Belize has a small, essentially private enterprise economy is based primarily on agriculture, agro-based industry, and merchandising, with tourism and construction recently assuming greater importance. In 2006, the cultivation of newly discovered Crude Oil in the town of Spanish Lookout, has presented new prospects and problems for this developing nation. It has yet to be seen if significant economic expansion will be made by this. Sugar, the chief crop, accounts for nearly half of exports, while the banana industry is the country's largest employer.
The government's tough austerity program in 1997 resulted in an economic slowdown that continued in 1998. The trade deficit has been growing, mostly as a result of low export prices for sugar and bananas. The new government faces important challenges to economic stability. Rapid action to improve tax collection has been promised, but a lack of progress in reining in spending could bring the exchange rate under pressure.
The tourist and construction sectors strengthened in early 1999, leading to a preliminary estimate of revived growth at 4%. The Belize Dollar is fixed to the U.S. dollar at a rate of 2:1.