Planning on starting a business, or dreaming of building a resort in Belize? You're not alone. Our gentle climate, tropical beauty and relaxed way of life are a lure to many, whether retired, close to retirement, or still actively involved in business. If you want to be in Belize, and have had successes elsewhere, chances are you can make a go of it here. To help you in formulating a business plan, we have compiled an assortment of general data relating to wage rates, cost of construction and other items, and some miscellaneous "insider information."
You definitely will want a Belize lawyer to handle any actions you take with respect to land; to run a title guarantee check first, and handle your land purchase (or lease request) as well; many friendly deals have been struck with unsuspecting visitors who ended up losing money. A lawyer also has local connections, which can be very helpful for foreigners in a strange land.
Wages (in US$)
If you are paying workers yourself (versus hiring a contractor that pays his own workers) you will have to make Social Security deductions and contributions: for example, a worker who makes over $55/week gets $0.65 deducted from their pay, and employers must contribute $3.90/week on each employees behalf. Income taxes must also be deducted, but only for those earning over $10,000/year. There are plenty of quality workers and craftsmen in Belize, and as with anywhere else, you may have to look a bit to find them. Your best assurance of getting things done the way you want them, is to be on hand for frequent supervision.
Resorts in operation generally pay US$10-12.5/day for general staff, but many remote locations provide meals and housing--and therefore pay less in actual cash.
Developers should bear in mind that the cost of living in and around Belize City is higher than elsewhere in the country, and for some occupations, wages there would be proportionately higher.
Materials (in US$)
Gasoline is US$2.50/gallon, but you can cover most of the country in just a few hours' driving time. Vehicles will be your major expense, however, utility vehicles, such as pick-up trucks, carry a much lower duty rate: 15% versus 45% for passenger cars, and the locally popular 4-wheel drive "sport utility vehicles" (despite the name). Plus there is currently a Value Added Tax of 15% on top of that, on all purchases. If you import your own used vehicle(s), these same charges will be applied based on their current value. Be sure to contact Customs in advance, with the particulars of your vehicle, to confirm your actual expense.
Utilities (in US$)
Electricity rates for industrial consumers are based on a usage of more than 30,000kwh per month; the rate for the first 50,000kwh is $0.20/kwh and $0.17/kwh for the balance; monthly service charge is $37.50. Non-industrial (less than 30,000kwh per month) users are charged $0.10/kwh for the first 50kwh, $0.17/kwh for the next 150kwh, and $0.21/kwh for the balance; monthly service charge is $2.00.
Telecommunications services in Belize are the best in the region. However, because it is operated by a monopoly, the rates are high. Internet and e-mail services are billed according to time used, as opposed to a flat-rate, unlimited access charge. A one-minute call to the United States during peak hours costs $1.58. Calls to Mexico and Central America are $1.00/minute; to Europe and beyond $3.00 and $4.00/minute. Even local calls are billed by the minute (BZ$0.05).
Some final notes:
The recently established Trade and Investment Promotion Service (TIPS) in the capital, Belmopan, would be a good source for information on all aspects of investing here, including details of the incentive programs offered by the government. If you opt to apply for the Fiscal Incentives Program, which offers tax holidays and duty exemptions to approved enterprises, you will want a local accountant or a consultant which specializes in preparing the applications, and can usually speed things up, since they would have local contacts. If you don't have a referral you can trust, you should visit with some of them in person, and ask for references, before hiring their services.
What is the best rule of thumb for doing anything in Belize?
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