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Cooperative Republic of Guyana

CAPITAL: Georgetown

FLAG: A red triangle at the hoist extending to the flag's midpoint is bordered on two sides by a narrow black stripe; extending from this is a golden arrowhead pointing toward the fly and bordered on two sides by a narrow white stripe. Two green triangles make up the rest of the flag.

ANTHEM: Begins "Dear land of Guyana, of rivers and plains."

MONETARY UNIT: The Guyanese dollar (g$) of 100 cents is a paper currency tied to the US dollar. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 25, 50, and 100 cents, and notes of 1, 5, 10, 20, and 100 Guyanese dollars. g$1 = us$0.00498 (or us$1 = g$200.79) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: Guyana officially converted to the metric system in 1982, but imperial weights and measures are still in general use.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Republic Day, 23 February; Labor Day, 1 May; Caribbean Day, 26 June; Freedom Day, 7 August; Christmas, 25 December; Boxing Day, 26 December. Movable religious holidays include Good Friday, Easter Monday, Phagwah, 'Id al-'Adha, Yaou-Mun-Nabi, and Dewali.

TIME: 9 am = noon GMT.


Situated on the northeast coast of South America, Guyana is the third-smallest country on the continent, with an area of 214,970 sq km (83,000 sq mi), extending 807 km (501 mi) ns and 436 km (271 mi) ew, including disputed areas. Comparatively, the area occupied by Guyana is slightly smaller than the state of Idaho. Bounded on the n by the Atlantic Ocean, on the e by Suriname, on the s and sw by Brazil, and on the nw by Venezuela, Guyana has a total boundary length of 2,921 km (1,815 mi) of which 459 km (285 mi) is coastline.

Neither Guyana's western border with Venezuela nor its eastern border with Suriname has been resolved. Venezuela claims all territory west of the Essequibo River, an area of more than 130,000 sq km (50,000 sq mi), or over three-fifths of Guyana. Suriname claims a largely uninhabited area of 15,000 sq km (5,800 sq mi) in the southeast, between two tributaries of the Corentyne River.

Guyana's capital city, Georgetown, is located on the country's Atlantic coast.


Guyana has three main natural regions: a low-lying coastal plain, extending for about 435 km (270 mi) and ranging from 16 to 64 km (1040 mi) in width, much of which is below high-tide level and must be protected by sea walls and drainage canals; a region of heavily forested, rolling, hilly land, about 160 km (100 mi) in width, which contains most of the mineral wealth and comprises almost five-sixths of Guyana's land area; and in the south and west, a region of mountains and savannas. There are several large rivers, including the Essequibo (the longest at 966 km/600 mi), Demerara, and Berbice, but few are navigable for any distance above the plains because of rapids and falls.


The climate is subtropical and rainy. The average temperature at Georgetown is 27°c (81°f); there is little seasonal variation in temperature or in humidity, which averages 8085%. Rainfall averages 229 cm (90 in) a year along the coast, falling in two wet sea-sonsMay to July and November to Januaryand 165 cm (65 in) in the southwest, where there is a single wet season, extending from April through August.


The flora varies with the rainfall and soil composition. The coastal area, originally swamp and marsh with mangrove and associated vegetation, has long been cleared for farming. In inland areas of heavy rainfall there are extensive equatorial forests, with green-heart a major species; varieties of trees may number as many as 1,000. Local fauna includes locusts, moth borers, acoushi ants, bats, and other small mammals. There may be more than 675 species of birds. Northwestern coastal beaches are an important breeding ground for sea turtles.


Because over 80% of Guyana is still wilderness, the country has so far sustained little serious environmental damage. The air is clean, but water supplies are threatened by sewage and by agricultural and industrial chemicals. One potential problem for the nation's water supply is the pollution of its wells by salt water from the ocean. Guyana has 241 cu km of renewable water resources with 98% used for farming purposes. About 98% of the nation's city dwellers and 91% of people living in the rural areas have access to safe drinking water. Since 1985, the nation has experienced an increase in diseases related to water and food consumption.

Kaieteur National Park is the only specifically designated conservation area. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 13 types of mammals, 3 species of birds, 6 types of reptiles, 6 species of amphibians, 13 species of fish, 1 species of invertebrate, and 23 species of plants. Endangered species in Guyana included the tundra peregrine falcon, the black caiman, and four species of turtle (green sea, hawksbill, olive ridley, and leatherback).


The population of Guyana in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 751,000, which placed it at number 157 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 5% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 28% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 94 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 1.3%, a rate the government viewed as satisfactory. Since 1995, the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association has promoted programs in schools to educate adolescents about reproduction in an attempt to address the high fertility rates. The projected population for the year 2025 was 703,000. The population density was 3 per sq km (9 per sq mi), but density varies dramatically. More than 90% of the people live on 5% of the land along the Atlantic coast; the interior of the country is practically uninhabited.

The UN estimated that 36% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 1.35%. The capital city, Georgetown, had a population of 231,000 in that year. Linden had an estimated 60,000 inhabitants, and New Amsterdam had about 33,000.


Although specific figures were not available, there was significant outward migration in the 1980s, creating shortages of skilled workers and managers. Unofficial estimates put the number at 10,000 to 30,000 a year in the late 1980s, chiefly persons of Asian Indian extraction. Their destinations were chiefly the United States and Canada. The migration rate of tertiary educated individuals in 1990 was 77.3%. According to 1999 estimates, about 50,000 Guyanese citizens live in the Venezuelan territory that borders Guyana and are fully integrated into the local population. Remittances in 2002 were $100 million, 14.3% of GDP. In 2003, the Guyana government threatened to deport 80% of the 2,000 Brazilians in the mining industry as illegal workers. However, Guyana allows cultural workers, such as musicians, to come and go.

Guyana has traditionally had only a very small number of asylum seekers, mainly from Cuba and Angola. In 2005 the net migration rate was estimated as -7.51 migrants per 1,000 population, compared to -13.6 per 1,000 in 1990. The total number of migrants in Guyana in 2000 was 2,000. The government views the emigration level as too high.


Guyana's population is made up of five main ethnic groups: East Indians, Africans, Amerindians, Chinese, and Portuguese. An estimated 50% of the population is of East Indian descent and 36% of African descent. Those of Amerindian ancestry constitute 7%; all others account for an additional 7% of the population.


English is the official language and is used in government, the schools, the press, and commerce. Also spoken are Chinese, Portuguese, Amerindian languages, Creole, Hindi, Urdu, and a patois used mainly by those of African descent.


Christians make up approximately 50% of the total population, of whom about 30% are Anglicans, 25% are Roman Catholics, 25% are Pentecostals and Baptists, and 20% are Seventh-Day Adventists. There are smaller groups of Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Mormons, and Jehovah's Witnesses. Hindus make up some 35% of the population, and Muslims (Sunni and Shia) about 10%. There are small communities of Baha'is and Jews. It is believed that many people practice Rastafarianism and the traditional Caribbean religion known as Obeah, either exclusively or in conjunction with the practice of other faiths.

The constitution provides for freedom of religion and this right is generally respected in practice. All religious groups must register with the government in order to be formally recognized, but there is no other official monitoring of religious groups. Certain Christian, Muslim, and Hindu holidays are celebrated as public holidays.


As of 2001, Guyana had an estimated 187 km (116 mi) of standard and narrow gauge railroad track in service. The standard gauge line is 139 km (86 mi) in length, while the narrow gauge line is 48 km (30 mi) in length. Both lines are dedicated to the transport of ore and were originally built for the government-owned mining companies. The two government-owned passenger railway systems, however, have been scrapped: the Georgetown to New Amsterdam line in 1972, and the Georgetown to Parika line in 1974. Waterborne passenger and cargo service between these cities is carried out by a government-owned transport service via the Essequibo and Berbice rivers. Georgetown is the main port, while New Amsterdam accommodates coastal and small oceangoing vessels. Springlands, on the Corentyne River, is the main port for service with Suriname. In 2005, the merchant fleet had six ships of 1,000 GRT or more for a total of 7,475 GRT. As of 2004, Guyana had 1,077 km (670 mi) of navigable inter-waterways. Three rivers, the Berbice, Demerara, and the Essequibo are navigable by ocean-going vessels for 150 km, 100 km, and 80 km, respectively.

Roadways measured an estimated 7,970 km (4,953 mi) in 2002, of which only 590 km (367 mi) were paved. As of 2003, Guyana had about 28,000 passenger cars, and 13,000 commercial taxis, trucks, and buses. There were an estimated 49 airports in 2004, only 8 of which had paved runways as of 2005. Georgetown's Timehri International Airport is served by several international carriers. Guyana Airways Corp., a government company, operates domestic and international air service. In 2001 (the latest year for which data was available), 47,800 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international flights.


The coastline was first charted by Spanish sailors in 1499, at which time the area was inhabited by Amerindians of the Arawak, Carib, and Warrau language groups. By 1746, the Dutch had established settlements on the Essequibo, Demerara, and Berbice rivers, and had withstood French and English attempts to capture and hold the area. The English occupied the settlements in 1796 and again in 1803, and gained formal possession at the Congress of Vienna in 1815. The three main settlements were united into the Colony of British Guiana in 1831. Slavery was abolished in 1834, and many blacks settled in cooperative villages or moved into the towns. Under pressure from planters, indentured servants were brought in from India to work on the sugar plantations. As a result, most of the sugar workers still are of Asian Indian origin, while the urban population is predominantly black. This division into ethnocultural groupings later became an important factor in Guyana's politics.

The change in British imperial policy after World War II was reflected in a new constitution introduced in 1953, providing for a bicameral legislature and universal adult suffrage. Elections were held in the same year. However, the British balked after the People's Progressive Party (PPP) captured 18 of the 24 elected seats. Six months after the elections, the United Kingdom suspended the constitution, charging Communist subversion of the British Guiana government. The colony was governed on an interim basis until 1957, when general elections again were held. Again, the PPP won, with 47.9% of the votes, and Cheddi Jagan, leader of the PPP, was named chief minister.

The colony was granted full internal self-government in 1961, following four years of continued economic and social progress. In elections held under a new constitution introduced that year, the PPP won 20 of the 35 seats in the newly established Legislative Assembly. In October 1961, Jagan, who had been named prime minister, went to Washington, DC, to ask US president John F. Kennedy for US aid. Classified documents released in the mid1990s revealed that, following Jagan's visit, Kennedy gave the CIA orders to destabilize Jagan's government. Kennedy also urged Britain to withhold full independence from Guyana until Jagan was removed from power. Through covert operations, the CIA incited a general labor strike and racial violence between Jagan's Asian Indian followers and his opponents, mainly of African descent. British troops were called upon to restore order, but the situation did not calm until July.

In the elections of December 1964, the PPP again emerged as the strongest party, but due to US efforts to undermine its power, it was unable to form a government alone. As a result, the British governor called upon the leader of the People's National Congress (PNC), Forbes Burnham, to establish a government.

The following November, an independence conference held in London approved the present constitution, and on 26 May 1966, Guyana became a sovereign and independent nation. Guyana was proclaimed a cooperative republic on 23 February 1970, the 207th anniversary of a Guyanese slave revolt led by Cuffy, still a national hero. The PNC ruled as majority party between 1968 and 1992, although not without controversy.

Guyana became known to the US public in 1978 in the wake of the Jonestown massacre. The government of Guyana, in an attempt to colonize the nation's wilderness regions, had in 1977 allowed an American, James Warren "Jim" Jones, to establish the People's Temple commune at what became known as Jonestown, in the northwest. Many in the United States had become concerned with developments in the commune, and US representative Leo J. Ryan had gone to Jonestown to investigate. He and four other US citizens were murdered at a nearby airstrip by Jones's followers. Then, on 18 November 1978, Jones and more than 900 of his followers committed suicide by drinking poisoned punch.

