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BELIZE Task Force on Services

Strategy for the Development of the Services Sector

This strategy document is the brainchild of the Hon. Said Musa, Prime Minister of Belize. On the 19th April 1999, the Prime Minister commissioned the establishment of a task force to identify emerging opportunities in the services sector and to develop strategies for the promotion, marketing and further development of same. Most of the members of the Task Force were from the private sector. This report is the Task Force on Services' response to the challenge that was offered by the Prime Minister.

In the early meetings of the Task Force, five sub-sectors of the services sector were identified as areas with strong growth potential. Those areas included Information Technology, Tourism, Financial Services, Creative Services and Research and Development. The various activities that form the foundation of this strategy document will:

  • Allow unfettered access to telecommunications technology, at the lowest possible cost, to companies operating in the Information Technology (IT) industry in the free zones
  • Initiate IT courses at the Associates Degree level
  • Introduce copyright legislation
  • Increase the enrollment at Belize's Regional Language Center (RLC)
  • Improve quality control in and penetrate export markets for locally made handicraft
  • Construct a Tourism village in Belize City
  • Launch a marketing strategy for Belize's international financial services industry
  • Expand the small sector by introducing new financial vehicles for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs)
  • Construct a school of art
  • Consummate cultural exchange agreements with countries like Trinidad and Tobago
  • Initiate Belize's First Biennial Art Festival
  • Increase employment opportunities for local artists at hotels by offering hoteliers tax credits for hiring local entertainers
  • Attract well-trained Belizeans back home to participate in the country's development effort

The strategy outlined in this document will deliver the following verifiable indicators of success over the next four years:

  • Create 8,000 jobs in the services sector
  • Reduce Belize's dependency on foreign exchange earnings from commodities that enjoy preferential market accesses
2.1 - Government's Sectoral Policy
"Services" cover many different activities; from banking and insurance, through transport, tourism, consultancy, telecommunications, to construction, accountancy, films and TV and the provision of labour.

Heretofore, Belize has been silent on any comprehensive effort to develop its services sector. There is no single document lying anywhere in the Public Sector that attempts to craft a development plan for the entire sector. A small exception to this has been that successive governments in Belize have realized the incredible growth potential of the tourism industry. Consequently, sub-sector strategies for tourism have been developed and implemented by both political administrations.

Compared to tourism, the international financial services industry has had a more difficult history. Both major political parties have not shared the same level of enthusiasm about the future of the financial services industry and this reality has stunted the growth of an industry that has substantial job creation capacity.

The services sector provides an opportunity for Belize to bolster its socio-economic position in view of the inevitable erosion of trade preferences for traditional agriculture products such as sugar, citrus and bananas. This sector represents Belize's best opportunity for sustained economic growth in the medium to long terms.

2.2 - Features of the Sector

The services sector accounted for 61.4% of Belize's GDP in 1998. This figure could be compared to the agriculture sector's contribution to GDP in 1998 of 15.3%.

Foreign exchange earnings related to the services sector continue to increase. In 1994, for example, foreign exchange earnings from services represented 19.5% of GDP compared to 24.0% in 1998.

The fastest growing sub-sector of the services sector is tourism. In 1996, tourism's contribution to the GDP was 17.4% compared to 18.7% in 1998. The finance and insurance sub-sector remained fairly stable over the last two years with contributions to GDP remaining at about 6.9%.

Where the services sector's importance to the economy becomes obvious once again is in the area of job creation. By 1998, the services sector had created jobs for 57% of the labour force; this according to the Labour Force Survey conducted by the Central Statistical Office. While the primary sector had recorded a decline in jobs between 1997 and 1998, from 21,235 to 18,615 respectively, the services sector showed an increase from 36,645 in 1997 to 41,820 in 1998.

Table I - Employed Labour Force by Industrial Sector

Industrial Sector April 1996 April 1997 April 1998
Primary 18,735
Secondary 10,945
Services 35,345
Total 65,025 70,680 73,345
Source: Central Statistical Office

2.3 - Beneficiaries and Parties Involved

The primary beneficiaries of any expansion in the services sector would be the economy of Belize, communities all over the country, professionals and the wider private sector. Unlike the sugar, citrus and bananas industries, which have primary beneficiaries that are regionally defined, the services sector's direct beneficiaries are pervasive. This strategy outlines a plan that will create jobs throughout the country of Belize.

