls.
Roaming agreements exist with most international mobile phone companies. Coverage is good along most of the coast and along the main routes to Mexico and Guatemala. Turn your phone local by inserting a SIM chip bought for US$25 and then using pre-paid cards sold throughout the country. You can also get yourself set up with a plan with Digicell (www.digicell.bz) or with Smart Phones (www.smart-bz.com).
There are internet cafés in urban areas and popular tourist centres offering reliable connections. Larger towns/cities and anywhere that tourists are likely to visit are starting to offer Wi-Fi, including in bars and restaurants, where it's often free when you order food and drink.
Belize's constitution guarantees a free press, though exceptions are provided for in the interest of national security, public order and morality.
There are no daily newspapers; most of the weekly papers come out on Friday and are heavily subsidised by political parties. Amandala is the most widely circulated newspaper in Belize and comes out twice weekly; The Reporter is a respected independent weekly; The Guardian is the United Democratic Party’s newspaper; and The Belize Times is the People’s United Party paper.
All TV channels and radio stations are privately run. Among them are Great Belize Television (known as Channel 5), Tropical Vision and Centaur Cable Network.
Radio stations in Belize include: Love FM, a commercial music and news station; Estereo Amor, a private, Spanish-language station; Krem FM, a commercial station; More FM, a private music station targeted at younger listeners; Wave Radio, affiliated to the United Democratic Party; and Positive Vibes FM, affiliated to the People's United Party.
Mail to Europe and the USA takes around a week. The postal service isn't always reliable, so don't be surprised if it takes longer.Post Office hours
Mon-Fri 0800/0830-1200 and 1300-1630. A few open on Saturdays.