Officials in Belize say that incentives for retired expats in the Central American country are not being discontinued despite reports to the contrary.

The country on the Caribbean coast between Mexico and Guatemala, has English as its official language and is popular with expats from the US and UK. Under the Qualified Retired Persons programme retirees are exempt from taxes and duties on income generated outside Belize whether from work or investments.

To qualify for the programme the person needs to have a minimum monthly income of $2,000 from a pension or annuity from outside the country which needs to be deposited in a Belize bank account and be aged at least 45.

'The government is very supportive of the initiative to attract retiree's to Belize and has no intention of discontinuing the programme,' a spokesman said.

Since the incentives scheme was introduced by the Tourist Board of Belize in 1999 around 20,000 people from the US, UK and Canada have taken it up.

It also allows retirees to import household goods worth up to $15,000, a vehicle, a boat and a lightweight aircraft duty free and gain permanent residency. Applicants are encouraged to start their own business if they desire extra income beyond what they have.

New retirees are also entitled to own rental property and to operate as a sleeping or silent partner in a Belizean business.

Housing and land are relatively inexpensive in Belize compared to more popular destinations in the Caribbean and Latin American countries. Since the programme was introduced there has been new retirement developments built aimed at expats.

But the country is suffering under the global recession. Last week at his quarterly update on the state of the nation Prime Minister Dean Barrow warned that 2010 is not going to be an easy year for the economy although inflation is at its lowest for 10 years.

Barrow also denied reports that Belize is not complying with new global guidelines on tax information agreements set out by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. He said that two Tax Information Sharing Agreements have been signed with Belgium and the Netherlands and text are waiting approval for seven more countries; Denmark, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the Faroe Islands. Agreements with Australia, Ireland, Mexico and the UK are expected soon.