Belize's Economy

The benefits of the services sector to the economy of Belize are hard to question. This sector accounts for 61.4% of GDP and 57% of the employed labour force. The growth potential of the sector, especially the tourism sub-sector, is obvious to many. Tourist arrivals in August 1999 were 24% above that of the previous year. Such increases will have a multiplier effect on the economy.


Expansions in the services sector will translate into growth for all communities in Belize. None of our major sectors has such a mark of ubiquity. Growth in the agriculture sector, for example, will more often than not be restrained by such issues as quality of the soil, availability of the land, environmental concerns and market access; such limitations will not plague the growth of the services sector.

The strategies that this document contemplates will create jobs for the accounting and legal firms in Belize City as well as the Mayan women weaving their Jippy Jappa baskets in San Antonio Village in the Toledo District. This is how pervasive the services sector is.


An expansion in the international financial services industry in Belize will increase the demand for trained staff in the legal and accounting fields. As additional offshore banks come to Belize and the number of International Business Companies (IBCs) increase, the demand for professionals will rise as well, creating many high-paying jobs in the process.

The same is true of growth in the information technology field. As companies are attracted to Belize for such services as Customer Service Support, Offshore Data Processing and Export Technology Services, the demand for professionals will increase. Most of the 125 people currently employed by the offshore data processing companies in Ladyville, Belize are people with Sixth Form education who have had exposure to computers.


2.4 - Problems to be Addressed

The various sub-sectors that have been targeted in this strategy are beleaguered by difficulties, small and large, which must be dealt with to create an environment that is conducive to the growth of the services sector. Some of the problems facing the various sub-sectors include:

Information Technology (IT)

- High cost of telecommunications technology and BTL's unwillingness to allow others into the market - This is singularly the most serious threat to the growth of this sub-sector. The major regional competitors for Belize are Barbados and Costa Rica, both of which have well established industries. In some areas, Belize's telecommunications costs are as much as 45% above those of Costa Rica. Even the IDB in its 1998 Country Paper raised concerns over the Belize Telecommunication's LTD's hegemony over Belize's access to telecommunications technology. Table I below is meant purely to provide some indication of basic telecommunications rates for Belize, Barbados and Costa Rica. In both Barbados and Costa Rica special concessionary rates are offered to IT firms.

  • Limited local training in computer science - While a number of computer schools have appeared across the country providing basic training, IT companies will need people that are trained in operating systems(Novell, Microsoft, UNIX) and software development (Visual C+, Visual Basic, Oracle, JAVA)
  • Absence of copyright legislation - This issue is not as obvious as the two previous concerns raised, but it is a matter of importance for any company looking for a destination offshore to do software development and other such technologically sensitive work.


  IDD to the U.S.- Peak IDD to the U.S.- Off-peak Internet Access
$20.00 for 18 hrs. and $2.00 for each hour thereafter
$40.00 Unlimited
Costa Rica
$25.00 for the first 25 hrs

All figures above are in USD and do not include any local taxes


  • Flawed marketing strategy for Belize's Regional Language Center (RLC) - The nexus between the language center and the tourism industry is not obvious, though it should be. Moreover, the center has a regional political role to play that the current custodians of the programme may not fully appreciate.
  • Poor quality control and inability to access export markets continue to limit the growth of the handicraft industry. The unfortunate reality of Belize's handicraft industry is that we have seemingly stopped in time. The problems plaguing industry players today are no different from those that existed five years ago. Many of the artists continue to have difficulties managing their personal finances, delivering the same level of quality time and again, and accessing export markets.
  • One of the missing pieces of infrastructure for Belize City's and the country of Belize's involvement in the international cruise ship business is a tourism village

Financial Services

  • Lack of a comprehensive marketing plan for Belize's international financial services industry
  • Need for additional financial vehicles to enhance the domestic credit environment for local companies. Additional windows could be created at the local banks through guarantee schemes for small companies to gain access that they would not be able to otherwise.

Creative Services

  • Absence of a school dedicated solely to the arts (visual, musical, dramatic)
  • Need for the creation of a Belize Biennial Art Festival at which time the achievements of our local artists are celebrated and promoted
  • Need for better organized cultural exchanges with other countries in such areas as song writing, music and comedy to enhance local offerings

Research and Development

  • Need to attract trained Belizeans back home to lead country's effort to jump-start a research and development industry
3.1 - Overall Objective
The overall objective of this strategy is to foster the socio-economic development of the country of Belize through using the services sector as the engine of growth.

