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Belize Politics & Belize Prime Minister

Belize has a democratic, bi-cameral legislature elected by direct popular vote to serve a term of five years. A Prime Minister is appointed by the Governor-General, representative of Queen Elizabeth II. The leader of the majority party is given this appointment. Belize has a legal system based upon common law with a Supreme Court, whose chief justice is also appointed by the Governor-General receiving advice from the Prime Minister.

In 1998, the People’s United Party (PUP) regained control of the government (twenty-six seats of twenty-nine going to the PUP in the House of Representatives). The PUP was responsible for establishing Belize’s offshore legislation. After recent economic problems in the mid-90’s it is thought that this return to pro-foreign investment agenda’s will bring the economy back. The next election will not be held until 2003. The current Prime Minister is Dean Barrow.

The government’s budget motivations have resulted from a need to cut back on spending in certain areas and increase spending in others and provide tax incentives all to facilitate increased money flow. The new government is balancing a need for debt forgiveness with its need to develop its offshore sector and encourage foreign investment. This conflict will provide some uncertainty potentially.

As late as the beginning of June, threats were emanating from the British government regarding the refusal to forgive debts upwards of twelve million dollars on the basis that Belize had granted a Lord Michael Ashcroft the equivalent of a thirty-year tax break for an amount slightly large than the debt. In a June 5, 2001 article by The Guardian (London) an account of Clare Short’s, International Development Ministers, attempt to bring influence to bear against Lord Ashcroft are provided. The article describes a few of the anecdotes that have occurred recently between Ms. Short with the British Government as they have attempted to rein in the Country of Belize and grapple with the close ties between the Belizean government and Lord Ashcroft, whose holdings in Belize are very extensive.[2]

In general the government and country is fairly stable having gained independence and ending the debate of sovereignty with Guatemala. The people of Belize enjoy a seventy-five percent literacy rate. The democratic government and relations between the diverse populace is considerably better than some other Caribbean nations that have not yet stopped suffering from the results of the colonial period. Its location near Mexico and a deep port located on the Caribbean Sea makes for a strategic economic foot hold in Central America.

[1] Office of the Prime Minister-Belize, Profile of Prime Minister Said W. Musa, available at http://www.belize.gov.bz/pm/bio.html (last visited on Oct. 2, 2002).

[2] David Hencke, Rob Evans, and Michael White, Short to get tough on Ashcroft tax haven, The Guardian (London), June 5, 2001, at 1, available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/guardianpolitics/story/0,3605,501555,00.html (last visited on Oct. 2, 2002).