Between 1980 and 1985, relations between the PNC and opposition parties deteriorated sharply, as opposition parties charged harassment and fraud. The assassination in 1980 of Dr. Walter Rodney, a leading opposition figure, escalated the conflict. Under the administration of Forbes Burnham (19801985), human rights declined steadily. Burnham died in 1985 and was succeeded by first vice president and prime minister, Desmond Hoyte. The new president sought to improve Guyana's relations with non-Socialist nations, particularly the United States, and attempted the liberalization of the Guyanan economy.

However, by 1992 the country had grown tired of the PNC, and elected Cheddi Jagan of the PPP to the presidency in what was considered to be the first free and fair election since 1965. Jagan, who had been minority leader for years, received an impressive mandate with 53.4% of the vote, to 42.3% for the PNC. This translated to a solid 36 PPP seats in the National Assembly. Jagan had mellowed in the three decades since his ouster by the CIA, and in an ironic twist of history he was elected this time with the full support of the United States. Jagan served effectively as president until his death in March 1997 at age 78.

Under Jagan's administration, Guyana was able to consolidate its massive foreign debts and began to enjoy sustained economic growth. Jagan's widow, Janet Jagan, was elected to succeed him in general elections held on 15 December 1997, but the opposition PNC challenged the legitimacy of the election. In spite of a CARICOM audit that deemed the election fair, the opposition PNC, led by former prime minister, Hoyte, continued to protest the presidency of Jagan throughout the early months of 1998, and there were demonstrations and other forms of civil unrest, as well as a 55-day strike by civil servants. On 14 August, the 78-year-old, US-born Jagan, suffering from a heart condition, stepped down, naming as her successor finance minister Bharrat Jagdeo, who, at age 35, became one of the world's youngest heads of state. Jagdeo went on to lead the PPP into a new electoral victory in 1999 elections, with 53.1 % of the vote. Jagdeo was reelected as prime minister and his party commanded the support of 34 of the 65 elected members of the legislature.

Legislative elections were held in March 2001, and Jagdeo's PPP/C (People's Progressive Party/Civic) took 34 seats to the PNC's 27 (the remaining seats were won by smaller parties). Jagdeo was reelected prime minister.

In 2000, Suriname gunboats evicted an oil exploration rig from the area; Guyana had approved the exploration in the oil-rich disputed region. In June 2004, the UN set up a tribunal to try to resolve the long-standing maritime border dispute between Guyana and Suriname.

In January 2005, the government declared the capital of George-town to be a disaster zone, as severe flooding followed days of continuous rain. More than 30 people were killed, and the UN estimated the loss to the economy to be approximately $500 million.


As of 23 February 1970, Guyana became a cooperative republic. Guyana's first president was elected by the National Assembly on 17 March 1970, and the post of governor-general was abolished. Proclamation of the cooperative republic also entailed the provision of mechanisms for the takeover of foreign enterprises. Guyana's basic parliamentary structure dates from the constitution negotiated prior to independence in 1966. Under a new constitution approved in 1980, the unicameral National Assembly consisted of 53 members elected by secret ballot under a system of proportional representation for a five-year term, plus 10 members elected by 10 regional councils, and 2 members elected by the National Congress of Democratic Organs. The latter, which was composed of deputies from local councils, together with the National Assembly, constituted the Supreme Congress of the People of Guyana, which could be summoned or dissolved by the executive president. This office, created by the 1980 constitution, was filled by the leader of the majority party as both chief of state and head of government.

Constitutional reform was undertaken after the 2001 elections. The National Congress of Democratic Organs was abolished. There are 65 elected members of parliament, 1 elected Speaker of the National Assembly, and 2 nonvoting members appointed by the president. Members serve five-year terms. The president appoints a cabinet including a prime minister.

The voting age and age of majority are 18 years, and suffrage is universal. However, electoral irregularity is the rule, rather than the exception. A British-led team of observers pronounced the 1980 vote "fraudulent in every respect." The 1992 election was considered by most observers to be the first fair poll since 1965. Boycotts both before and after elections have been frequent as a result of fraud charges, but the net effect of these boycotts has been to enhance the power of the majority party.


Guyana's political parties are generally committed to socialism or some variant of it, but differ in the groups they represent and especially the ethnic groups that support them. A schism between the black and Asian Indian communities defines the major political division in the country.

In 1950, Cheddi Jagan and his wife organized the People's Progressive Party (PPP), which was anticolonial in nature, claimed to speak for the lower social classes, and cut across racial lines. Early in 1955, Forbes Burnham, who had been minister of education in Jagan's government, led a dissident PPP wing in the formation of the People's National Congress (PNC), which became the predominant political vehicle of Guyanese blacks, with Asian Indians remaining in the PPP. Until 1992, the PNC had dominated Guyana's politics since independence. It drew its members primarily from urban blacks, and was in the majority from its first government, formed after the 1964 elections, until 1992 when the PPP returned to power. The PNC ideologically defines itself as socialist, but stresses the importance of a mixed economy in which the private sector is encouraged.

The PPP had been the opposition party since the 1960s, after dominating Guyanan politics in the 1950s. Appealing to Asian Indian rice farmers and sugar workers, the PPP nevertheless claims to be primarily an ideological party. Over the years, the PPP has taken an orthodox socialist position along the lines of international Communism. However, Jagan at times called for increased foreign investment, and introduced conservative economic measures during his tenure as premier in the early 1960s. PPP opposition has been both loyal and otherwise. After the 1973 elections, the PPP boycotted the National Assembly, charging electoral fraud. In 1976 the representatives took their seats. In the 1980s the party appeared to be waning, but the 1992 elections gave a boost to this long-standing party.

Because Guyana uses a proportional representation system, small parties are accommodated within the system. In preparation for the 1992 elections, Guyanan citizens formed nearly 20 new parties. One such group is the Working People's Alliance (WPA), a multi-ethnic independent party professing its own brand of Marxism. The WPA, founded in 1979, boycotted the 1980 elections on the grounds that they were bound to be rigged. In June 1980, its leader, Walter Rodney, was killed in a bomb blast. The party took one seat in the 1985 elections, and 2 seats in the 1992 elections. The United Force (TUF) was organized by Peter D'Aguilar, a wealthy brewer of Portuguese extraction, in the early 1960s. Its program, called economic dynamism, was based principally on close ties with the West, encouragement of foreign enterprise, and the acquisition of foreign loans. It helped the PNC form the first non-PPP government in Guyana in 1964, but in 1968 the PNC formed a government by itself. In 1973, TUF lost the four seats it had won in 1968. In 1980, TUF won two seats, which it held until 1992, when it lost one of the two.

The 1992 elections brought the PPP and Cheddi Jagan back to power. Jagan served as president until his death in March 1997. In the general elections of December 1997, his widow, Janet Jagan, was elected to succeed him, and the PPP remained in power with 36 seats, while the PNC held 26; the Alliance for Guyana, 1; the TUF, 1; and the Guyana Democratic Party, 1. However, following extended challenges by the PNC over the validity of the election, Jagan resigned the following August, naming finance minister Bharrat Jagdeo to succeed her. Jagdeo has remained as PPP leader and prime minister since then.

In the March 2001 elections, the PPP/C won 34 seats to the PNC's 27. Smaller parties took the remaining seats.


Guyana's system of local government was restructured after independence. Guyana is divided into 10 regions, each of which is administered by a chairman and council. City and village councils administer the local communities.


The Supreme Court of Judicature has two divisions: the High Court, which consists of the chief justice of the Supreme Court and any number of puisne justices and has both original and appellate jurisdiction; and the Court of Appeal (established 30 July 1966), which consists of a chancellor, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, and as many justices as the National Assembly may prescribe. The chancellor of the Court of Appeal is the country's chief judicial officer. Magistrates' courts exercise summary jurisdiction in lesser civil and criminal matters. The constitution of 1980 provides for an ombudsman to investigate governmental wrongdoing. English common law is followed. Although there is an ombudsman, he lacks the authority to investigate allegations of police misconduct. There is no independent body charged with responsibility for pursuing complaints of police brutality or abuse.

In 2003, Caribbean leaders met in Kingston, Jamaica, to ratify a treaty to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). Eight nationsBarbados, Belize, Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobagoofficially approved the CCJ, although a total of 14 nations were planning to use the court for appeals. Haiti had agreed to use the CCJ for resolution of trade disputes. The court was officially inaugurated in April 2005, in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. As of 2005, however, the court's jurisdiction was limited to the CARICOM states of Barbados and Guyana. The CCJ heard its first case in August 2005.

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary. Delays in judicial proceedings are caused by shortages of trained personnel and inadequate resources.


The Combined Guyana Defense Force numbered 1,100 fulltime officers and troops in 2005. Reserves consisted of 670 reservists and a paramilitary force, the Guyana Peoples Militia, which numbered 1,500. Army personnel numbered 900. Equipment included 9 reconnaissance vehicles and 54 artillery pieces. The Navy and the Air Force numbered 100 each. Operable naval units consisted of three patrol/coastal craft. The Air Force's equipment consisted of three transport aircraft and two utility helicopters. Paramilitary forces consisted of the Guyana People's Militia which had more than 1,500 members. The defense budget in 2005 totaled $5.92 million.


Guyana became a member of the United Nations on 20 September 1966; it belongs to ECLAC and several specialized agencies of the United Nations, such as the FAO, ICAO, ILO, IMF, UNESCO, UNIDO, WHO, and the World Bank. Guyana served on the UN Security Council in 197576 and 198283. General Mohamed Shahabuddeen, a former vice president and deputy prime minister of Guyana, served on the International Court of Justice from 198796. Guyana is a member of the ACP Group, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Caribbean Development Bank, G-77, the Latin American Economic System (LAES), the OAS, the Río Group, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), and CARICOM. Georgetown is home to offices of the European Union, the Inter-American Development Bank, the UN Development Program (UNDP), the WHO, and the OAS. The CARCICOM Secretariat is also headquartered in Georgetown.

The nation is also a member of the Nonaligned Movement and participates in the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL). In environmental cooperation, Guyana is part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, CITES, International Tropical Timber Agreements, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


Guyana's economy is dominated by the production and processing of primary commodities, of which sugar, gold, and bauxite are the most important. Much of the country is undeveloped, with more than 90% of the population and almost all of the agriculture concentrated in the narrow coastal plain. The interior is sparsely settled, and communications are poor. The bulk of the population is engaged in agriculture, either as laborers on sugar plantations or as peasant cultivators of rice. Although sugar and rice continued to be important export earners, bauxite and gold share comparable percentages of national exports. The government plays a direct role in the sugar industry; the nation's leading sugar producing company was nationalized in 1976.

Beginning in the late 1970s, Guyana's economy suffered a severe decline, attributable both to the increasingly high costs of imported oil and petroleum products (39% of Guyana's merchandise imports in 1983) and to sagging production and prices of Guyana's exports. In 1982 there were serious shortages of basic commodities, foreign exchange reserves dwindled, and Guyana was forced to reschedule its debts. In 1985, the IMF declared Guyana ineligible for further loans because of noncompliance with fund conditions and high arrears.

However, Guyana's economy improved dramatically under the Economic Recovery Program (ERP) launched by the government in April 1989. The program, which was designed with the assistance of International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank officials; was supported by Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It marked a drastic reversal in government policy away from a predominantly state-controlled, socialist economy towards a more open, free market system. The government reformed its monetary and fiscal policy establishing a free market in foreign currency, which was designed to stabilize the exchange rate and put an end to runaway inflation. The exchange rate remained stable at g$125 to the dollar and inflation dropped from a 198991 annual average of 60100% to only 14% in 1992. The growth rate reached 6% in 1991, after 15 years of decline. The government also eliminated price controls, removed import restrictions, promoted foreign investment, and divested itself of 15 of 41 state-owned enterprises by 1997.

