Capital city: Georgetown
Land area: 214,969 km²
Official language: English
Legal system: A combination of civil Law & common Law
Time zone: GMT-4
Currency: Guyanese dollar
GDP: 4.20 USD Billion (2021)
Main industries: Bauxite, sugar, rice milling, timber, textiles, gold mining
Principal exports: Sugar, gold, bauxite, alumina, rice, shrimp, molasses, rum, timberpetroleum
Guyana, located in the north-east of South American continent, shares its borders with Venezuela, Brazil, and Suriname. Its capital, Georgetown, looks onto the Atlantic Ocean on the country’s northern border. The country gets its name from the term “guiana” used by the indigenous population before settlement, which means “land of water”. Guyana is covered in thick tropical rainforest, which therefore makes it difficult to travel throughout the country. Although located on the South American continent, Georgetown hosts the Caribbean Community headquarters.
Guyana’s population stands at 787,971 according to July 2021 estimates, of which 55% are under the age of 30. Due to the dense forest in Guyana which covers over 70% of the country, most of the population live on the coast of Guyana. Only approximately 10% of the population are indigenous people. East Indians make up 40% of the population, those of African descent make up 29%, 19.9% are mixed, and Amerindians 10.5% while others (including Portuguese, Chinese, White) make up the remainder, as stated by 2012 estimates.
Guyana is the only country in South America to have English as its official language, although Creole patois is spoken widely throughout the country as the lingua franca. Other languages include Lokono, Chinese and Caribbean Hindustani.
Although Spain initially claimed the area lying between the Orinoco and Amazon deltas, it was the Dutch who were the 1st to establish trading posts in 1580. By the 18th century
the Dutch established trading posts upriver in about 1580 and were later joined by other Europeans in the 18th century. The British officially took control in 1814, and the land of Demerara, Berbice, and Essequibo were united in 1831 to form what was then called “British Guiana”
The discovery of gold in 1879 coupled with an economic boom in the 1890s greatly supported the development of the territory. Positive changes led to gradual increase of power held by locally elected officials; however, all changes were reverted in the reforms of 1928 whereby all power was revested into the governor and the Colonial Office. Due to widespread opposition, a new constitution was drafted, mandating universal suffrage, a bicameral legislature, and a ministerial system in 1953, although it was suspended in the same year and only reinstated in 1957. In the subsequent elections the People’s Progressive Party won twice, however there were allegations by the People’s National Congress (PNC; split from the PPP) that the system was favouring the Indo-Guyanese, and ultimately the government revised the system for more proportional representation. After which, the PNC created a coalition with another conservative party, with Forbes Burnham as leader, and won the 1964 elections; ultimately Burnham became the Prime Minister of Guyana when they gained independence on May 26th, 1966. Guyana became a republic within British Commonwealth in 1970, and Burnham went on to become the country’s 1st executive president when the constitution was revised in 1980. He was succeeded by Desmond Hoyte of the same party in 1985 but lost to PPP leader Cheddi Jagan in 1992.
1780-1813 Guyana changes hands several times between the Dutch, French and British.
1834 Slavery abolished.
1889 Venezuela demands claim over a large portion of Guyana west of the Essequibo River.
1899 International arbitration tribunal rules in favour of Guyana.
1957 Britain restores Guyanese constitution. PPP splits, with Cheddi Jagan leading a mostly Indian party and Forbes Burnham leading a party of African descendants, the People’s National Congress (PNC).
1961 – Guyana granted full autonomy, with Britain retaining control over internal affairs and defence.
1966 Guyana becomes independent with Forbed Burnham as Prime Minister.
1997 Jagan dies and is replaced by his wife, Janet, after elections.
1999 Bharrat Jagdeo becomes president after Janet Jagan resigned due to illness.
Legal System and Government
The Republic of Guyana is a semi-presidential parliamentary republic and member of the Commonwealth of Nations and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) with the constitution of 1980 still in place. The President is the head of state. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly of Guyana, as the unicameral legislature is formed by the National Assembly only.
Guyana follows both English common law and the Roman-Dutch code, with the latter mostly reserved more disputes over land. The Court of Appeal and High Court together act as the Supreme Court, to which all inferior courts must follow. Guyana also adopted the Caribbean Court of Justice in place of the United Kingdom’s Privy Council, which hears appeals from the Supreme Court.
Although Guyana is rich in minerals such as bauxite, diamonds and gold, the country’s largely untouched landscape makes this difficult to navigate and exploit. Raw materials form the backbone of the Guyanese export economy, and are processed in the city of Linden, in the northeast of the country. Agricultural products such as sugar, rice and cassava are harvested along the coastal line for both local consumption and exportation. Livestock rearing is also common in the coastal region and is sold locally.
In 2015, Guyana discovered rich oil fields 120 miles from Georgetown, and 17 more by the end of 2020 in Guyana’s Stabroek Block. It is expected that by 2025 Guyana will be able to yield 750,000 barrels of oi per day greatly boosting the economy. The IMF predicts Guyana to become the 4th fastest growing economy at the end of 2021.
Guyana’s GDP stood at US$5.47 billion in 2020. Guyana exported US$822 million in 2020; the main exports being mineral fuels, oils, and distillation products (40%), pearls, precious stones, metals, and coins (22%), cereals (9.2%), and railway, tramway locomotives, rolling stock equipment (9.0%). The main export destinations were the US (28%), Canada (15%), Trinidad and Tobago (10%), and Jamaica (7.3%).
Guyana imported US$535 million in 2020; the main imports being ships, boats, and other floating structures (17%), mineral fuels, oils, distillation products (16%), machinery, nuclear reactors, boilers (13%), and articles of iron or steel (7.2%). The main import suppliers were the US (33%), Portugal (16%), Trinidad and Tobago (11%) and China (8.6%).
As a member of the Caribbean Community and Common Market, Guyana applies the Common External Tariff, which can range from 5% to 20%, depending on the product. A tariff of 40% applies to agricultural products in an effort to protect local farmers. In addition to duties on imports, Guyana adopts VAT on products at a rate of 14%.
Guyana has large reserves of gold and diamonds present in its dense rainforest territory; however, it does not have the resources to fully exploit these. Advanced mining technology, as opposed to mining by hand, would allow extraction of these resources in a sustainable manner and would be favourable to the country’s economy and to any potential investor.
Guyana boasts a number of fast-flowing rivers throughout its rainforest, which would serve as an excellent opportunity for foreign investors to produce hydroelectric power. The Kaieteur Falls, located on the Potaro river, are 222 metres high and would contribute well to a venture of this nature. Other notable sites include Tiger Hill and Tiboku Falls. However, the remoteness of these areas would require large investment for generation and transmission of power.