3.2 - Strategy Purpose
The purpose of this strategy is to identify opportunities in and to make recommendations for the further development of Belize's services sector.

3.2.1 - Driving Down Telecommunications Costs will Attract More IT (Information Technology) Firms

Irrespective of how cleverly conceived Belize's marketing strategy is, attempts at expanding the country's IT industry will fail miserably if Belize does not grapple with the high cost of telecommunications technology and the fact that BTL's exclusive license precludes the country from developing new aspects of the IT industry. The developer at the EPZ in Ladyville has indicated that the singularly most important challenge facing his development efforts is telecommunications costs. Normal telecommunications costs in Belize are at least 45% above those of Costa Rica, one of our primary competitors in the IT sector.

Related to the high cost problem is the concern that BTL's determination to jealously guard its exclusive license over telecommunications in Belize presents a formidable hurdle to the development of the IT industry. While Barbados has three Internet providers, Belize has only one. Website design, development and hosting as a package can be easily done in Belize for clients all over the world. But again, BTL, as the sole provider as to date, considers all this a treat.

Website design, development and hosting is really only the tip of the iceberg for the IT industry. Companies interested in setting up in Costa Rica are offered Dedicated Internet Access, Digital Point to Point Link, Transportation Network with fiber and wireless digital technology, Leased Channels using satellite facilities, VSAT networks and X.25 networks. Over the years Costa Rica has built its telecommunications infrastructure to service all types of companies with high volumes of international telecommunications. Some of the applications include high and medium speed data transmission (LAN and information systems interconnection), audio and video teleconferencing, Corporate email, Data processing, Electronic funds transfers, Remote Processing, 800 remote services, remote telemarketing, simultaneous applications for voice, data, fax, video and corporate communications systems and interconnection with corporate intranets.

The problem by and large in Belize is not the total absence of the telecommunications infrastructure, but rather the local provider's unwillingness to provide much needed technology for the IT industry at reasonable rates.

3.2.2 - IT Courses at the Associates Level are an Imperative

At the data processing level we can argue that Belize is able to meet the human resource requirements of IT companies. But, data processing is really only the entry point for the IT industry. There are other areas such as software development (coding and abstraction, for example) and systems installation and administration.

If the IT industry will be pursued aggressively, there is a need to ensure that the country is training people to meet the demand. Even in the absence of the growth of the IT industry, local demand for people with some of the above-mentioned skills is increasing daily.

3.2.3 - Copyright Legislation Will Help to Protect the Operations of High-End IT Companies

The need for local copyright legislation is becoming an increasingly pressing matter. While companies that are engaged in data processing might be less concerned about whether or not such legislation exist, the same is not true for companies involved with software development. Risk of piracy is an obvious concern to companies involved with software development. These companies will want the assurance that their interests are protected locally.

Belize's Copyright Bill is schedule to go to the House of Representatives next year. New life must now be brought to this exercise to ensure that the law is passed, after careful input from the various stakeholders.

3.2.4 - Belize' Regional Language Center (RLC) Will Expand Once the Marketing Strategy is Corrected

A $2.3 Million Bz. building is now in the construction phase in Belmopan to house Belize's Regional Language Center (RLC). This center is being financed by the Republic of China (ROC) as part of a regional project with all the Central American countries. The concept paper that laid the foundation for the RLC contemplated that public servants and others from the various Central American countries would come to Belize to learn English. Caribbean countries would also be encouraged to send their people to Belize to learn Spanish. The Government of Belize needs to make a demarche to the Government of the ROC to remind them of the purpose of the RLC and to encourage them to prevail upon the other Central American and Caribbean countries to send their people to Belize to study both Spanish and English.

There is an important link between language training and the tourism industry. Guatemala and Costa Rica are examples of countries that have not only recognized that connection, but have been able to harness that relationship. In Antigua, Guatemala, there are supposedly well over 200 language schools. The approach used in the teaching of the Spanish language is that of immersion; students are therefore expected to live with families while attending classes and touring the village's rich historical sites. The students/tourists population in this community has over the years become so large that language schools are now providing a livelihood for the entire village. The city of Antigua is really a hodge-podge of tourists/students, language schools, host families and pharmacies.

For Belize to do what Guatemala and Costa Rica have been able to accomplish, the language-training programme would have to be tailor made for and marketed to the tourists/students. Classes cannot last for eight months. Some classes would have to be much shorter, say a month, and designed for the tourists/students.

