Political Conditions

In national elections on February 7, 2008, the United Democratic Party (UDP) prevailed over the incumbent People’s United Party (PUP). The UDP won 25 of the 31 seats in the House of Representatives, while the PUP won the other six seats. UDP leader Dean Barrow replaced PUP leader Said Musa as Prime Minister. The PUP governed Belize from 1998-2008; the UDP from 1993-98; the PUP from 1989-1993; and the UDP from 1984-89. Before 1984, the PUP had dominated the electoral scene for more than 30 years and was the party in power when Belize became independent in 1981. Third-party alternatives to the two-party system have arisen in the recent years, but these parties garnered less than 2% of the vote in the February 2008 elections.

The UDP is responding to concerns of an unsustainable foreign debt, high unemployment, growing involvement in the South American drug trade, high crime rates, and increasing incidents of HIV/AIDS through a four-pillar approach: social investment through poverty alleviation; job creation through public sector investment; improving access to credit; and combating crime and violence. 
As of February 2010, Belize’s total national debt (both external and domestic) was U.S. $1.173 billion (public external debt was U.S. $1.0095 billion and domestic debt was $163.8 million), an amount that is equivalent to approximately 72.1% of GDP. On January 31, 2007 the Government of Belize officially announced that the holders of Belize’s public external commercial debt had agreed to exchange their existing claims against the country for new bonds to be issued by Belize, maturing in 2029.

Belize traditionally maintains a deep interest in the environment and sustainable development. A lack of government resources seriously hampers progress toward these goals. On other fronts, the government is working to improve its law enforcement capabilities. A longstanding territorial dispute with Guatemala continues, although cooperation between the two countries has increased in recent years across a wide spectrum of common interests, including trade and environment. 
Seeing itself as a bridge, Belize is actively involved with the Caribbean nations of CARICOM, and also has taken steps to work more closely with its Central American neighbors as a member of SICA (Central American Integration System). 
Source: U.S. Department of State