Real GDP growth of 6.2% registered in 1997 marked the seventh consecutive year of strong recovery, with all of the key sectors demonstrating significant increases in production. Growth was particularly strong in the major export industries, including rice and sugar. Inflation had fallen to 4.2%. In July 1998, Guyana entered into a three-and-a-half-year arrangement with the IMF under a program which combined both the Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) and the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) with a credit line of about $70 million. However, a severe drought and political turmoil due to the 1997 elections combined to produce a contraction of -1.7% in 1998. Real GDP grew a reported 3% in 1999, but as the pace of structural reform slackened, the currency appreciated, and the country's overall terms of trade weakened, inflation jumped to 8.7%, up from 4.7% in 1998. In May 1999 the country received some debt relief under the Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative mounting initially to $92 million. In 2000, real GDP contracted 1.4% though inflation declined to 5.8%. In early 2001, the IMF suspended the ESAF/PRGF program with only 46% of the money paid out due to slippages in the government's implementation of fiscal and structural reforms that sent the budget deficit soaring to 6.3% of GDP in 2000 and 7% of GDP in 2001, respectively, even after grants. Real GDP growth in 2001 was 1.4%, and inflation declined to 1.5%. In September 2002, Guyana entered into a new three-year arrangement under the IMF's PRGF supported by a credit line of $73 million. The GDP was estimated to have grown 1.8% in 2002, with inflation at 4.3%.

In 2004, the GDP growth rate was 1.6%, up from0.7% in the previous year; in 2005, the growth rate was expected to fall back, to 0.4%. The inflation rate, although fluctuating, remained under controlin 2004, it reached 4.6%, down from 6.0% in 2003. The growth in 2004 was mainly fueled by higher export earnings. The bauxite mining sector was scheduled for restructuring and privatization, which was expected to give an extra boost to the economy.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Guyana's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $3.0 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $3,900. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 0.5%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 5.5%. It was estimated that in 2005 agriculture accounted for 36.8% of GDP, industry 20.2%, and services 43%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $64 million or about $83 per capita and accounted for approximately 8.6% of GDP.


In the latest years for which data was available, Guyana's workforce in 2001 was estimated at 418,000. In 1997, agriculture accounted for 27.8% of the workforce, with industry at 22.6%, services at 47.9%, and undefined occupations at 1.7%. The reported unemployment figure in 2000 was 9.1%, but this is considered vastly understated. There is a severe shortage of skilled labor.

Workers are legally entitled to form and join unions, although in practice this has been slow to materialize. Union membership accounts for approximately 32% of workers, primarily concentrated in the public sector and state-owned industry. Strikes are permitted provided they are approved by union leadership and meet the requirements of the collective bargaining agreement.

No person under 14 is legally permitted to work outside a family business. Child labor regulations are not effectively enforced and child labor remains a prevalent concern. The minimum public-sector wage was us$104 per month in 2002; there is no legally set minimum wage in the private sector. Hours of employment are set by various industries. Health and safety standards are established by the Factories Act but are not enforced due to lack of resources.


Agriculture, the main economic activity, provides nearly half the total value of exports and a large part of domestic food needs. Because the narrow strip of rich, alluvial soil along the coast lies in part below the high-tide mark of the sea and rivers, and because of heavy seasonal rainfall, agricultural expansion requires heavy expenditures for flood control, drainage, and irrigation. About 2.5% of the land is used for temporary and permanent crop production.

Guyana has two sugarcane harvests per year, and there are currently eight sugar mills in operation. About 90% of all cane is grown on land owned or leased by Guysuco, the government-owned sugar monopoly. Guysuco is managed under contract by the British firm Booker Tate. Independent farmers contribute only about 8% to total cane production. Guyana is not an efficient producer of sugar and cannot compete on the world market; it depends on preferential export markets for its sugar trade. Sugar production in 2004 was 3,000,000 tons, up from the 395,000 tons produced in 1971; sugar accounted for 29% of exports in 1980 and about 19% in 2004. Rice production in 2004 (501,500 tons) had more than doubled since 1991. Agricultural exports in 2004 totaled us$189.8 million. Other crops, grown for domestic consumption include bananas, citrus, cassava, and yams.


Livestock in 2005 included 110,000 head of cattle, 130,000 sheep, 79,000 goats, 13,000 hogs, and 20,000,000 chickens. Other important domestic animals are horses, mules, and donkeys. Extensive work is carried on to improve cattle productivity by importing breeding stock and providing artificial insemination and veterinary services.


Efforts are being made to increase the fish catch in order to improve the local diet and reduce imports of fish. The catch was 60,304 tons in 2003. The principal species caught that year were Atlantic seabob (19,205 tons) and whitebelly prawn (2,218 tons). Fish exports amounted to us$54.2 million in 2003. The Demerara Fish Port Complex, built near Georgetown with Japanese aid, includes a fish-processing plant and office facilities.


Forests cover about 16,879,000 hectares (41,708,000 acres), or 79% of the total land area. Commercial exploitation, however, is confined to a relatively small section in the northeast. The government-operated timber plant buys lumber from private sawmills and processes it with a view to standardizing and raising the quality of timber for export. Only about 20% of the forest area is reasonably accessible for timber exploitation. Green-heart is the most important timber produced and exported. Timber production was about 1,158,000 cu m (40,900,000 million cu ft) in 2004. Exports of forestry products amounted to us$29.4 million that year.


Guyana's primary mineral industries in 2003, were centered on bauxite, gold, diamonds, sand, and crushed stone. In 2003, production of bauxite totaled 1.7 million metric tons, up from 1.69 million metric tons in 2002. Mined gold production in 2003 totaled 12,170 kg, down from 13,581 kg in 2002. In 2003 about 8,400 kg of gold were produced by the Omai Mine. However gold output at the mine has been falling and exploration has failed to find new reserves. The mine was slated to cease operations. Diamond production in 2003 was estimated at 250,000 carats, up from 248,436 carats in the previous year. Diamond production since 1999 increased 450%, allegedly due to the breakup of a Brazilian smuggling ring. Sand and crushed stone were also mined in 2003. The Guiana Shield region was well known for its undeveloped resources of copper, gold, iron ore, manganese, nickel, platinum, and uranium, and undeveloped resources of columbite and tantalite were also being investigated in Guyana.


Guyana has no known proven reserves of oil, natural gas, coal, or any oil refining capacity. As a result the country must import whatever refined petroleum products or other fossil fuels it consumes. In 2002, imports and consumption of refined petroleum products each averaged 11,270 barrels per day. There were no imports or consumption of natural gas or coal in that year.

Guyana's electric power sector in 2002, was marked by the near total use of fossil fuels to provide electric power, although there is a very small hydroelectric sector. In 2002, electric power generating capacity totaled 0.305 million kW, with conventional thermal plants accounting for 0.300 million kW and hydropower 0.005 million kW. Total electric energy produced in 2002 was 0.808 billion kWh, of which 0.800 billion kWh came from fossil fuels and the rest from hydropower. Consumption of electricity in 2002 was 0.751 billion kWh. Frequent power failures have hampered production and thus impeded economic growth. The lack of reliable electricity in and around Georgetown has prompted many businesses to utilize imported small diesel-operated generators, further increasing total fuel demand.


Industry is limited chiefly to processing gold, bauxite, sugar, and rice for export and food and beverages for the local market. Gourmet food processing is increasingly gaining in importance, including the production of certain jams, jellies, sauces, spices, and fruit purees. Manufacturing accounted for about 11% of GDP in 1998, when output decreased by 8.9% over the previous year. Industry as a whole accounted for 32% of GDP in 2000.

In 1993 the government announced a policy move toward total privatization, joint ventures, public share offers, employee and management buyouts, and leased management contracts. The government has followed a serious program of privatization of key state enterprises, such as the telephone utility80% of which is owned by the US Virgin Islands firm Atlantic Telenetwork. In 1996, a number of companies were offered for privatization, including the state-owned Guyana Electricity Corporation (GEC), Guyana Airways Corporation, the Linmine and Bermine bauxite mines, Guyana National Printers, Guyana Stores, the Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation, Versailles Dairy Complex, and the Wauna Oil Palm Estate. The GEC was privatized in 1999. The government continued its hold on the state monopoly Guyana Sugar Corporation (Guysuco). Following privatization of the government-owned rice mills and the transfer of rice transactions to the common market for foreign currency, the rice industry recovered and its production increased. In 1999, rice output increased 7.6% and sugar production increased 25.8% over 1998. Due to the fact that much development of infrastructure was needed, the construction sector realized significant growth in the early 2000s. In 2002, breakfast cereals manufactured through the processing of rice were seen as potential exports.

The share of the industry in the GDP was 19.9% in 2004; agriculture contributed with 38.3% and also was the main employer in the country; services came in first with a 41.8% share in the GDP. The oil industry was expected to be an important income earner in future years, although explorations in western Guyana proved unfruitful in the past.


The University of Guyana, founded in 1963 at Georgetown, has faculties of agriculture, health sciences, technology, and natural sciences. The Guyana School of Agriculture Corporation was founded in 1963. The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, founded in 1974 at Stabroek and operated by the Organization of American States, aims to stimulate and promote rural development as a means of achieving the general development and welfare of the population. The Pan-American Health Organization has maintained an office in Georgetown since 1949. The Guyana Zoo, an adjunct of the Guyana Museum in George-town, specializes in the display, care, and management of South American fauna.


Domestic trade is conducted largely through small retail shops and kiosks scattered throughout the settled areas, and by cooperatives. Franchising began to show signs of growth potential, primarily in the fast-food industry. There are also traditional informal markets for the sale of agricultural products. One of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, the economy relies heavily on foreign aid and investment. Normal business hours are 8 am to 4:30 pm, MondayFriday. Banks are open from 8 am to 12:30 pm and 3 to 5 pm weekdays.


Leading exports are bauxite, sugar, rice, gold, shrimp, rum, timber, and molasses. In 1968, bauxite replaced sugar as Guyana's single most important export. From the 1970s to mid-1980s, however, world markets for Guyana's export commodities weakened

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 472.1 556.8 -84.7
United Kingdom 105.1 35.7 69.4
Canada 94.4 8.1 86.3
United States 94.1 177.1 -83.0
Trinidad and Tobago 28.3 148.6 -120.3
Jamaica 26.5 4.4 22.1
Belgium 19.6 5.6 14.0
Barbados 19.2 6.4 12.8
Netherlands 15.7 14.2 1.5
Portugal 9.6 9.6
Antigua and Barbuda 7.1 7.1
() data not available or not significant.

while oil import costs rose, leading to chronic trade deficits. As a result of Guyana's economic reform program, import restrictions have been removed, and import licenses are granted routinely by the Ministry of Trade, Tourism, and Industry.

Guyana's biggest exports are sugar (25%) and gold (24%). The mining industry also produces a large amount of bauxite/alumina exports (16%). Foodstuffs account for substantial amounts of commodity export percentages, including rice (11%), shrimp (2.3%), and rum (2.0%).

In 2004, exports reached $570 million (FOBFree on Board), while imports grew to $650 million (FOB). The bulk of exports went to Canada (23.2%), the United States (19.2%), the United Kingdom (10.9%), Portugal (9%), Belgium (6.4%), and Jamaica (5.2%). Imports included manufactures, machinery, petroleum, and food, and mainly came from Trinidad and Tobago (24.8%), the United States (24.5%), Cuba (6.8%), and the United Kingdom (5.4%).