3.2.5 - Handicraft Quality Will be Enhanced and Export Markets Accessed

Experts from both the Caribbean and Mexico have confirmed that the quality of Belize's woodcarvings is second to none in the region. Any handicraft export strategy then should use woodcarvings as its lead product.

For many years the missing link in the woodcarving industry was the absence of drying technology to prevent the carvings from cracking. The National Handicraft Center now has a kiln to dry lumber, so that the infrastructure now exists to cross what years ago seemed an insurmountable hurdle.

A national node should be established to deal with issues of personal finances and quality control for the artists. This institution should be mandated to raise the quality of a targeted number of handicraft products.

A renewed focus must be placed on accessing exports markets. A node should be established and commissioned to access new markets for Belize's handicraft. There are many companies all over the United States and the United Kingdom that sell handicraft products from all over the world. We must now access those markets.

3.2.6 - Belize City Will Establish a Tourism Village

The concept of establishing a tourism village in Belize City is not a new one. Over the last seven years the Ministry of Tourism has looked at this project several times. Much has changed in the landscape over the last few years, and the tourism village concept would appear to be more prepared now than ever before for a successful launching. First, the cruise ship industry in Belize is about to get a major boost with several new ships docking in Belize. And second, property disputes in the proposed location of the village have apparently been amicably resolved. These developments have created an environment ripe for the successful implementation of the tourism village project.

The tourism village will offer an array of services to tourists, including duty free shopping, passenger terminal, call centers, restaurants and local entertainment. The tourism village plan is a critical component in the strategy to make Belize City an attractive tourist destination per se.

3.2.7 - Belize Will be Marketed as an International Financial Center With the "Belize Advantage"

An International Financial Services Commission (IFSC) has recently been established with the mandate to promote, protect and enhance Belize as an international financial center. The Commission is chaired by the Central Bank of Belize; the other Board members come primarily from the Belize Offshore Practitioners Association (BOPA). The IFSC will require all trust corporations to pay a licensing fee of $5,000 per year which will then be used for the regulation and promotion of Belize's international financial services.

A comprehensive marketing strategy must now be developed for the promotion of Belize as the financial services center of choice. This strategy must focus on inviting the international business community to find out more about the "Belize Advantage" and to explore the expanding opportunities that Belize has to offer for the development and provision of high-quality financial services in the following areas: Offshore Banks, Trusts and Estates, Insurance, Ship Registration, Mutual funds, Corporate Domicile, Limited Partnerships, International Business Companies, Trademarks and Patents and Copy Right (2000).

The current proposal on the table is for the IFSC to provide both regulatory and promotional functions. This proposal is potentially problematic. We have seen from our own experience in Belize that regulators are not good promoters. Belize's EPZ programme was in the past regulated and promoted by what was then called the Ministry of Trade and Industry. When investors met with the public officers, more time was spent informing the investors of what the law had to say instead of where the opportunities existed in the legislation. Herein lies the fundamental conflict.

Promoters of Belize's financial services center must focus on the competitive advantage that Belize's center offers. The "Belize Advantage" marketing strategy will highlight issues such as confidentiality, user-friendliness of the legislation, vigilance in regulation and supervision, stability of the country's democratic institution, access to modern telecommunications and support services, strategic location, magnificent environment and lifestyle, dedicated and skilled management and workforce and responsiveness to the needs and interests of the global financial network.

3.2.8 - Additional Financial Vehicles Will Increase the Local Business Community's Access to Capital

At least two additional pieces of infrastructure must be put in place to encourage expansions in the number of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs): an Industrial Credit Fund and a Credit Guarantee Scheme. To enhance the industrial development of Belize, an Industrial Credit Fund (ICF) must be established to provide medium and long term credit to companies involved in production. The Government of Belize will establish both funds in collaboration with the Central Bank of Belize.

The ICF will contribute to the industrial development of Belize by stimulating growth output, employment and foreign exchange earnings of the economy through the provision of medium and long term credit to productive enterprises operating primarily in the private sector. ICF resources will be channeled through qualified financial intermediaries such as the commercial banks and approved non-bank financial institutions. Potential beneficiaries must first approach a financial institution with a viable project proposal that in turn will submit the proposal to the ICF. ICF resources can be used to finance fixed assets, working capital and technical assistance in the following areas of activity: agro-industry, manufacturing, and fishing and tourism.

