Luxembourg is, per capita, one of the richest nations in the world, with a GDP of over Eur 50 billion shared by half a million inhabitants. Nestled between Belgium and Germany, with France to the south, it is tiny – smaller than most of the Länder, or Federal States, in Germany. The economy is advanced, but to a significant extent is aided by a corporate-friendly tax regime. There have been criticisms of operating as a tax haven, with the capital hosting offices for many large international corporations, taking advantage of its low rates. This controversial issue is also highly fluid, with European countries responding to the ruling by the European Commission in late August 2016 that the US giant Apple should pay Eur 13 billion to Ireland in order to stay compliant with state aid rules. The Irish Government, which wants to attract inward investment, is appealing the ruling. It could have a huge impact on the economy of Luxembourg, which is also an EU member. Luxembourg’s tax deals with Fiat and Starbucks have also fallen foul of EU rules. Luxembourg scores well on counter-corruption, being placed 10th on the Transparency Index. Social indicators are healthy, with life expectancy over 80. The current European Commission President, JeanClaude Juncker, is a former Prime Minister of Luxembourg.
One of the last countries in the Americas to gain independence from European rule is the small Central American nation of Belize, which was under British rule until 1981. One of the issues holding up full independence was a border dispute with Guatemala, which lies immediately to the West and which refused to recognize the country under the territory it claimed. British forces fought the Guatemalan army during the 1980s. Tourism has been a mainstay of the country’s economy in recent years, with cruise liners visiting its Caribbean barrier reef. It also boasts rich fauna in tropical rainforest. There is also an oil industry. The World Bank reports a recovery from the recession that followed the international financial crisis in 2008, noting a return to GDP growth, albeit slowing between 2014 and 2015 to 1.7%. The population is very small, at just 318,000. Literacy is 70% and life expectancy is good at 75. The Transparency Index currently lacks sufficient data for a ranking on the counter-corruption index. It is relatively stable politically. Dean Barrow has served as Prime Minister since 2008. He is a member of the United Democratic Party. The country is a constitutional monarchy and a Commonwealth country, with Great Britain’s Elizabeth II as Head of State. HEditionMag