Guyana generally runs a deficit on current accounts, which became increasingly severe in the 1980s. Since 1989, the government has sought a policy of a free market in foreign currency and the removal of import prohibitions. Still, over half of the annual budget went to debt servicing during the 1990s and early 2000s. In 1996, Guyana's debt with Paris Club creditors was reduced by 67%; bringing total external debt to us$1.5 billion, or, slightly less than 100% of GDP. Guyana qualified for $590 million in debt service relief under the IMF/World Bank Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative in 2000. As a result of its qualification for HIPC assistance, Guyana became eligible for a reduction of its multilateral debt for the first time. In 2002, Guyana negotiated a three-year $73 million loan with the IMF.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2000 the purchasing power parity of Guyana's exports was $505 million

Current Account -90.6
   Balance on goods -58.9
     Imports -571.7
     Exports 512.8
   Balance on services -19.9
   Balance on income -52.1
   Current transfers 247.1
Capital Account 43.8
Financial Account 40.0
   Direct investment abroad
   Direct investment in Guyana 26.1
   Portfolio investment assets -22.1
   Portfolio investment liabilities 4.5
   Financial derivatives
   Other investment assets 43.3
   Other investment liabilities -11.8
Net Errors and Omissions 16.6
Reserves and Related Items -9.8
() data not available or not significant.

while imports totaled $585 million resulting in a trade deficit of $80 million.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 1995 Guyana had exports of goods totaling $496 million and imports totaling $537 million. The services credit totaled $134 million and debit $172 million.

Exports of goods reached $589 million in 2004, up from $513 million in 2003. Imports grew from $571 million in 2003, to $647 million in 2004. The resource balance was consequently negative, reaching -$58 million in both years. The current account balance was also negative, improving from -$91 million in 2003 to -$62 million in 2004. Foreign exchange reserves (excluding gold) grew to $232 million in 2004, covering more than four months of imports.


The Bank of Guyana is the central bank. In addition to the Bank of Guyana, seven commercial banks operate in the country. Three of them are foreign-owned, namely, Bank of Baroda, Bank of Nova Scotia, and The National Bank for Industry and Commerce (NIBC). In April 1994, the government sold its shares in the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (GBTI). In November 1994 the Demerara Bank (a private, domestic bank) and the Citizen's Bank started operations. Further liberalization of the financial sector occurred in April 1995 when Parliament approved the Financial Institutions Act of 1995. The new legislation aimed to tighten the supervisory and regulatory framework of the financial system. The NIBIC, one of Guyana's largest banks, was offered for privatization in 1996. By 2002, only one state-owned bank remained: the Guyana National Cooperative Bank (GNCB). The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $139.3 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $513.2 million. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 8.8%.

While a number of firms with publicly issued share capital are active, no large-scale securities market has developed.


As of 1995, there were at least eight insurance companies operating in Guyana.


The budget follows the calendar year. Taxes finance the current account budget, with net surpluses or deficits being added to or subtracted from a general revenue balance. Nearly half of government revenue is derived from customs and excise receipts. Divestment of state enterprises, elimination of price controls and subsidies, and a reform of fiscal and monetary policy have led to debt restructuring and forgiveness. Nevertheless, in 1998, government expenditures were about 40% of GDP, and Guyana's debt reached 44% of GDP in 2000.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Guyana's central government took in revenues of approximately $320.1 million and had expenditures of $362.6 million. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$42.5 million. Total external debt was $1.2 billion.


Income taxes are the major source of direct tax revenue. Personal income taxes are levied at a rate of 0%, 20%, and 33.33%. The corporate tax rate is 45% for commercial companies (generally nonmanufacturing companies) and 35% for all other companies. Other taxes include property tax and consumption tax on locally manufactured goods, a withholding tax of 20% is placed on dividends, interest and royalties. There are also stamp taxes. Local government authorities derive their revenues primarily from land, building, and service taxes. Tax evasion is a constant problem.


Customs revenues are traditionally a main source of government income. Guyana uses the common external tariffs (CETs) of CARICOM. Intra-CARICOM trade is free of tariffs. The CET on imports is 520%. However, customs duties of 1075% are also applied. Consumption taxes are also levied on imports, based on CIF (cost, insurance, and freight) value, but some items are exempted to encourage development. Export taxes range from 0.5% of value to 10%. There is an 80-acre gold export processing zone in Linden.


Investment by foreign firms accounted for the bulk of capital formation prior to the establishment of Guyana's cooperative republic in 1970. After Guyana became a cooperative republic, the government did little to attract foreign private investment. The Hoyte government, however, began efforts to obtain foreign investments for the rehabilitation of the bauxite industry and for oil prospecting and gold mining. New legislation to simplify foreign investment procedures was written in 1987.

The implementation of the Economic Recovery Program and the strong interest of the government in privatization attracted many foreign investors. In 1988, the government permitted foreign ownership of businesses operating in Guyana. In addition, the government was prepared to implement arrangements designed to facilitate investors' derivation of tax benefits in their home territories as well as tax credits in Guyana. Other investment incentives include: tax holidays, export allowances, accelerated depreciation, an export processing zone, and special provisions for agribusiness, mining, and tourism.

From 1997 to 2001, annual foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows to Guyana averaged $54 million, with a high of $67 million reached in 2000. For the period 1998 to 2000, Guyana's share of world FDI inflows was 2.2 times its share in world GDP. This was a marked improvement over the period 1988 to 1990 when Guyana's share of world inward FDI flows had been only 70% of its share in world GDP.

In 2002, $16.6 million were invested in a poultry farmone of the few large investments in Guyana, in recent years. For 2005, the government planned to privatize the country's Linmine bauxite operations, which would have translated into a dramatic increase in capital inflows in that year.


A continuing theme of Guyanese economic development policy has been the attempt, without great success, to expand agriculture and to diversify the economy. A seven-year development program (196672) aimed to move the country's economy away from its heavy dependence on sugar, rice, and bauxite and to increase funds for scientific, vocational, and technical training and agricultural education. A key feature of the 197276 development plan was its emphasis on improving Guyana's health and housing standards.

A decisive change in economic orientation was marked by the proclamation on 23 February 1970 of a cooperative republic. The government embarked on a policy of cooperative socialism by nationalizing the bauxite industry, seeking a redistribution of national wealth, and fostering the establishment of cooperative enterprises for agricultural production, marketing, transportation, housing and construction, labor contracting, services, and consumer purchases. Within a decade, about 80% of the economy was in the public sector.

As economic conditions declined in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the government instituted such austerity measures as import restrictions, foreign exchange controls, cutbacks in planned government spending, and layoffs of government employees.

From 1953 through 1986, Guyana received us$115.5 million in nonmilitary loans and grants. Multilateral assistance during the same period equaled us$265.4 million, of which 42% came from the IDB and 30% from the IBRD. The 1985 declaration by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that Guyana was ineligible to receive further assistance until outstanding debts with the fund had been repaid was an indication of how severe the nation's financial crisis had become. In 1983, the United States had vetoed aid from US and IDB sources, and late in 1985 a barter agreement with Trinidad and Tobago was suspended because of Guyana's failure to repay outstanding loans. As a result, the Hoyte government sought a rapprochement with international lending agencies: a delegation from the IMF, the World Bank, and the IDB visited Guyana late in 1986, and early in 1987 the Guyana dollar was devalued by 56%.

In the late 1990s, primarily as a result of economic reforms, agricultural output grew at a stable rate. Manufacturing output also grew because of improvements in electricity generation and distribution and improved incentives for private investments. These factors combined made continued recovery with real growth rates in excess of 5% per year possible until 1997. Drought and political instability threatened a decade of economic development.

The continuation of sound macroeconomic policies and public sector reform, together with multilateral and bilateral assistance, is crucial to sustaining growth. The fiscal situation was expected to continue improving in the short and medium term, largely as a result of increased current revenues. The inflation rate was likely to stay low, while the medium-term external position of Guyana was expected to remain clouded by the large external debt outstanding, so that the search for debt relief and preferred lending from international donors remained essential.

In 2000, Guyana became eligible for $590 million in debt service relief under the IMF/World Bank Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. In 2002, Guyana negotiated a three-year $73 million Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) Arrangement with the IMF, to support the government's economic reform program.

In 2005, the economy was expected to expand by only 2.5%, with most of the growth being fueled by higher investments in the public works projects and in the sugar industry. The loss of gold production from the Omai gold mine was expected to be offset by a higher output in the bauxite-mining sector. Fisheries were expected to suffer as a result of rising fuel costs, and overfishing posed a series of problems for the future.


A social insurance system covers almost all employed and self-employed persons between the ages of 16 and 59. Social welfare benefits include workers' compensation, maternity and health insurance, death benefits, disability, and old age pensions. Workers contributed 4.8% of earnings, and employers made a 7.2% pay-roll contribution. Retirement pensions are 40% of average weekly earnings, disability pensions are 30%, and survivor benefits are 50% of the payable old age or disability pension. Maternity benefits are available for 13 weeks. Work injury laws have been in place since 1916.

Violence against women, including domestic violence, remained widespread in 2004, crossing socio-economic and racial lines. There is still social stigma attached to victims of rape, therefore the incidents largely go unreported. There is no legal protection against sexual harassment in the workplace. The law protects women's property rights in common law marriages and divorce, although divorce by mutual consent remained illegal.

Tensions between citizens of African descent and those of South Asian origin continued. Also, the land rights of the Amerindian population remained an issue. Guyana continued to have serious human rights problems, including police abuses, pretrial detention, and poor prison conditions.


In 2004, there were 48 doctors, 229 nurses, and 4 dentists per 100,000 people. Some 90% of the population of Guyana had adequate sanitation and 65% had access to safe water in 199495. In 2005 the average life expectancy was estimated at 65.50 years and the total fertility rate at 2.1. In the same year infant mortality was an estimated 33.26 deaths per 1,000 live births. A high incidence of malaria was present in 1997, with 34,075 new cases. That year, malaria was the country's second leading cause of death. Of the 6,506 cholera cases in 1995, 565 died. The incidences of filariasis, enteric fever, helminthiasis, nutritional deficiencies, and venereal diseases still were significant. Yellow fever remains a constant threat. In 1997, 82% of Guyana's children were vaccinated against measles, roughly a 28% increase from 1988.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 2.50 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 11,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 1,100 deaths from AIDS in 2003.


Housing is a critical problem, as is the lack of adequate water supplies and of effective waste disposal and sewage systems. Overcrowding exists in many areas, with families of four or more members often living in one-room homes. Urban development plans have been prepared for Georgetown and New Amsterdam and a number of schemes, including the construction of low-cost rental housing, have been inaugurated. Loans are made through the Guyana Cooperative Mortgage Finance Bank, founded in 1973. To spur housing development, the government established the Guyana Housing Corp. in 1974. The government provides supervision by trained personnel for those willing to build their own homes. Housing is provided by some firms for their employees. Even so, housing shortages are prevalent and overcrowding and homelessness in urban areas is a great problem.

In the period 19962001, the government worked on programs for low-income housing. The result was the construction of about 91 settlements providing 50,000 housing units. The government has estimated that it must build 5,200 homes per year for at least 10 years to meet the national housing need.

Most housing units in the country are detached houses. Owners occupy over half of all dwellings. Most dwellings are wooden, with a smaller proportion made either of wood and concrete or concrete.


Although educational standards are high, educational development has suffered from shortages of teachers and materials. School attendance is free and compulsory for eight years for children between the ages of 5 and 14. All schools in Guyana are public, as church and private schools were taken over by the government in 1976. Primary education lasts for six years. General secondary education (community high school) usually covers four years of study. Students will take an additional year to prepare for senior secondary school, which offers a two-year program ending with the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Exam. The academic year runs from September to July.

Most children between the ages of four and five attend some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 99% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 75% of age-eligible students, 58% for boys and 92% for girls. It is estimated that about 99% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 27:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 15:1.

The first students completed the one-year course at the Government Training College for Teachers in 1960. Teachers also are trained in the United Kingdom and at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. The University of Guyana was established in 1963, and awarded its first degrees in 1967. The university has faculties in agriculture, the arts, health sciences, social sciences, education, and technology. The Kuru Kuru Cooperative College was established in 1970 to equip the Guyanese people both technically and philosophically for cooperative socialism and nation building. In 2003, about 6% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program. The adult literacy rate for 2003 was estimated at about 98.8%.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 8.4% of GDP, or 18.4% of total government expenditures.