A Credit Guarantee Scheme (CGS) is required to assist small enterprises in obtaining security for their loans from commercial banks and other approved financial institutions. CGSs will increase the pool of funds that are available for the expansion of the small business sector. In the normal course of business, commercial banks prefer to not participate in small sector because of potential exposures to default. By partially insolating the commercial banks from losses, the CGS creates an environment that leads to an increase in the amount of funds available to the small sector for development.

3.2.9 - A School of Art Will Enhance Belize's Offerings in the Tourism Industry

There is an obvious connection between the arts and tourism. Many tourists visit countries to learn about new cultures and other ways of living. As the eyes are the windows to the soul so is art the key to understanding cultures and peoples. Whether in paintings, graphic designs, sculptures, ceramics, drawings or print making, art can tell Belize's visitors so much about the country. Belize therefore has a vested interest in ensuring that local works of art reflect who we are as a people. The school of art will assist artists and artisans in upgrading skills their skills and creating new products. The school will also serve as a venue for exchanges between artists of different parts of the country and the world.

3.2.10 - A Belize Biennial Art Festival Will Acknowledge the Achievements of Local Artists and Serve as an Additional Attraction for Belize's Tourism Industry

Belize must initiate a regional art festival involving painting, photography, video, sculpture, ceramic and printmaking. There is an opportunity that exists in the arts that Belize has not capitalized on. The Cezanne Exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1996 attracted over 548,741 visitors. This exhibition alone brought over $86.5 Million USD into the city's economy. Art festivals are about big business.

3.2.11 - The Entertainment Industry Will Provide Gainful Employment to Many

An opportunity that glares Belize right in the face is being overlooked.Belize Carnival 1999 should have taught the country at least two important lessons: firstly, Carnival is potentially a major tourist attraction and, by extension, a substantial foreign-exchange earner, and secondly, a concerted effort must be made to ensure that the carnival is localized. Who wants to come to Belize to look at a Trinidad and Tobago Carnival? Most of the songs used by the various carnival bands were from Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica.

Cultural exchange agreements between Belize and possibly Trinidad and Tobago should be consummated and a focus should be placed in that exchange on the development in such areas as comedy, song writing and drama. Current cultural exchange agreements that Belize has with countries like Cuba and Mexico must be better perfected to ensure that the local entertainment industry is given an additional shot in the arm.

A tax incentive programme will be offered to hoteliers who hire Belizean artists to entertain at their place of business. This incentive programme will be managed by BTB who will also offer the tax incentive.

3.2.12 - Highly trained Belizeans Living Abroad Will Return to Belize and Attract Research and Development Funds to the Country

There are quite a few well-trained Belizeans working abroad that would like to return home to assist the country with its development efforts. Some of these people are highly trained in areas of Organic Chemistry, Physics and Math. They have engaged in research in the United States of America and other parts of the world. The concept would be to attract them to Belize as lecturers at the University of Belize while a strategy is jointly developed between the individuals and the University of Belize to access research grants from around the world.

Any research and development effort that attracts funds to Belize will also accelerate the country's development effort. At the University level, students will have the incredible privilege of studying under established Belizean researchers who have studied and researched at well-known regional Universities.

3.3 - Anticipated Results

The strategies outlined in this document will accomplish the following:

  • IT firms in the free zones allowed unfettered access to telecommunications technology at the lowest possible cost
    Targeted job creation: 5,000 over four years primarily from such areas as Customer Service Support, Data Processing and Programming
  • IT courses introduced at the Associates Degree level
  • Copyrights legislation passed
  • Regional Language Centers (RLC) enrollment increased
    Targeted job creation: 200 over the next four years
  • Quality control improved and Export market accessed for Belize's handicraft industry
    Targeted job creation: 1000 over the next four years
  • Tourism village constructed in Belize City
  • The "Belize Advantage" marketing strategy for the international financial services sector launched
    Targeted job creation: 400 over the next four years
  • Number of SMEs increased as a result of additional financial vehicles
    Projected job creation: 1000 over the next four years
  • School of Art constructed
  • Cultural Exchange Programme signed with Trinidad and Tobago
  • First Biennial Arts Festival initiated
  • Tax Credit offered to hoteliers that use local artists as entertainers
    Projected job creation: 400 over the next four years
  • Trained Belizeans returned home to assist with research and development

3.4 - Activities

3.4.1 - Broad interpretation of EPZ and CFZ Laws Regarding Telecommunications Technology

There is no need for new legislation to accomplish this goal. All that is required is a true interpretation of certain provisions of the EPZ and /or the CFZ act. Both of these acts cover the movement of goods and services, and both of them contemplate that the users of the zones would have access to telecommunications technology from other sources if they found those provided by BTL to be inadequate and/or costly. BTL continues to argue that their exclusive license over the provision of telecommunications in Belize also extends to the free zones.

