REPORT #641 May 2003

Produced by the Belize Development Trust

No matter what may be happening in the rest of the world, from SARS, to differences in the EU and the dollar, or War for oil, or any other thing? The Caribbean and Latin countries may be crying, but in tiny Belize, the economy is booming. With 260,000 people in the small country, things are going along quite well. Most everything is up, as foreign exchange earners.

If there are any drawbacks on the horizon, they are the danger of hurricane damage this fall season and some SARS carrier perhaps bringing the deadly virus to Belize. Otherwise it doesn't look like anything is going to stop the good times.

The new PUP government has smartened up and playing a close game of strict financial controls and almost no foreign borrowing. All the World Bank, Inter-American bank and other lending loans fast talking salesmen are being sent packing. Belize will now finance it's own development! Admittedly on a very slow and small scale for now, due to massive outstanding foreign debts. The government is restructuring these and attempting to control the bleeding of foreign exchange and get some sort of re-shuffle on the debt peonage compound interest lending system they are saddled with from outside lenders. While Belize is a long way from being in the clear on debt control and loan payment problems, the picture is starting to get better.

Development wise, the country has very little to do in infra-structure now. The southern highway is finished. The electricity business is a quasi-monopoly semi-privatized entity and growing in demand about 14% a year. There is need for a clear understanding of the national electrical grid and payoff formulas for investors to deal with selling electricity to the grid as competitors. Some sort of security for syndicates of investors to put in Wartsila 2.7 megawatt low rpm, crude oil electrical plants. The rumor on the street is the Prime Minister is favorable to entrepreneurs at 7 cents US per kwh wholesale grid prices. But the holdup seems to be the 30 year contract guarantees being legislated into place that would be needed to attract syndicate investors to invest in low cost Wartsila electrical production, with guarantees of access to foreign exchange to buy the crude oil and for dividend repayments. The quasi-monopoly electrical holder, FORTIS a Canadian company is not happy about that kind of competition. But competition is playing it's part nowadays in Belize in the telecommunications field and other fields as well. Right now, there is very small markets for both land line and cell phone systems competitive pricing and installation from private investors around the country and most of these would be very small setups. Around 300 to 3000 cell phones at fixed monthly charges to compete and give the customer better prices.

Internet is not world capable yet, for competition with bandwidth and upload speeds. But experiments by entrepreneurs seem to indicate this might occur with some breakthroughs before the end of the year. This will open many new economic fields for expansion.

Aquaculture, both fish and shrimp are booming. No taxes yet to the government as these operations are on concessions, but the future seems good with a world wide shortage of marine produce.

Since the Tourism Agency has got out of interfering with private small scale tourist investments, the atmosphere for tourism investment is growing. The potential is still large.

Many new types of tourism offerings are beyond the ken of bureaucrats and more for the entrepreneur to ponder with his/her risk capital.

Pollution is a problem. Cruise ships are overloading many tourist sites and shrimp farms are polluting Placentia Lagoon. There is a threat that the local coastal ecological balances are being compromised with proposed canals across cayes and peninsulars to be sure.

Generally speaking though, Belize other than growth problems and the foreign debt load problems is in excellent shape. The government is doing the right thing in our opinion, with tight expenditure controls. Big government sponsored infra-structure projects do not for this population size seem warranted much anymore. It is now more the field of legislation to encourage entrepreneurial investors that has to be learned.

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