Belize is an independent nation located on the Caribbean Sea in mainland Central America with Mexico to the North and Guatemala to the South and West. It has a population of about 250,000 and covers an area 8,867 square miles. With English as the official language and Spanish widely spoken, the country has often been referred to as the bridge between the Caribbean and Central America and remains a part of the British Commonwealth of Nations with Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain as the titular Head of State. For nearly 4,000 years, it formed the keystone of the empire of the ancient Maya who developed, what was for their time, the most advanced civilization in the New World .

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Belize received its independence from Britain in 1981 and has enjoyed a long history of economic, social and political stability. It is one of the few remaining pristine environments on earth.

The political system is operated on the principles of parliamentary democracy, based upon the Westminster model, with Queen Elizabeth II (represented by a Governor-General in Belize ) as titular head of state. The cabinet, under the leadership of the Prime Minister directs the policy of the Government, which consists of the Prime Minister and Ministers chosen by him from an elected House of Representatives and an appointed Senate.

There are two major political parties - the Peoples United Party and the United Democratic Party. Both parties are committed to the economic development of the country and to the expansion of the offshore financial services industry.

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Legal System

The legal system of Belize is founded on English Common Law supplemented by local legislation. The certainty with which the affairs of the professional and business community are conducted, particularly trust and commercial matters, is a tribute to this solid foundation and the continuing high standards of training and practice of the professional and financial community in Belize . The Belize Court system is modeled on the English system and the court of final appeal on questions of law is the Privy Council of the House of Lords in England .

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International Partners

Belize 's partners in development consist of a number of government and international development agencies. These include multilateral agencies such as the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the European Economic Community (EEC), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB); bilateral agencies such as the United Kingdom Government, Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) the Taiwan and Mexican Governments. The economic cooperation programme which complement and form an integral part of Belize 's National Development Plan assists in guiding Belize 's development efforts from year to year.

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Currency and Banking

The currency unit is the Belize dollar (BZ1$). The fixed rate of exchange is BZ$2.00 to US $1.00. There are five commercial banks (the Belize Bank Ltd., First Caribbean Bank, the Alliance Bank, the Bank of Nova Scotia and Atlantic Bank Ltd.), and a Government Savings Bank.

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Belize currently enjoys excellent telecommunications services worldwide (including access to the Internet), efficient international courier services and daily direct flights to the United States (via Houston and Miami - both offering world wide connections) and Central America .

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