The economy of Belize was traditionally based on the export of logwood, mahogany, and chicle (the base for chewing gum, from the chicle tree). Today, tourism, agriculture, fisheries, aquaculture (shrimp farming), and small manufactured goods give the country an important economic boost, but it is still dependent on imported goods to get by. The main exports are sugar, citrus, bananas, lobster, and timber.
Overall, domestic industry is severely constrained by relatively high labor and energy costs, a very small domestic market, and the “brain drain” of Belize’s most qualified managers, health professionals, and academics to the United States and Europe.
In general, and despite books by PUP economists declaring that all is well, Belize’s economy is a mess, and the GOB has been on the verge of bankruptcy for years. In 2004, the government was rocked by a scandal over the use of millions of dollars of pension funds to pay the foreign debts of bankrupt companies controlled by government insiders. This led to the collapse of the overextended Development Finance Corporation (DFC), the effects of which are still being felt and evaluated today.
Thanks to tax concessions given to foreign investors, Belize has attracted new manufacturing industries, including plywood, veneer, matches, beer, rum, soft drinks, furniture, boat building, and battery assembly.