The National Library in Georgetown, with holdings of more than 198,000 volumes, also functions as a public library and has 37 branches. The site of the National Library was originally built in 1909 as the Public Free Library, with funding in part from the American industrialist Andrew Carnegie. The Guyana Society Library (formerly the Library of the Royal Agricultural and Commercial Society) is the oldest in the country and has a collection of rare books dealing with the Amerindians of Guyana. Other important libraries include the British Council Library, the Caribbean Community Secretariat, and the library of the US Information Agency. The University of Guyana, founded in 1963, maintains a library which has holdings of over 200,000 volumes.

The Guyana Museum in Georgetown has a collection of flora and fauna, archaeological findings, and examples of Amerindian arts and crafts. It also has an aquarium and a zoological and botanical park. The Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology is also found in Georgetown.


In 2002 there were 80,400 mainline telephones in use throughout the country with an additional 87,300 mobile phones. A public corporation runs the postal system. An international telex service was inaugurated in 1967. Overseas radiotelephone and cable services are provided by Cable and Wireless (W.I.), a private firm.

Broadcasting is carried on by the government-owned Guyana Broadcasting Corp. As of 2004, there was only one radio station and it was operated by the government. There were 13 television stations (only one of which was government-owned). In 1997 there were 817 radios and 306 television sets in use for every 1,000 people. In 2002, there were 125,000 Internet subscribers served by about 613 Internet hosts.

In 2004, there were three daily newspapers in Guyana, the Stabroek News (circulation 23,500 in 2002), which is an independent newspaper, Kaieteur News (also independent), and the Guyana Chronicle (23,000). The Mirror (circulation 25,000) is published twice a week by the People's Progressive Party.

The government is said to generally respect the constitutional provisions for freedom of speech and the press.


Cooperative societies cover virtually every aspect of the economy. There is a chamber of commerce in Georgetown. Labor and industry organizations include the Guyana Manufacturers' Association and the Guyana Rice Producers' Association. There is a Guyana Consumers Association. Professional associations exist for teachers and lawyers.

There are a number of national youth organizations, including National Association of Youth and Students, the Progressive Youth Organization, Student Christian Movement of Guyana, the Trade Union Youth Movement of Guyana, Working Peoples Alliance Youth, and the Guyana United Youth Society. Scouting programs and YMCA/YWCA chapters are also active. There are several sports associations promoting amateur competition in a variety of pastimes.

Amnesty International, Habitat for Humanity, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, UNICEF, and the Red Cross have active chapters within the country.


Guyana's scenery varies from the flat marshy coastal plain to the savannas, plateaus, and mountains of the interior; the 226-m (740-ft) Kaieteur Falls, four times as high as Niagara, is the country's most outstanding scenic attraction. Tourist facilities are not very developed in Guyana, although there are hotels in Georgetown. Other attractions are the eco-resorts. Riding, hunting, fishing, and swimming are available in the southern savanna of the Rupununi. Cricket is the national sport.

All visitors are required to have a passport and an onward/return ticket. Visas are issued upon arrival for 30 days. In 2003, there were 100,911 foreign arrivals in Guyana, of whom 49% came from the United States.

In 2004, the US Department of State estimated the daily expenses for staying in Guyana at us$196.


Citizens of Guyana who have established literary reputations abroad include the novelists Edgar Mittelholzer (190965), Edward Ricardo Braithwaite (b.1920?), and the poet and novelist Jan Carew (b.1925). Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham (192385), former leader of the PNC, dominated Guyanese politics from 1964 until his death. Cheddi Berret Jagan, Jr. (191897), founder of the PPP, was chief minister from 1957 to 1961 and premier from 1961 to 1964, and was the main opposition leader after returning to office in 1992. Hugh Desmond Hoyte (b.1930) served as president from 1985 to 1992. From 199799, Cheddi Jagan's wife Janet Jagan (b.1920) served as president; she resigned due to health reasons and was succeeded by Bharrat Jagdeo (b.1964).


Guyana has no territories or colonies.


Burnett, D. Graham. Masters of All They Surveyed: Exploration, Geography, and a British El Dorado. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Calvert, Peter. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Latin America. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2004.

D and B's Export Guide to Guyana. Parsippany, N.J.: Dun and Bradstreet, 1999.

Health in the Americas, 2002 edition. Washington, D.C.: Pan American Health Organization, Pan American Sanitary Bureau, Regional Office of the World Health Organization, 2002.

Herman, Marc. Searching for El Dorado: A Journey into the South American Rainforest on the Tail of the World's Largest Gold Rush. New York: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2003.

Mangru, Basdeo. A History of East Indian Resistance on the Guyana Sugar Estates, 18691948. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1996.

Premdas, Ralph R. Ethnic Conflict and Development: The Case of Guyana. Brookfield, Vt.: Avebury, 1995.

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Co-operative Republic of Guyana

Major City:

Other Cities:
Bartica, Corriverton, Linden, New Amsterdam


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated August 1997. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


GUYANA , the territory once known as British Guiana, has been a republic within the Commonwealth since February 1970. Its colonial history dates to the 17th century, when the Dutch West Indies Company developed sugar plantations in the settlements of Essequibo, Demerara, and Berbice. The British gained control early in the 19th century and eventually united the three settlements as a crown colony.

Guyana is a young country which has suffered from political unrest, and is still a land of ferment and change. Its unusual racial situation combines African, East Indian, Amerindian, and British cultures and institutions, struggling to build a sound economy. Guyana's topography includes a long, settled coastal area and a beautiful, isolated, and primitive frontier.

A tragic event in November 1978 brought worldwide attention to this small South American nation900 members of a fanatic religious cult committed mass suicide in what came to be known as the Jonestown Massacre. Great numbers of the cult followers were American; U.S. Representative Leo J. Ryan and members of his party were ambushed and murdered when they arrived to investigate human abuses at cult headquarters.



Guyana's capital city, Georgetown (pop. approximately 254,000), is located at the mouth of the Demerara River on the northeast coast of Guyana. Because it lies below sea level, it is protected by a seawall. Because there are no passable roads connecting it with any of the neighboring countries, and because its port is visited only by cargo vessels, Georgetown's only link to the outside world is by air. The only other communities of any size in Guyana are New Amsterdam (pop. 25,000), 70 miles east of Georgetown at the mouth of the Berbice River, and the bauxite mining town of Linden (pop. 35,000), 67 miles south on the Demerara River. Inhabitants of the three principal urban areas are predominantly African; those of the countryside are mainly East Indian.

Declining national income during the 1980s and deteriorating infrastructure has resulted in substandard living conditions for most Guyanese citizens. Beginning in 1991, however, because of privatization, foreign investment, and the government's economic recovery program, the gross domestic product (GDP) has grown at rates in excess of 6% a year, and wages and benefits, employment, and working conditions have improved. Most consumer goods, which virtually disappeared during the 1980s, are now widely available again but still unaffordable for many Guyanese. Many basic services such as electricity, transportation, and health care, remain limited and unreliable.

About 310 third country nationals and 1,135 U.S. citizens live in Guyana, most of them dual nationals born in Guyana or born abroad of Guyanese parents. There are 12 foreign missions in Georgetown: the High Commissions of the U.K., Canada, and India, and the embassies of Brazil, Colombia, Suriname, Venezuela, the People's Republic of China, Russia, Cuba, North Korea, and the U.S. The U.N. Development Program, the European Union, the World Health Organization, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA), and the Inter-American Development Bank also have offices in Georgetown. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat is headquartered here. Most of the other major countries have nonresident ambassadors who visit Guyana from time to time and a dozen or so are also represented by Guyanese acting as honorary consuls.


Grocery stores and public markets in Georgetown offer a variety of meat, poultry, fish, and seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables. Sanitary conditions in the markets are poor.

Common locally grown vegetables include cassava, plantains, yams, breadfruit, eddoes (a dry variety of sweet potato) and eggplant. These are high in carbohydrates and available in season only. Green and yellow vegetablesbora beans (a thin green bean), leaf lettuce, cabbage, pumpkin and various squash, cucumbers, onions, potatoes, spinach, callaloo, and tomatoesare available throughout the year. Local celery is adequate for seasoning, but unsuitable for relish trays. Green onions (scallions), small red and green peppers, and fresh thyme are usually available. Parsley is expensive and occasionally found. Locally grown rice that has been parboiled before packaging is cheap and a staple in the Guyanese diet.

Local oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, watermelons, bananas, pineapples, mangoes, papaya, yellow melons, and avocados are good and plentiful, although some are available only seasonally.

A wide variety of canned foods, including canned baby foods and pet food, are available but expensive.

Local meats are generally available and special orders can be placed at several meat stores. Fish, chicken and pork are usually good; prawns (shrimp) and red snapper are especially tasty. Cheese, butter, milk (UHT, evaporated, and powdered, but not fresh), and all other dairy products are available at most grocery stores.


Dress for tropical weather. Summer clothing is worn year round. Cotton wash-and-wear and synthetic knit fabrics are suitable. Silks are impractical because of the need for expert dry-cleaning. Nylon is an easy-care fabric, but uncomfortable in the heat. Woolens are generally not worn, except for men's tropical-weight wool suits.

Men: In the office most men wear slacks with a short-sleeved shirt and tie. Suits and slacks can be made to order locally.

Most social occasions are informal or casual. Casual events call for short-sleeved sport shirts or the guayabera. Reasonably priced short-sleeved guayaberas can be purchased locally. Long-sleeved guayaberas (difficult to purchase locally) may be worn in place of a suit on some occasions.

Women: Sport and straw hats are worn frequently for outdoor events because of the strong sun. Few women wear stockings. Slacks are popular, but shorts are worn only for sports or at home. Long dresses are occasionally worn but cocktail dresses are popular for receptions and dinners. In the office, most women wear cotton dresses or blouses and skirts. Short-sleeved cotton or cotton-blend sweaters are also worn. Light sweaters or stoles are sometimes needed. Bring a good supply of shoes, sandals, sneakers, old shoes, and rubber boots. A fold-up plastic raincoat is useful, as is an umbrella. Bring a supply of lightweight undergarments.

Children: Guyana is beginning to produce some good children's clothing, particularly inexpensive, attractive dresses Local clothing is limited in selection, size, and price, and even items of poor quality cost more than in the U.S. The American School does not require uniforms nor does the dress code prohibit jeans, shorts, sneakers, or jumpsuits.

Supplies and Services

Although toiletries and medicines can be purchased locally, the cost is usually high.

Laundry service is poor and slow. The only local dry-cleaning service in town is reasonably good. Georgetown has numerous seamstresses and tailors, whose work is inexpensive but varies in quality. Shoe repair is adequate. Most beauty shop operators have been trained in the U.S. or U.K. and offer good services. Most shops are unisex and offer acceptable haircuts.

Religious Activities

There are many religious denominations in Guyana, and Georgetown has churches, temples, and mosques of many faiths, although the order of service and the music may differ from U.S. churches. The East Indians are mainly Hindu or Muslim. The largest Christian church is Anglican (Episcopal), with about 110,000 members; Roman Catholics number about 60,000. Other denominations include Methodist, Seventh-day Adventist, Presbyterian, Christian Scientist, Lutheran, Jehovah's Witnesses, Baptist, Pentecostal, Church of Christ, Moravian, Assembly of God, Baha'i, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


Most Americans and international children attend the Georgetown American School, an institution sponsored by the U.S. State Department through its Office of Overseas Schools, from nursery through grade 12. Founded in 1971, the school's goal is to provide an education equal to that offered at better American public schools. American texts are used in all courses. The faculty is well qualified and includes several Americans, one of whom is the Director. In recent years enrollment has steadily increased and for 1996-97 stands at 115. Class size is quite small and individualized instruction is the norm. In 1993-94, grades 10-12 were offered for the first time.

The school year runs from September through mid-June. The school day begins at 7:45 and ends at 2:15. Classes in music, art, foreign languages, and physical education are an integral part of the curriculum. The school has a respectable library, a science lab, and an adequate number of computers.