The GOB must take a definitive stand on this matter in support of IT firms that are interested in making Belize their home. Once this problem has been addressed the environment conducive to attracting additional IT firms will be created.

3.4.2 - IT Courses Developed at the Associates Degree Level

The University of Belize must rise to this challenge. The IT courses would be designed to ensure that the student receives additional exposure to computers and that they are prepared for the new roles that the expansion in the IT industry will bring.

Even in the absence of an expansion in the IT industry, local companies are seeing a growing need to attract students who have had exposure to computers beyond the high school level.

3.4.3 - Copyright Legislation Completed Locally

There has been serious talk about the introduction of copyright legislation in Belize over the last year. There are some convincing arguments now for the expeditious implementation of this piece of legislation. Companies involved in the high end IT industry will want an assurance that they are protected by the law.

The Solicitor General's office will be tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that the draft legislation that emerges for the copyrights reflects where Belize wants to go.

3.4.4 - Regional Language Center (RLC) Marketing Strategy Refined

The growth of Belize's RLC potentially hinges on two strategies: 1) Government of Belize reminding the ROC of the rationale that gave rise to the financing of the center and 2) the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) assisting the University of Belize with the marketing of the school.

First, the University of Belize and the Government of Belize, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, must jointly agree on the approach to the ROC. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs would have to make the demarche.

Second, BTB can play an important role in the marketing of Belize's RLC. In their tourist magazine called "Destination Honduras", the Government of Honduras dedicated a small section of the publication to promoting the country's language schools. A similar approach can be used in Belize. Furthermore, BTB can allow the marketing of the RLC on its Website on the Internet.

3.4.5 - Quality Control Focussed on in the Handicraft Industry and Export Market Opportunities Identified for Belize's Handicraft Industry

Meaningful presence in external markets requires a commitment to quality that the industry has heretofore been unused to. The National Handicraft Center (NHC) at this stage, and the School of Art at a later period, must be given a mandate to play leading roles in upgrading the quality of handicraft products. The NHC, for example, can be appointed the national node with responsibility for coordinating workshops and other such programmes at the NHC building in Belize City for those involved in various aspects of the handicraft industry.

Mexico has a highly developed handicraft industry and can be used as a partner in an exchange programme with the specific purpose of enhancing the quality of Belize's handicraft products.

TIPS will focus Belize's market promotion efforts, leading to greater market access for all of Belize's handicraft products. Market access issues fall within the purview of this organization's institutional charter and capacity, quality control does not. All quality control issues would be directed to the National Handicraft Center.

3.4.6 - Tourism Village Constructed in Belize City

The long talked about tourism village for Belize City will be constructed. The effort will most likely be a joint Government of Belize/Private sector effort. The onus to orchestrate this project will fall on the Ministry of Tourism. The old Fort George area in Belize City will be the focus of this development.

3.4.7 - The "Belize Advantage" Marketing Strategy is Refined

The absence of promotional funds is only one of the several problems that have haunted the development of Belize as a major international financial services center. Through the BOPA, the IFSC will channel some of its financial resources raised from licensing fees to promote Belize as the jurisdiction of choice for an array of international financial services.

BOPA will assume responsibility for the marketing strategy used under the "Belize Advantage" marketing plan.

3.4.8 - New Financial Vehicles Developed for SMEs

The Central Bank of Belize will assume responsibility for overseeing the introduction of an Industrial Credit Fund for medium sized companies involved in the productive sector, and a Credit Guarantee Scheme for primarily small enterprises.

3.4.9 - School of Art Concept Endorsed by Various Stakeholders

The School of Art will be a joint project between the GOB and St. John's College in which the latter will essentially receive the GOB's blessing on efforts that are well advanced to see the building for the School of Art constructed. This project is therefore a joint initiative.

3.4.10 - Cultural Exchange Programme Negotiated with Trinidad and Tobago

Clearly, Trinidad and Tobago is not the only country that Belize can benefit from in a cultural exchange. Belize currently has similar such agreements with Cuba and Mexico, for example, which are just as important. The purpose of the exchange agreement with Trinidad is to focus on enhancing Belize's entertainment repertoire in song writing, comedy and music.

