A little under a year ago, BELTRAIDE commenced a revitalization of its mandate to develop private sector opportunities in Belize.  The organization’s new face now includes not only a renovated office facility, but also the creation of new departments staffed with dynamic, qualified people with keen focus on business and investor support who are responsive to a constantly changing environment.

The organization’s new board of directors has authorized the new direction for BELTRAIDE through the adoption of new Vision and Mission Statements, following a board retreat on October 18, 2011.  This new Vision states that BELTRAIDE exists to “enable a dynamic and competitive business environment for Belize socio-economic development”.  In order to realize this Vision, the organization will pursue a mission to “enhance Belize’s prosperity by fostering investor confidence, entrepreneurship, business growth and innovation.”

In an effort to meet its new mandate, BELTRAIDE’s new structure includes the development of three core areas of focus: Projects and Policy support, Business Development, and Business Facilitation.

BELTRAIDE’s role in government will be to drive a proactive approach to policy formation to support private enterprise, while serving as a catalyst for collaboration and optimization of trade and investment efforts.  The Administration and Projects Unit focuses on harnessing partnerships with other development organization, taking advantage of internationally available support services through grant projects, and on providing the valuable research and development support to guide enterprise growth in the private sector.  This unit has been busy coordinating project implementation in the areas of institutional strengthening, Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) policy development, export strategy development, market access, and policy research Support to the Public/Private Sector dialogue developed as a follow up to the Prime Minister’s business forum.

The newly formed Business Development Unit has identified four key areas of focus in its investment and trade promotion activities. These areas include Tourism, Agriculture & Manufacturing, Information Technology Enabled Services (ITES), and Energy & Mining.  The Unit has been staffed with qualified specialists in each of these thematic areas, and has actively been soliciting potential investors both foreign and local.  As a means to strengthen the unit’s reach, BELTRAIDE has partnered with other government agencies for support in its marketing efforts.  Thus far, these partnerships have yielded very promising results.

Specifically, in the area of Tourism, BELTRAIDE in partnership with the Ministry of Tourism, is in the final stages of completing an agreement for establishment of three major global branded hotels in Belize, and is now finalizing a fiscal incentives package for a 500-person convention center plus 140-room hotel in San Pedro, which has already broken ground.  Likewise through joint efforts between BELTRAIDE and Belize Telemedia, three new BPO centers have been established in Belize with several others on the horizon, resulting in a growth in employment in that industry from 750 persons to just over 1, 700 persons, and projections for much greater expansion.  On the trade development front, BELTRAIDE has participated in various trade missions, and most recently has collaborated with the Ministry of Agriculture on a fast track program to enable entry of Belizean cattle into neighboring Mexico.

The third unit of BELTRAIDE is the Business and Investment Facilitation and SME Unit.  This unit provides inside client services to businesses that require special assistance to establish or grow their enterprises.  The main service offered by BELTRAIDE is the processing and granting of Fiscal Incentives, which can result in significant savings to businesses that qualify; however, business can seek assistance in a variety of other areas, including facilitation of various permits, or just general advice on doing business in Belize.  Perhaps one of the most important initiatives of this unit is the current program for establishment of formal Small Business Development Centers throughout Belize.

BELTRAIDE has recently achieved a huge breakthrough on this initiative, as the OAS, along with the US State Department has designated Belize for a pilot project for establishment of the first such center in Belize, modeled from the US SBDC Model that is widely adopted in the US, Mexico and El Salvador.  This initiative, in partnership with the Development Finance Corporation, will see in 2012, the establishment of the first facility in Belize City, with the intention to expand countrywide. As we expand more services to SME’s, so will the economic base of Belize expand, bringing more enterprises into the formal sector, while fostering innovation and increasing formal employment of Belizeans.

BELTRAIDE’s mission is very clear.  Through increased capacity in its staff and improvement in its tools, BELTRAIDE will continue to assume the role as the catalyst for private sector/public sector cooperation in national development.  Within the past three months, following a successful Business Forum hosted by the Prime Minister, Hon, Dean O Barrow, Belize has seen an unprecedented level of dialogue between private sector leaders and government officials on matters of economic development. BELTRAIDE, along with the Ministry of Economic Development intends to promote the formalization of a permanent forum for this dialogue to continue as we build a positive investment climate.

Finally, as we continue to automate and streamline our internal processes and services for better and more meaningful support to the private sector, and as we expand our reach to the private sector, it is our intention that we can show measured success from our efforts in pursuing our mission of enhancing Belize’s prosperity in the years to come.