The Parent Teachers Association (PTA) is composed of the parents of students enrolled at the school. School policy is set by a seven-member Board of Directors, six of whom are elected annually by the parents, and one, usually the Embassy administrative officer, is appointed by the U.S. Ambassador.

Special Educational Opportunities

Few opportunities for advanced study or adult education exist in Georgetown, other than those offered by the University of Guyana. Foreign language instruction in Spanish and Portuguese is offered to the public by the Venezuelan and Brazilian embassies. Language instruction in German is also available. A few music teachers instruct beginning and intermediate students, but facilities for advanced musical education are nonexistent. Ballet and modern dance lessons are available to adults as well as children.


There is a nine-hole golf course about 10 miles from town which is rough but playable. There are several tennis courts and tennis and golf tournaments and competitions are common. The Pegasus and Tower Hotels and the Guyana Bank of Trade and Industry (GBTI) offer swimming, tennis, and weightlifting facilities for a membership fee. Annual dues for access to tennis and swimming at the Pegasus for a family with children are about US$600. GBTI is more reasonable. The Georgetown Club has a restaurant, bar and squash court, and annual dues are low.

Bicycles are widely used here for transportation among Guyanese, and bicycle racing is a popular sport. The National Park is an area where many people cycle, jog, or walk. It is not recommended that Americans walk/jog alone at the National Park or the seawall late in the evenings or early in the mornings.

Cricket and soccer are the two most popular sports for Guyanese. There are also rugby and basketball clubs and several karate groups. Another interesting sport, but not so common, is goat racing.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Guyana's tourist attractions are not easy or cheap to get to. The east-west road offers endless views of rice and sugar plantations and the pavement on the north-south road ends at the bauxite mines. Few foreigners swim in either the ocean or the Demerara River. Ocean currents from Brazil carry silt from the Amazon to Guyana's coast and silt from Guyana's own rivers makes the ocean the color of thick coffee with mudflats to match. However, for those willing to travel by boat, truck, or small plane, Guyana offers a vast wilderness of undiscovered eco-tourism sites. Excursions can be arranged independently or through local travel agencies to sugar plantations (most of which have guest houses), jungle creeks, Amerindian villages, rustic tourist lodges (Timberhead, Shanklands, Madewini, and Kaow Island) and spectacular waterfalls. Guyana offers fabulous hunting (duck, deer, wild hog, and other exotic animals) and fishing. Birdwatchers find a large selection of species.

Kaieteur Falls, Guyana's best-known and most heavily visited tourist attraction, is five times higher than Niagara, but has no protective railings or tourist shops. Located in thick jungle 160 miles southwest of Georgetown, it is usually reached by chartered aircraft, but some choose to make the difficult 4-day overland trip by truck/boat/hiking.

Several ranches in the Rupununi Savanna offer comfortable overnight accommodations and various activities including riding, hunting, fishing, and swimming. Karanambo Ranch, which offers refuge to the endangered giant river otters, has been the subject of a National Geographic television special.

Adventurous types will want to consider investing in a sturdy four-wheel-drive vehicle. Although not essential, a winch, heavy-duty mud tires, and even a liftkit are all useful for driving trips deep into the interior. The adventurous will also want to consider investing in a boat of some type, as the best sporting and travel opportunities in the interior are on Guyana's numerous rivers and creeks. Individuals have found canoes, foldable kayaks, and aluminum boats with 25 horsepower out-board motors useful and enjoyable. The key to boating in Guyana is having a craft which your vehicle can transport from the road to the river. This generally means having both a four-wheel drive vehicle and a boat that can fit on or inside it. A boat that requires a trailer is restricted to those major rivers which can be reached by paved road.

The Swims Club, about 40 minutes south of Georgetown on the Demerara, offers not swimming but storage facilities and loading ramps for boats. Some people keep larger boats with inboard engines there for excursions on the river.

Points of interest in Georgetown include the Botanical Gardens which have an excellent zoo and an adjacent playground with slides, swings, etc. The National Museum in Georgetown is small, but its exhibits on the history of Guyana, Amerindian life and customs, gold and diamond prospecting methods, animals, and plants are well worth a visit.

For a change of scenery, vacation trips are possible to Antigua, Barbados, St. Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada or other West Indian islands, and also to neighboring Venezuela, Suriname and French Guiana. The islands are popular for their excellent beaches and more cosmopolitan atmosphere. However, flight schedules usually require more than a 2-day weekend. Flying time is about 1 hour to Trinidad or 2 hours to Barbados or Antigua. Round-trip fares to those islands are about US$150. Hotel prices are high in season, mid-December to mid-April, but considerably lower during the off-season. Some hotels give discounts to diplomats or residents of the Caribbean community.


The Guyana Theater Guild and other drama groups have several good productions throughout the year, but only one auditorium in Guyana, the National Cultural Centre, is air-conditioned. Many video clubs offer a wide selection of tapes. Movie theaters are not usually patronized by foreigners.

Occasional outdoor concerts by the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Defense Force Bands usually are held in the Botanical Gardens or at the seawall bandstand. Visiting musical or dance groups occasionally perform in Guyana, usually under sponsorship of one of the embassies. The National School of Dance also offers occasional performances.

Social Activities

Four or five restaurants in town, including the Hotel Tower and Pegasus, allow private entertainingthe Cara Lodge Bottle Restaurant opened during 1996 and may be the best. However, most Americans entertain in their homes with informal cocktails or buffets. There are several floating bridge, poker, and games nights in Georgetown that many Americans participate in. Several charity balls are given throughout the year. Rotary, Lions, and Toastmasters Clubs all have active memberships in Georgetown.


BARTICA , despite its small size, plays a big role in Guyana. Situated at the confluence of the Essequibo, Mazaruni, and Cuyuni Rivers, 40 miles southwest of Georgetown, it is a commercial center of a few thousand residents. Small oceangoing ships dock here, while critical roads to interior gold and diamond fields start in the town. Bartica has air service to Georgetown.

CORRIVERTON lies 70 miles southeast of Georgetown, in the far northeastern corner of Guyana. This city of about 11,000 is on an estuary of the Courantyne River, separating Guyana from Suriname. The villages of Springlands and Skeldon were united in 1970 to form Corentyne River Town, which later became known as Corriverton. It is a small port, as well as the terminus of a road from Georgetown. Area agricultural products include sugarcane and rice; cattle are also raised. Most residents of Corriverton are East Indian.

LINDEN is located 40 miles south of Georgetown on the Demerara River. It serves as a processing point for the bauxite mined extensively in the region. Linden's population of about 35,000 is linked to Georgetown by road and air.

NEW AMSTERDAM is a commercial and manufacturing center for Guyana's northeast lowlands. Situated on the Berbice River 50 miles southeast of Georgetown, New Amsterdam was built by the Dutch in 1740. By 1790, it had become the seat of colonial government, only to be seized by the British 13 years later. An Anglican cathedral bespeaks the British influence in an otherwise Dutch atmosphere. Agricultural activities include sugarcane and rice production, as well as cattle raising. The city is linked to Georgetown via highways and railroad. The population of New Amsterdam is approximately 25,000.


Geography and Climate

Guyana lies on the northern coast of South America, bounded on the north by the Atlantic Ocean, on the southwest and south by Brazil, on the northwest by Venezuela, and on the east by Suriname. Its 285-mile coastline extends from Punta Playa (near the mouth of the Orinoco River) in the northwest to the Corentyne River in the east. Guyana is 82,980 square miles in area, about the size of Kansas or Idaho.

The low-lying coastland, one of Guyana's three geographic regions, is a flat, often swampy strip of silt and clay about 5½ feet below sea level at high tide. Man-made concrete walls and earthen barriers keep the ocean back and prevent floods. Canals with sluice gates permit drainage to the rivers, and at low tide, to the sea. Most of the country's population and agricultural activity are concentrated in this narrow coastal strip between the Pomeroon and Corentyne Rivers.

The mountain region includes the Pakaraima Range, which lies along the western boundary between the Waini and Rupununi Rivers; a sandstone plateau 22 miles long and more than 9,000 feet above sea level; and the Kanaku Mountains, which lie on both sides of the Rupununi River near the Brazilian border.

The intermediate region, to the east and south of the coastal and mountain regions, is the largest of the three areas. It is mainly tropical forest and jungle, except for the Rupununi Savanna on the southwestern border with Brazil. Large rivers and their tributaries form a vast network of waterways. Rapids and falls hinder navigation and development along the larger rivers. The principal rivers are the Essequibo, Demerara, Berbice, and Corentyne. The Cuyuni, Mazaruni, and Rupununi are major tributaries of the Essequibo River.

Guyana's climate is typical of most tropical countries. Humidity ranges from an average low of 68% in October to 77% in May, and an average high of 79% in October to 86% in May through August. The average annual mean (AAM) is 73% in the afternoons and 83% in the mornings. The high humidity can cause mildew, but air-conditioning and sometimes dehumidifiers and light-bulbs in closets are used to prevent its occurrence. Minimum temperatures in Georgetown, on the coast, range between 22-26°C (71-80°F) year around, with an AAM low of 75. Maximum temperatures range between 28-32°C (83-90°F), year round, with an AAM high of 86. The sea breezes (east-northeast trade winds) significantly mitigate the heat on the coast.

The coastal area typically has two wet seasons: May to mid-August, when about 40% of the total annual precipitation falls, and December to mid-January, which receive another 20%.

However, occasional rain may fall at any time of the year. Georgetown and the coast average 90 inches of rainfall annually; in the interior, 60-150 inches occur.


Guyana's population of about 703,400 is divided between two major ethnic groups: Guyanese of East Indian origin, estimated at 49%, and those of African origin, 32%. Amerindians constitute about 6%, those of mixed heritage, 12%, and persons of Chinese and European origin comprise about 1%. About 60% live in rural areas; 30% of the labor force is in agriculture. About 50% of the population, including most Afro-Guyanese, is Christian, 9% Muslim, and 33% Hindu.

Guyana celebrates two Hindu and two Muslim holidays as well as Christmas and Easter. Dietary restrictions must be considered when entertaining Guyanese: pork should not be served to Muslims, nor beef to Hindus. Some Muslim Indians do not eat crustaceans, and some Guyanese are vegetarians.

Each ethnic group has made a unique contribution to the character of life in Guyana: the food and the music and dances of the Africans, East Indians, and Amerindians; and the language and legal, commercial, governmental, and educational structures of the British colonists.

Public Institutions

Guyana was a colony known as British Guiana until May 26, 1966. The Co-operative Republic of Guyana was created in 1970. Under the 1980 constitution, Guyana has a mixed parliamentary and presidential system of government. The President and members of Parliament serve for 5-year terms, unless earlier elections are called.

There is a 72-member unicameral parliament, elected by proportional representation, and an independent judiciary and an ombudsman. The Constitution provides for civil rights and the protection of minorities. The two main political parties are the largely Afro-Guyanese People's National Congress (PNC), which governed Guyana for 28 years, and the largely East Indian People's Progressive Party (PPP), which in October 1992 won Guyana's first free and fair elections after independence.

Principal social, philanthropic, and commercial organizations include the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Jaycees, Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, and Toastmasters Clubs. The leading humanitarian organization is the Guyana Red Cross Society. The Boy Scouts, YMCA, and YWCA are active. Most denominations including the two largest, the Anglicans and Catholicsare represented on the Guyana Council of Churches.

Arts, Science, and Education

The University of Guyana is the mainspring of intellectual activity but is limited in scope. Located just outside of Georgetown, it offers degree programs in accounting, forestry, law, sociology. A university council under government authority administers the University's approximately 2,300 students, who are hampered by decaying facilities and a lack of books and qualified teachers.

Contemporary dance, steel bands, and drama are among Guyana's cultural attractions. Scientific work, mostly agricultural in nature, is carried on at state-sponsored stations throughout the country.

