Belize was at the top of the business agenda this week, as Belizean Minister of International Trade Erwin Contreras stopped by at the Lauderdale Lakes Educational and Cultural Center for the “Doing Business in Belize” workshop.
During a special meet and greet session with workshop attendees, the Minister outlined the nation’s many commercial and trading opportunities in renewable energy, agro-processing, tourism, and food and beverage production and packaging. The Minister also encouraged participants to attend the upcoming trade mission, hosted by the Miramar based Belize American Chamber of Commerce of Florida.
The trade workshop, hosted by the Broward County Office of Economic and Small Business Development (OESBD), is part of a year-long series highlighting trading opportunities with many key partners of South Florida’s economy. Representative Hero Balani from the Belize Trade and Investment Development Service (Beltraide) was on hand to update participants on the latest initiatives. He highlighted the country’s unique and respected reputation in the rapidly expanding fair trade and eco-label market. A spotlight was also shone on the country’s competitive investment incentives. This includes an export processing zone, offering multiple tax exemptions, including full import and export duty exemptions. The Fiscal Incentives Program also encourages investments in Belize through duty exemptions and tax holidays, providing both current and new investors with the legal and fiscal framework to stimulate productive economic activities.
Government and private sector officials from Belize converged at the Radisson Fort George Hotel in Belize City on Wednesday February 17th to discuss a new strategy to improve the country’s business services sector.
The meeting, which was dubbed as the first BPO Summit in Belize was the brain child of the BelizeINVEST Unit of the Belize Trade and Investment Development Service (BELTRAIDE). It provided participants the opportunity to examine the benefits of increasing the country’s business services and identify priorities for policy and institutional reform. Participants also agreed to revive the Business Outsourcing Association of Belize (BOAB), establish a standards framework and to increase the development and promotion of I.T education in Belize to foster value-added services.
The strategy was developed in partnership with the Commonwealth Secretariat and had as its main objective to assess the potential for higher-value IT Enabled Services (ITES) and to establish the framework for an industry standard in preserving and continuing to develop the country’s outsourcing industry.
Through this partnership, OCO Global was contracted to develop key documents, such as a Comprehensive Outsourcing Strategy Action Plan and a BPO Standards Framework and Roadmap for Implementation, which will serve as the mechanisms for the successful execution of the framework. The study was conducted through various visits to Belize in engaging key public and private stakeholders.
“The BPO industry has grown substantially over the last couple of years in particular and it is expected to continue on an upward growth trajectory and so for us as a government it is important that we look at investment facilitation and creating the enabling environment in terms of regulations and standards to allow the sector to continue to grow and to prosper,” said Hon. Tracy Taegar, Minister of State in the Ministry of Economic Development, Petroleum, Investment, Trade and Commerce.
Historically, the offshore outsourcing sector of Belize has experienced tremendous growth of over 80% in the past few years, starting with only one (1) center opening its doors in 2005 to over 23 centers presently employing over 2,300 agents. Most centers in Belize currently focus on inbound and outbound call center operations, since it is the only Latin American and Caribbean location offering the dual advantage of being a cost effective location, with ‘accent neutral’ English language skills; English being the official language. Belize also hosts a 51.26% Spanish speaking population, making it a truly bilingual destination. (2010 census SIB)
Businesses services cover a wide range of activities including accounting, data processing, IT-related services and telecommunications. Governments and businesses around the world outsource a proportion of these services to make efficiency gains or as part of a wider corporate strategy.
The global business services outsourcing industry is expanding in the Latin America and Caribbean region and accounts for 9% of all foreign investment in business outsourcing. More companies in large markets, such as the United States, are opting to outsource non-core business activities to countries close by that can offer services at a lower cost, creating opportunity for Belize and other countries in the region.
As the information technology enabled services (ITES) sector becomes more competitive and globalized amidst escalating costs to outsource in Asia, organizations are quickly looking to re-locate their outsourcing operations to offshore destinations like Belize, which offers the same agility, access to new markets, talent and ultimately cost savings.
The business process outsourcing (BPO) industry has specifically been recognized as a specialized “niche” area and priority industry for Belize’s socio-economic growth by the Government of Belize (GOB) as well as the private sector.