The cultural exchange efforts with Trinidad, Cuba and Mexico, as far as such efforts relate to the enhancement of song writing, comedy and music skills, will be coordinated by the Belize Arts Council and the Belize Tourism Board.

3.4.11 - Belize's First Biennial Arts Festival Planned and implemented

St. John's College, the BTB and the Belize Arts Council will assume full responsibility for this project. The organizers will draw from the experiences of the Belize Tourism Industry's Association's (BTIA) yearly trade show and that of the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry's EXPO Belize to determine how best to market the festival.

The show will be held in the year 2000.

3.4.12 - Local Entertainment Industry Encouraged Through a Tax Credit Scheme for Hoteliers

This programme will essentially seek to acknowledge Hoteliers in the tourism industry who utilize local entertainers at their place of business to entertain tourists. Those involved with the coordination of this effort will include the BTB and the National Arts Council.

3.4.13 - Trained Belizeans Living Abroad return to Belize to Engage in Research and Development

The Trade and Investment Service (TIPS) and the University of Belize will be responsible for the implementation of this programme. TIPS is currently exploring a Business Professorship Programme to bring Belizean PhD's, who are living abroad, back home to teach a few courses at the University of Belize.

Over time, the primary focus of this programme will be to attract research and development grants to Belize. Beyond attracting research and development grants, the programme will allow Belize to attract some of its well-trained Belizeans who are currently contributing to other countries' development.


 4.1 - Assumptions at Different Levels
This strategy is premised on several key assumptions that are outlined below:

4.1.1 - Government of Belize's (GOB) Unwavering Commitment to the Development of the Services Sector

Without the ardent support of the GOB this strategy will die a natural death. The Ministry of Economic Development's library is replete with studies similar to this report that few people read, much less implemented. In a document entitled "Belize's Industry Sector Study" written in 1993 by Systems Caribbean Ltd. for the Government of Belize, the information technology industry was identified as an area with strong growth potential in Belize's economy. The areas listed at the time included: publishing, data services, software development, et al. Not much has changed in six years.

4.1.2 - Education Remaining the Center-Piece of the Country's Development Strategy

A strong education infrastructure is to the services sector what good soil is to the agriculture sector. There must be continued focus on transforming Belize's education system. The services sector has an unparalleled capacity to create high paying jobs in Belize's economy. However, this sector can also quickly exacerbate income disparities unless citizens are given equal access. A strong system of education is the key to access for everyone.

4.1.3 - BTL's Stranglehold on Communication Technology Being Broken

The high cost of accessing telecommunications technology in Belize is unquestionably a major hurdle to the development of the services sector. Growth in the IT industry depends on the successful resolution of this problem. Ultimately, Belize City is not competing against Dangriga as a destination for investment. The country of Belize is competing with the likes of Barbados and Costa Rica.

Companies like Intel and Acer will not come to Belize because the Prime Minister is a pleasant man, even though that might help. The decision to move an operation offshore to a country like Belize has to make business sense. It cannot make business sense to set up in Belize when Belize's neighbours have telecommunications infrastructures that are as modern yet at a fraction of the cost.

4.1.4 - Focus on the Promotion of Tourism Continuing

Overall growth in the services sector must be maintained. A key component in the strategy to maintain the gains that this sector has recorded thus far is the tourism industry. Visitors' numbers are on the increase. This year has been one for breaking the arrivals' records. Belize must be mindful though that the promotion budget for the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) has also increased from $1,000,000 Bz. to $3,500,000 Bz.-250% of the level that existed in 1998.

It takes hard, cold cash to promote Belize. There is no short cut.

4.1.5 - Aggressive Promotion of Belize's International Financial Services Center Commencing

In the last few months, Belize has completed the easy part of the task; laws were passed making more competitive Belize's international financial services center. The country must now promote its center. The IFSC needs to spend the necessary financial resources to ensure that all potential customers of Belize's financial center are aware of "The Belize Advantage."

4.1.6 - Expeditious Implementation of this Strategy

Belize is not short on studies; it is however lacking in action. Let it not be said that another task force met, made recommendations and its work was placed on a shelf in the Ministry of Economic Development. The GOB must take up the mantle.


5.1 - Organization and Implementation Procedures

5.1 - Organization and Procedures

The life of the Task Force on Services ends at the delivery of this report to the Prime Minister, Hon Said Musa on the 15th October 1999, almost six months to the day of the initiation of the work of the group. It was always the intention that the Task Force would have a limited life. A steering committee must now be established with representation from both the public and private sectors to oversee the implementation of the various aspects of this strategy.

