Life in Belize - Telegraph Mentor
Bob Stevens says a special retirement programme exists for those who wish to move to the sub-tropical country of Belize.
Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 28/11/2007

Bob Stevens says welcome to Belize! Bob came to Belize with the British army and retired 14 years ago, staying in Belize with Esso Standard Oil as the country operations manager. Since then he has worked for both FedEx and Western Union as the country operations director.

He now runs his own companies, Belize Logistics Services Limited and Helibel Limited , the first commercial helicopter company in Belize. He also has a Safety Consultancy Business.

Bob is the secretary of the Belize British Chamber of commerce and President of the Royal British Legion Belize. He is also the regional consultant and facilitator for Occupational Safety and Health for Belize.

Bob says the Expats get together at Chef Bob's Bar and Grill on Friday nights from 5:30pm onwards, so if you are in town you will find us there. Come by and the first one's on me!

Belize (formerly British Honduras until the name of the country was changed in 1973) lies on the eastern or Caribbean coast of Central America, bounded on the north and part of the west by Mexico, and on the south and the remainder of the west by Guatemala.

The inner coastal waters are shallow and are sheltered by a line of coral reefs, dotted with islets called 'cayes', extending almost the entire length of the country. The capital city is Belmopan.

Population: Today Belize's population is estimated to be approximately 273,700. The country is a melting pot of many races and over the years the multi-racial make-up has risen through the influx of many people from Central America, Asia, Europe and the Caribbean.

The population census shows that the main ethnic groups: Mestizo (Maya-Spanish), Creole, Ketchi, Yucatec and Mopan Mayas, Garifuna and East Indians, make up a large percentage of Belize's population. The ethnic groups, however, are heavily intermixed.

Currency: The Belize dollar (BZ$) of 100 cents. The Belize dollar is tied to the US dollar.

Economy: Belize has a small economy, the principal sectors of which are: agriculture, manufacturing and services, which includes tourism and public administration. From 1998 through 2002, tourism represented 19.9% of Belize's GDP on an average annual basis.

Agriculture, agro-product manufacturing and tourism are the major foreign exchange earning sectors. During 2002, Belize's exports of goods and services represented approximately 57.6% of GDP. The main export items include: marine products (including seafood such as shrimp), sugar, citrus products and bananas.

Belize is the only country in Central America where English is the official language. While English is the official language, Creole and Spanish are also spoken.

Spanish is spoken as a mother tongue by the majority of the people in the Orange Walk and Corozal districts, north of Belize and the Cayo District in the west. In the southern districts, Stann Creek and Toledo, there are people whose first language is Garifuna or Maya.

Numerous Maya ruins indicate that for hundreds of years Belize was heavily populated by the Maya Indians, whose relatively advanced civilization reached its height between AD. 250 and 900.

Eventually the civilization declined leaving behind small groups whose offspring still exist in Belize contributing positively to the culturally diverse population. In 1502, Columbus sailed through parts of the Caribbean, but did not actually visit the area later known as British Honduras.

Constitution and Government: Belize achieved full independence on September 21, 1981. It is now a member of the Commonwealth, the United Nations, the Nonaligned Movement, the Organization of American States and the newly-formed Association of Caribbean States.

Diplomatic relations have been established with many countries. Belize is also a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and related institutions.

The Government of Belize is operated on the principles of Parliamentary Democracy based on the Westminster System. The country is a sovereign, democratic state, with Queen Elizabeth II as the head of State. She is represented in Belize by a Governor General, Sir Colville Young.

A Prime Minister and Cabinet make up the Executive Branch, while a 29-member elected House of Representatives and a nine-member appointed Senate form a bicameral legislature.

Retiring in Belize: A special Retirement Program has been designed especially for retirees who wish to live in Belize and can prove a permanent and consistent income from investment, pension or any other form of retirement benefit.

Successful applicants are granted special Qualified Retired Person's Status (QRP status).

Any Retired Person over 45 years of age who is a citizen or permanent resident of the USA, UK, Canada or Belize may apply for Qualified Retired Person status.

Interested persons can obtain further information on the benefits of retiring in Belize and an application form from the Belize Tourism Board, Level 3, Central Bank Building, Gabourel Lane, PO Box 325, Belize City, Belize or by visiting the Belize Tourism website .

Live and let live