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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.32