Beyond the steering committee, an office or an officer in the government close to the Prime Minister must be given the authority to see the implementation of this document, under the guidance of the steering committee.

5.2 - Costs and Financing Plan

Various stakeholders will pay for the activities anticipated under this project.

Table III

Paid for by
Cost (BZD)
Broad interpretation of EPZ and CFZ laws allow IT firms an option to establish their own telecommunications infrastructure Government of Belize Normal administrative costs at the Solicitor General's Office
IT courses developed at Associates degree level University of Belize Course provided on a cost recovery basis
Copyrights legislation prepared Government of Belize Normal Administration costs of the Solicitor General's Office
RLC marketing strategy amended Belize Tourism Board and the OAS $100,000 per year
Quality control focussed on and export opportunities identified for the handicraft industry Technical assistance from the Mexican Government for quality control

Promotional funds from the Government of Belize and the OAS

Paid for through Technical assistance

$150,000 per year

Tourism village constructed in Belize City Ministry of Tourism/Private sector To be determined
"Belize Advantage" marketing strategy for international financial services industry International financial Services Commission (IFSC) $300,000 per year
New financial vehicles developed for SMEs Government of Belize Normal Administration costs at the Solicitor General's Office
School of Arts endorsed and constructed Japanese Government and the Government of Belize To be determined
Biennial Art Festival Belize Tourism Board and the Government of Belize To be determined
Cultural Exchange Agreement with Trinidad and Tobago Government of Trinidad and Tobago and Government of Belize To be determined
Trained Belizeans return home for R&D work University of Belize in the first instance since these people will work at the University To be determined


The effectiveness of the strategy outlined in this document is tied to several key factors outlined below:

6.1 - Policy Support

The GOB holds the key to the development of Belize's services sector. There is no stronger indication of government's commitment to the services sector than the fact that the Prime Minister commissioned the establishment of a task force on services. There are challenges facing the sector, but these are manageable difficulties once the government's support of the sector remains steadfast.

6.2 - Environmental Protection

The projects that form a part of this strategy are committed to sustainable development. None of the projects should lead to any deleterious effect on the environment.

6.3 - Women in Development

The services sector provides equal opportunities for upward mobility for both men and women. Most companies involved in software development care less about whether their technicians are men or women, and more about whether people have the requisite skills.

6.4 - Institutional and Managerial Capacity

A steering committee must be established post haste to focus on the delivery of the various projects in this document. The work of this committee should be aided by an office and/or officer with direct access to the Prime Minister.

6.5 - Economic Assessment

The services sector has played an increasingly important role in Belize's development. The contribution of services to GDP has increased steadily from 45% in 1980 to 61.4% in 1998. Interestingly enough, it was the services sector that was responsible for the growth that took place in Belize during 1998 as the downturn in agriculture and agro-industry production led to declines in the primary and secondary sectors of the economy. The fastest growing industry in the services sector is tourism.

(by Industrial Origin at Factor Cost)
  (Current Prices)
1996 1997 1998
Gross Domestic Product 1,014,484 1,040,038 1,064,137
Primary Activities 220,441 212,825 219,944
Secondary Activities 230,914 233,517 235,316
Services 605,005 637,441 653,117
Imputed Bank Service Charges (41,876) (43,745) (44,240)

All figures are in Bz. Dollars

The continued aggressive growth in the services sector that this strategy contemplates will serve as the centerpiece of Belize's strategy to diversify its export base. The Information Technology and the Tourism industries alone will allow Belize to hedge its risks in the sugar, citrus and banana industries; industries that not only access preferential markets, but also currently provide almost 80% of Belize's foreign exchange earnings.

Less than four years after Intel, the computer chip-company, established a plant in Costa Rica, the company has recorded monthly exports of 200 Million USD. These aggressive figures should not be anticipated in Belize at this stage, but they help to underscore that the potential for rapid economic growth led by the export of services does exist.


A steering committee will be established to oversee the implementation of the strategies outlined in this document. This committee will be made up of members of the public and the private sectors. An office and/or individual with direct access to the Prime Minister will be given the mandate to implement the various strategies that constitute this document.
The process of identifying emerging opportunities in the services sector has been completed. What is now required is a focussed effort at implementing the various recommendations coming out of the work of the Task Force on Services. Of all the various sectors in the economy, the services sector represents Belize's best opportunity to create jobs and to diversify the economy in the medium to long terms.