Moving to Belize

A man who spent four months there in 1973 offers some plain advice if you're thinking about moving to Belize.

| July/August 1974

Back last fall—when MOTHER EARTH NEWS still had a sister publication—LIFESTYLE! magazine published two articles on homesteading in the new Central American nation of Belize (formerly British Honduras). One result was the following comments by Roger Smith, which we're passing on for the information of anyone who's thinking of emigration to that little-known country.  

I read with interest the articles about Belize. I myself spent four months in that country's Stann Creek District early in 1973, and thought I'd pass on a few additional points for anyone who's interested in moving to Belize.

You should know, first of all, that the Belizean government is still very young and is plagued by political adolescence and lack of funds. With precedents now being set, the nation's leaders are hesitant about making concrete decisions especially positive decisions. "No" is more easily defensible in their minds than "yes".

This newness and uncertainty also makes the authorities highly sensitive to hostile comments. Personsespecially tourists hoping to establish permanent-resident statuswho criticize the government in public or to strangers are very apt to be shown the border in whatever they happen to be wearing at the time.

Before you condemn this policy (or any others you find inconvenient), remember that Americans and Canadians have incurred mistrust by misusing their southern neighbor's hospitality in many ways. The worst abuses were economic, and the result is that Belize is getting extremely tightfisted about duty and concessions therefrom. Autos are the hardest-hit import items: The duty is 100% of the appraised value, and the appraisers are generous toward the government. Local arts, trades, professions and products are likewise carefully guarded by customs restrictions. The customs officers themselves are meticulous, unflappable, endlessly patient, and incorruptible.

As Roger Gee mentioned in his article, the immigration authorities are extremely interested in the financial solvency of people who expect to remain in Belize. Work permits are difficult to obtain, andif you stay in the country for any length of timeyou must obtain clearance from the income tax officials before you'll be allowed to leave.

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