Commerce and Industry

Guyana's economy is dominated by agriculture and mining. Principal products are sugar, rice, bauxite, and gold. The most important gold mine, operated by Canadian firms, is the largest in Latin America. The state-owned bauxite and sugar companies are in World Bank-sponsored rehabilitation programs that may result in their eventual privatization. Timber, rice, and fishing assets have been divested, and an American company purchased 80% of the phone company in 1991. As a result, international telephone and fax service is excellent. Internet service is available from local service providers. Increased demand for machinery in the mining and agricultural sectors is attracting American exporters to Guyana. Major U.S. firms are also involved in offshore oil exploration and the food and beverage industry. The Guyana Electricity Corporation is to be divested shortly.

Guyana trades mainly with the U.S., the European Community, Venezuela, Canada, and with neighboring Caribbean countries that belong to CARICOM. Trade with Brazil, Japan, and Cuba is also of some importance. In 1992 the U.S. supplied 38% of Guyana's imports and purchased 38% of Guyana's exports.



Most of Georgetown's streets are paved, but in need of repair. Fastmoving, crowded minibuses are a traffic hazard for Georgetown drivers. Taxis are inexpensive and much safer.

Outside of Georgetown, about 450 miles of paved roads run mainly along the coast and the populated east bank of the Demerara River. A paved two-lane road runs south to the airport (27 miles). From the airport, a highway (in better shape than most roads) continues south to Linden (67 miles from Georgetown). Another main road runs from Georgetown east to Rosignol (65 miles), where the Berbice River can be crossed on a car and passenger ferry. On the eastern side of the river, at New Amsterdam, the highway resumes to the Corentyne River and the border of Suriname. The Corentyne, like the Berbice, is wide and unbridged, and only passenger ferry service is available.

Most of the 1,500 miles of unpaved roads and trails in the interior are passable by truck or four-wheel-drive vehicles, but only during the dry season. Speedboats, launches, and steamers service many river communities. Many miles of roadless swamps and jungle separate coastal Guyana from Venezuela. A laterite road from Linden to the towns of Lethem and Bon Fim on the Guyana-Brazil border is under construction, but about 60 miles remains to be finished. A floating bridge across the Demerara River opened in 1978. The Essequibo, like the Berbice, must be crossed by car ferry. In many respects, Guyana is like an island.


The main gateway to Georgetown and Guyana is Timehri International Airport, 27 miles from the city, 45 minutes by car. The government-owned Guyana Airways Corporation (GAC) has direct, nonstop flights to and from New York and Toronto. BWIA, a carrier based in Trinidad and owned by the Government of Trinidad & Tobago, provides daily service to and from JFK New York via Barbados and to and from Miami via Trinidad. It also flies from Guyana to Antigua and Jamaica. American Airlines flies daily between the U.S. and Trinidad and the U.S. and Barbados, but passengers on all the flights except the New York-Barbados flight, must overnight before taking BWIA, LIAT or Suriname Airways to Georgetown. LIAT (Leeward Islands Air Transport) operates between Georgetown and Barbados with connections there to all the eastern Caribbean islands as well as Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Suriname Airways flies 2 days a week from Paramaribo to Georgetown. A small Venezuelan airline, ASERCA, provides service to Venezuela; there is no direct service to Brazil.

Guyana Airways Corporation offers daily service to many domestic locations. Charter flights can easily be arranged to other areas. Other means of transportation are poor or nonexistent. Guyana has no deep harbors, so only small ocean freighters, mostly under 10,000 tons, and a number of bauxite carriers call at Guyana's ports.


Telephone and Telegraph

Telephone service is available in Georgetown and throughout the settled coastal area. International phone and fax service is excellent, and it costs less to call from Guyana to the U.S. than vice versa. Currently, a 3-minute call to Washington, D.C., costs about US$2.05, but rates may soon be increased. In Georgetown the annual phone rental is about US$18. Calls to nearby cities cost about US$0.04 for 3 minutes. Principal settlements in the interior have radio/telephone facilities. Extremely cheap telegraph service is available to and from the U.S. and the rest of the world. Telegrams to Washington, D.C., cost US$0.47 for 100 words; a 22-word night letter costs US$0.10, Internet varies from US$1 to US$54 a month.

Radio and TV

Guyana's two government-owned radio stations (Voice of Guyana and Radio Roraima) operate on two AM and two FM frequencies in Georgetown. Direct relays of the Voice of America (VOA) are used for special events, and VOA is available on medium wave, mornings and evenings. Georgetown has 15 TV stations, 1 of which is government owned. Many rebroadcast U.S. programs; including CBS and CNN newscasts and the "McNeil-Lehrer News Hour."

Newspapers, Magazines and Technical Journals

Two daily newspapers are published in Guyana: the state-owned Chronicle and the independent Stabroek News. The Mirror is the twice-weekly organ of the ruling Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) and the New Nation is the weekly organ of the People's National Congress (PNC). The Catholic Church publishes the Catholic Standard every Friday, often with important local news missed by the daily papers. The daily papers devote one or two pages each day to wire service reports of international news. The international editions of Newsweek and Time magazines are available each week, but many current foreign periodicals are not. Several small book-stores and the book departments of general stores offer a very limited selection.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

Medical services in Guyana are extremely limited. Medical care is very marginal and serious medical or trauma cases will need evacuation to the U.S.

Guyana has several qualified, practicing dentists, but due to poor sanitary conditions in the offices visited, only one dentist has been identified for referrals for minor problems. There are no qualified orthodontists or periodontists, and few local dentists can maintain and adjust already-installed braces.

The few competent local physicians are extremely busy and sometimes hindered by shortages of medications and supplies. Specialists who are even fewer in number, work with the most basic equipment. Currently, there is no qualified cardiologist and only one urologist. The Georgetown Hospital recently commissioned a new ambulatory health-care facility which is being plagued by shortages of medicines and qualified staff. CAT scan facilities are unavailable in the country and nursing skills are generally considered poor.

Local opticians and optometrists are qualified to fill prescriptions for glasses, but the quality of eye examinations is questionable. Choice of frames and lenses is limited. Two qualified ophthalmologists have private practices.

Local pharmacies stock common medicines, but supplies may be erratic. Purchasing medicines locally is done with caution and only products from approved manufacturers are chosen. Persons taking regular prescription medications are advised to bring an adequate supply to last until they can access local sources or arrange for regular supplies to be obtained from the U.S

Local laboratory facilities perform many routine tests but may be hampered by outdated supplies and shortages of reagents. Some tests which are considered routine in the U.S. may pose a problem here. Veni-puncture techniques vary from technician to technician.

Community Health

The incidence of malaria in the interior of Guyana has increased over the years and cases number some 40,000 per year. Chloroquine-resistant falciparum malaria has been confirmed in the country along with infections from plasmodium vivax, plasmodium falciparum and mixed infections. There has been a slight increase in malaria cases reported in Region 4 (Demerara/Mahaica) which includes Georgetown, but malaria chemoprophylaxis is not advised for Georgetown at this time. All persons are advised to sleep under a mosquito net which has been sprayed with permethrin (permanone) and to use personal protective measures routinely. Persons traveling out of Georgetown to interior regions are advised to contact the Health Unit for advice on prophylaxis.

Microfilaria is prevalent in the Guyanese population, and the advanced state of infection of this parasite is seen in the form of noninfectious elephantiasis.

Tuberculosis is reportedly on the upsurge in certain regions of Guyana, especially in Region 4.

Cholera is also a threat with regular outbreaks in the neighboring countries.

Typhoid and intestinal parasites are now considered endemic in Guyana. Sporadic outbreaks of gastrointestinal diseases occur from time to time along with hepatitis.

Dengue fever has been reported in epidemic proportions in five countries in South America during the last 10 years. Cases of the more serious Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF) have been reported. The Vector Control Unit has reported confirmed cases of dengue fever in Guyana.

In Georgetown, city garbage collection is irregular, and garbage pile-ups and illegal dumping are widespread. Sewage disposal in the outskirts of the city is by septic tank. In the city itself, the underground sewer system is antiquated and inadequate, and presents many problems due to frequent blockages and overflows. The drainage system is not adequately maintained so there is often flooding and accumulation of stagnant water during the rainy season. Water supplies are usually adequate, but can be interrupted by low pressure or breaks in the water mains. Tap water is not safe to drink. It should be either filtered and boiled, or distilled.

Care is required when buying fresh food. Market standards are poor. Frequent and long lasting power outages may pose a threat to refrigerated stocks in commercial establishments or markets.

Preventive Measures

  • Ensure that water for drinking is safe. Use milk treated by UHT or pasteurization. Powdered milk is also available locally. Wash fruits and vegetables well with detergent, then soak in a solution made up of one tablespoon of household bleach (5% chlorine) to one gallon of potable water for 15 minutes, then rinse well with potable water.
  • Ensure that required immunizations are kept up-to-date. Immunizations required for Georgetown are yellow fever, typhoid, tetanus, polio, and hepatitis A and B.
  • Check with the Health Unit before traveling out of town or into the interior to assess the need for malaria prophylaxis. Ensure that a high standard of sanitation is maintained in the home at all times. Keep surroundings clean, and grass and trees well trimmed.
  • Use of sunscreen lotions to prevent burning by the strong tropical sun is a good idea. Use of insect repellant is also advised when going out in the evenings or when you expect to be in contact with grass.
  • Have a full medical examination before coming to Guyana so that any existing problems can be treated.


Passage, Customs & Duties

Travel to Guyana is by air, as no passenger ships call at Georgetown and it cannot be reached by road or rail from any other country. There are no U.S. carriers serving Guyana. American Airlines has daily flights from Miami to Trinidad and Barbados, but passengers must overnight in either country before taking a BWIA, Suriname Airways, or LIAT flight to Georgetown. American has flights twice a day from JFK New York to Barbados, both of which arrive in time to connect with a daily BWIA flight to Georgetown. BWIA, a Trinidadian airline, provides daily service to Georgetown from JFK New York (via Barbados) and Miami (via Port-of-Spain). Guyana Airways Corporation (GAC) offers service from New York (via Curacao) three times a week and nonstop from Miami once a week. Leeward Islands Air Transport (LIAT) offers daily service from Barbados and via Barbados from other Caribbean Islands. LIAT has a strict excess baggage charge on all luggage over 20 kg. (44 pounds) and very limited cabin space for carryon items. Suriname Airways provides air service from Paramaribo 2 days a week; which continues on to Trinidad and Venezuela.

A valid U.S. passport is required for U.S. citizens to enter and depart Guyana. On arrival in Guyana, visitors are granted a 30-day stay. Extensions of stay may be obtained from the Ministry of Home Affairs at 60 Brickdam Street, Georgetown. The Central Office of Immigration located on Camp Street, Georgetown, must then note the extension in the visitor's passport. Travelers for other than tourism purposes should check with the Ministry of Home Affairs for information about requirements for work permits and extended stays. U.S.-Guyanese dual nationals departing Guyana for the United States under a Guyanese passport must present to Guyanese authorities a U.S. Certificate of Naturalization or similar document establishing that they may freely enter the United States.

Americans living in or visiting Guyana are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. 'in Georgetown and obtain updated information on travel and security within Guyana. The U.S. Embassy is located at 100 Young and Duke Streets, telephone 011-592-225-4900 through 54909, fax 011-592-225-8497. Hours of operation are Monday-Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., except local and U.S. holidays. For emergencies after hours, on weekends and on holidays, U.S. citizens are requested to call the U.S. Embassy duty officer at 011-592-226-2614 or 226-8298 or 227-7868 and to leave a message for pager number 6516.


It is difficult to import pets into Guyana. Pets brought into the country must have a valid health certificate showing rabies inoculations at least 30 days from the arrival and must have an entry permit from the Government of Guyana. Pets must arrive with or after the employee.

