6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
Belize’s financial system is small with little to no foreign portfolio investment transactions. It does not have a stock exchange and capital market operations are rudimentary. The government securities market is underdeveloped and the market for corporate bonds is almost non-existent. While foreign investments must be registered at the Central Bank, the government respects IMF Article VIII and does not restrict payments and transfers for current international transactions.
Additionally, credit is made available on market terms with interest rates largely set by local market conditions prevailing within the commercial banks. The credit instruments accessible to the private sector include loans, overdrafts, lines of credit, credit cards, and bank guarantees. Foreign investors can access credit on the local market. However, the Central Bank must approve the granting of any advance, whether a loan or overdraft, to a locally incorporated company with foreign shareholders or to non-residents.
The Belize Development Finance Corporation (DFC), a state-owned development bank, offers loan financing services in various sectors. To qualify for a loan from DFC, an individual must be a Belizean resident or citizen, while a company must be majority 51 percent Belizean owned. The National Bank of Belize is a state-owned bank that provides concessionary credit primarily to public officers, teachers, and low income Belizeans. NOTE: This Belize Development Finance Corporation is NOT the same as the U.S. re-branded Overseas Private Investment Company (OPIC).
Money and Banking System
A financial inclusion survey undertaken by the Central Bank of Belize in 2019 showed that approximately 65.5 percent of respondents had access to a financial account. Belize’s financial system remains underdeveloped with a banking sector that may be characterized as stable but fragile. The Central Bank of Belize (CBB) ( ) is responsible for formulating and implementing monetary policy focusing on the stability of the exchange rate and economic growth.
Non-performing loans stood at 2.23 percent of total loans at the end of February 2020, significantly below the 5.0 percent threshold. Additionally, the estimated total assets of the country’s largest bank were USD 0.625 billion at the end of February 2020.
Generally, there are no restrictions on foreigners opening bank accounts in Belize. However, persons seeking to open a bank account must comply with Central Bank regulations, which differ based on residency status and whether the individual is seeking to establish a local bank account or a foreign currency account. Foreign banks and branches are allowed to operate in the country with all banks subject to Central Bank measures and regulations. Since 2015, all banks have regained correspondent banking relations. These relationships are still tenuous, with delays in transactions, and fewer services offered at higher costs.
In the last few years, Belize has enacted a number of reforms to strengthen the anti-money laundering and counterterrorism-financing regime, including amendments to the Money Laundering and Terrorism (Prevention) Amendment Act and the International Business Companies (Amendment) Act. In addition, the National Anti-Money Laundering Committee (NAMLC) is headed by the Financial Intelligence Unit with inter-agency support from key financial and law enforcement authorities.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
Belize has a stable currency, with the Belize dollar pegged to the United States Dollar since May 1976 at a fixed exchange rate of BZ $2.00 to the USD $1.00.
The Government of Belize has established currency controls, and foreign investors seeking to convert, transfer, or repatriate funds must comply with Central Bank regulations. Foreign investments must be registered at the Central Bank to facilitate inflows and outflows of foreign currency. Foreign investors must register their inflow of funds to obtain an “Approved Status” for their investment and generally are approved for repatriation of funds thereafter. The Central Bank does, however, reserve the right to request evidence supporting applications for repatriation.
There are no changes to investment remittance policies. As mentioned above, foreign investors must obtain an “Approved Status” for their investment and register their inflow and outflow of funds with the Central Bank. There are no time limitations on remittances. Where there is a waiting period, it depends on the availability of foreign exchange, but does not generally exceed 60 days.
Sovereign Wealth Funds
Belize does not have a sovereign wealth fund.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
The IMF’s Coordinated Direct Investment Survey does not have Belize data related to Inward and Outward Direct Investment. Statistics on FDI in Belize by country of origin is limited, including the total invested by U.S. investors. The Central Bank of Belize recorded total inflows of FDI at USD $135.89 million and outflows at USD $35.12 million in 2019. Major sources of FDI include the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. FDI inflows were concentrated primarily in construction, real estate, hotel and restaurant, and financial intermediation.
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.