Political Systems

Published: 2021-06-29 06:40:56
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A former British colony, Belize finally gained its independence in 1981. Similar to many Caribbean economies Belize's economy is dominated by hospitality and tourism, agriculture, fishing and forestry. According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) World Fact Book (2012), Belize is the least populated country in Central America with just over 334,000 residents and roughly half of its residents live in the urban areas (CIA, 2012). It is also the only English speaking country in Central America.
General Information
Belize boasts a very diverse society that is comprised of a multitude of cultures and languages. . The largest single ethnic group is the Mestizos, a Latino population who is descended from Maya Indians and Spanish ancestry. The Mestizos population increased dramatically during the conflicts of the 1980s when Belize received an influx of refugees from these neighboring countries. The next largest ethnic group represented is Creoles, who speak an English Creole dialect and are of African and African-European ancestry. A third ethnic group, Garifuna, is comprised of descendents of Carib Indians and Africans. There are a host of smaller ethnic groups represented within Belize as well.
According to The Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom (2013), Belize's per capita gross domestic product is $8,264 (Heritage Foundation, 2013). Although this is the second highest per capita income in Central America, there is still a very large income disparity between wealthy and poor Belizeans. The 2010 Poverty Assessment illustrated that more than 40% of the Belizean population resides in poverty. Between 2005 and 2012, Belize's Human Development Index (HDI) in Belize increased from 0.694 to 0.702, thus, Belize is considered to have high human development levels. This increase is likely related to legislation and policies designed to improve health and educational conditions within Belize.
Belize has an overall Freedom House score of 1.5. It is by far a free nation. While the country scored a 2 on civil liberties, its political rights score was a 1 due to concerns that over whether the judiciary is susceptible to political interference. According to an American Bar Association (ABA) 2011 report, Belize scored poorly in 16 of 28 factors relating to its criminal justice system). The ABA cited a number of issues in its report, including an extremely lengthy time that defendants remain on bail or in pretrial detention and a heavy case backlog where approximately one-fifth of detainees are still awaiting trial (American Bar Association, 2011 as quoted by Freedom House.
Belize's government is a parliamentary democracy under the British Commonwealth. Elections in Belize are held every five years. The Chief of State is Queen Elizabeth II, and the monarchy acquired through heredity only. The lead government official is the governor general, a position appointed by the monarch. After each legislative election, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition is normally appointed to the prime minister seat by the governor general. The prime minister normally recommends the deputy prime minister.
Belize's legislative branch is the bicameral National Assembly comprised of a twelve-seat Senate and a thirty-one seat House of Representatives. Each Senator is appointed by the governor general. Six of the members are appointed based upon recommendation of the prime minister, another three based upon recommendation of the leader of the opposition party. Each of the three remaining members are appointed based upon recommendations from the Belize Council of Churches and Evangelical Association of Churches, joint recommendations from the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Belize Better Business Bureau, and the National Trade Union Congress and the Civil Society Steering Committee. Senators are elected to five-year terms. Members of the House of Representatives are elected by direct popular vote to serve five-year terms. House of Representatives elections were last held in March 2012 and will be held again in 2017.

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