All pets must be quarantined for 90 days, unless they are coming from Britain or another country using the British quarantine system. However, the official Government of Guyana quarantine stations are usually full. Pet food must be supplied by the pet owner. The quarantine cost at the Government of Guyana, Ministry of Agriculture/police kennels is US$10 daily or US$900 for 90 days. Food, etc., is extra.

Many exotic birds found in Guyana are protected species. The Guyana Ministry of Agriculture will permit only those persons who have been legally residing in Guyana for more than one year to take an exotic bird out of the country when they leave. Those Americans who have legally resided in Guyana for more than a year and who would like to take back to the United States any birds or animals, including pets, listed in Appendices I, II and III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), must have a Wild Bird Conservation Act (WBCA) import permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Please note that this is a U.S. regulation that applies regardless of distinctions among the three Appendices. U.S. residents and non-residents continue to arrive at U.S. ports of entry without WBCA permits, and they encounter difficulties. Individuals can obtain WBCA fact sheets and permit applications from the USFWS Office of Management Authority, Branch of Permits, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA 22203, telephone (703) 358-2104, fax 703) 358-2281.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures

Guyana's currency is the Guyana dollar (GYP). The current rate of exchange is US$1.00 = GYP$179.60. The rate is subject to change on a daily basis. Georgetown has five commercial banks; only the Bank of Baroda (India) and the Bank of Nova Scotia, a small private Canadian bank, are foreign-owned. A third foreign-owned, bank Citizens Bank of Jamaica has been licensed and opened in October 1994, as well as a new commercial bankThe Demerara Bank.

Commercial banks provide a full range of banking services, including sale and redemption of dollar or sterling travelers checks and cashing of personal checks.

American citizens are advised to exchange currency only with banks, hotels, and established money exchange houses ("cambios"). Many foreigners who opt to exchange money on the streets, lured by promises of higher exchange rates, are increasingly becoming victims of fraud and recipients of counterfeit currency. There is no legal recourse unless the police are successful in apprehending the perpetrator; even then there is no guarantee that the money will be recovered. Street vendors usually offer rates very near to bank or "cambio" rates, so there is little advantage to be gained by changing money outside the formal system.

Weights and measures are British, although the metric system was officially introduced in 1982. In many cases British units of measures are the same as American units. Liquid measurements differ; the imperial gallon is equal to 1.20094 U.S. gallons and the British cup is 10 ounces rather than 8.


Jan. 2 New Year's Day

Feb. 23 Republic Anniversary

Mar. Phagwah*

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

Mar/Apr. Easter*

Mar/Apr. Easter Monday*

May 1 Labor Day

May. Eid-Ul-Azah*

July (first Monday) Caribbean Day*

Aug. Freedom Day*

Aug. Youm-Un-Nabi*

October 23 Deepavali

Dec. 25 Christmas Day

Dec. 26 Boxing Day



These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse publications.

Asregadoo, Edward R. Man from Guyana. San Diego, CA: Libra Publications, 1990.

Burrowes, Reynold A. The Wild Coast: An Account of Politics in Guyana. Schenkman: Cambridge, Mass., 1984.

Carew, Nan. Black Midas. Seaker & Warburg: London, 1958.

Chambers, Frances, et al. Guyana. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, 1989.

Daly, Vere T. A Short History of the Guyanese People. Macmillan Education: London, 1975.

Depres, Leo A. Cultural Pluralism and Nationalist Politics in British Guiana. Rand-McNally & Co.: Chicago 1967.

Gopal, Madam M. Politics, Race, & Youth in Guyana. Lewiston, NY: Edward Mellen Press, 1992.

Heath, Roy. Orealla. Allison and Busby: London, 1984.

Heath, Roy. The Armstrong Trilogy: From the Heat of the Day, One Generation, Genetha. Persea, 1994.

Hudson, W. H. Green Mansions. The World Publishing Co.: New York.

Jagan, Cheddi. The West on Trial. Seven Seas: Berlin, 1972.

Lerner Publications, Department of Geography Staff. Guyana in Pictures. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications, 1988.

Mecklenburg, Kurt. K. Guyana Gold. Carlton Press: 1990.

Merill, Tim L., ed. Guyana and Belize: Country Studies. Federal Research Division, Library of Congress, U.S. Government Printing Office: Washington, D.C. 1993.

Mittleholzer, Edgar. Children of Kwayana. John Day Co., Inc.: New York, 1976. (Many novels by Edgar Mittleholzer, Guyana's most prolific writer, provide a good introduction to Guyanese life.)

Naipaul, V.S. The Middle Passage. Macmillan: New York, 1963.

Singh, Chaitram. Guyana: Politics in a Plantation Society. Praeger: New York, 1988.

Spinner, Thomas J., Jr. A Political and Social History of Guyana, 1945-1983. Westview Press: Boulder, Colo., 1984.

Williams, Brackette F. Stains on My Name, War in My Veins. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991.

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Cooperative Republic of Guyana



Guyana is situated on the northeast coast of Latin America, along the Atlantic Ocean. It shares a 600-kilometer (373-mile) border with Suriname to the east, a 743-kilometer (462-mile) border with Venezuela to the northwest, and a 1,119-kilometer (695-mile) border with Brazil to the south and southwest. Guyana covers 214,970 square kilometers (83,000 square miles), making it slightly smaller than the U.S. state of Idaho. Approximately 196,850 square kilometers (76,000 square miles) of Guyana's area is land and 18,120 square kilometers (7,000 square miles) is water. The coastline of Guyana totals 459 kilometers (285 miles). The capital, Georgetown, is located on the coast.

Guyana has 3 distinct geographical zones. It has a narrow coastal belt that is just over 25 kilometers (16 miles) in width. Much of the coastal belt is below sea level, which makes it good for sugar and rice production. Approximately 90 percent of the Guyanese population lives in this region. The high savannah uplands are located further inland. These are mostly thickly forested, hilly, tropical areas where the country's bauxite, diamonds, gold, manganese, and other minerals are found. The highest point is Mount Roraima, which rises to 2,835 meters (9,302 feet). The river basin hosts Guyana's massive rivers, namely the Demerara, Berbice, Courantyne, and Essequibo. Rapids, bars, and other obstacles make navigation very difficult on these waters.


The population was estimated at 697,181 in 2001, with an average annual growth rate of 0.07 percent in the same year. Recently the population has been falling as a result of out-migration. Half of Guyana's population is descended from Indian workers of the Dutch West Indian Company who first settled there in 1620. One-third of the population descends from native Africans who were brought as slaves in the 18th century. The rest are mostly Amerindians, Europeans, Chinese, and people of mixed races.

Guyana has the highest proportion in South America of people who live in rural areas, with only 35 percent living in urban areas in 1995. English is the official language, although Hindi and Urdu are used by the Indian community. There is religious diversity in Guyana; Protestants constitute 34 percent of the population, 34 percent are Hindu, Catholics are 18 percent, and 9 percent are Muslim.


Guyana is one of the poorest countries in South America, with a per capita income of US$4,800 in 2000 (figured at purchasing power parity ). After gaining independence from Great Britain in 1966, Guyana followed a socialist model of development. The bauxite, timber, and sugar industries were nationalized in the first half of the 1970s, and by 1976 the state controlled 75 percent of the country's economy. At the same time, regional integration was implemented through the Caribbean Common Market (CARICOM), the Latin American Economic System (SELA), and the Caribbean Merchant Fleet. In 1980 Guyana granted authorization for transnational corporations to carry out oil and uranium explorations.

By 1988 the government controlled over 80 percent of recorded import and export trade and 85 percent of total investment. The government attempted to set prices and fix the exchange rate for currency. With inflation , prices and the exchange rate were soon rendered unrealistically low. At the low prices, more commodities and more foreign exchange were demanded than could be supplied. There were shortages of supplies, and the government instituted a system of rationing. Unofficial markets (some-times called parallel or black markets ) emerged, where the rationed commodities and foreign exchange could be purchased, but at prices higher than the official prices. During the 1980s the real gross domestic product (GDP) continually declined, falling at a yearly average of 2.8 percent, mainly due to economic mismanagement. With the rising share of foreign interest payments, gross national income declined at an even faster rate of 4.9 percent a year.

Technical, organizational, and financial problems in Guyana's key sectors (sugar, rice, and bauxite production) and falling world demand led to stagnation in output and a consequent decline in government revenues in the late 1980s. Inflation accelerated, and there was an increased reliance on external borrowing. While new investments were being made in the public industrial sector, the nation's infrastructure was being neglected and steadily deteriorated.

By 1988 output was only 68 percent of the 1976 level. Since Guyana's external debt is denominated in U.S. dollars, if the exchange rate is reduced (such as by the devaluation in 1989), the value of the debt expressed in Guyanese dollars increases. In 1989, total debt become over 600 percent of the GDP. The severe decline in living standards led to a major migration of talented Guyanese to lucrative jobs abroad.

In 1988, the government adopted an Economic Recovery Program (ERP) that called for a major redirection in government policy. Specifically, there was a greatly reduced role in the economy by the public sector and a removal of price and exchange controls that led to shortages and unofficial markets.

Few countries have undertaken such a dramatic turnaround in economic policies, and even fewer have implemented such a program with so much speed and determination. Because of the government's efforts, a support group of donors was organized, and Guyana was able to secure financing to clear debts to the multilateral agencies. The government was also able to agree with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) on major programs of support. Guyana also reached agreement with the Paris Club (a group of creditor countries who lend to developing countries) on a major program of debt relief .

The government has continued to implement the ERP despite the 1998 drought that severely affected the economy. The GDP growth in 1997 was estimated at 6.3 percent. However, the drought caused the growth rate to fall to-1.5 percent in 1998, but there has been a modest recovery to 1.8 percent in 1999 and 3 percent in 2000.


The original inhabitants of what is now Guyana were the Arawaks. They were displaced from the area by the Caribs, warriors who dominated the region before moving on. Both the Arawaks and the Caribs were nomadic, moved primarily in clans of 15-20 people, and lived by fishing and hunting.

Attracted by the legend of El Doradoa fabled city that was thought to be full of gold and precious jewels the Dutch built the first fort in present-day Guyana in 1616. They divided Guyana into 3 colonies: Demerara, Berbice, and Essequibo. The territory was captured by Britain in 1796 and renamed British Guiana.

Beginning in 1950, an anti-colonial struggle was spearheaded by the People's Progressive Party (PPP), led by Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham. After the success of the PPP in the elections of 1953 and the introduction of a socialist program, however, the British government suspended the constitution and sent troops into Georgetown. Some members of the PPP were detained or confined to their homes. By the time internal autonomy was granted in 1961, Burnham had split with Jagan to form a more moderate People's National Congress (PNC). After years of struggle and violence, Britain recognized Guyana as an independent state within the British Commonwealth on 26 May 1966. Burnham served as the first prime minister.

On 23 February 1970, Guyana became the first ever Cooperative Republic, with Arthur Chung as its first non-executive president. In October 1980, Prime Minister Forbes Burnham declared himself the executive president. About 2 months later his party, the PNC, won a large majority of votes in the National Assembly election, which was widely condemned as being rigged. It was declared that Burnham was duly elected as president.

When Burnham died in August 1985, Prime Minister Desmond Hoyte succeeded him as president. Like his predecessor, Hoyte was declared duly elected when the PNC gained a large majority during the 1985 election for the National Assembly, although the results were again disputed. However, desperate economic circumstances forced Guyana to seek external aid that came with the condition of restoring credible elections. Cheddi Jagan finally gained power in 1992. Following his death in March 1997, his wife, Janet Jagan, was sworn in as president on 24 December 1997. When Janet Jagan resigned in 1999, Bharrat Jagdeo assumed the presidency.

In 1980 a new constitution was adopted. The constitution established an executive president and a National Assembly, which consists of 53 elected members and 12 members appointed by local government councils. Elections for 5-year terms are held under a single list system of proportional representation , with the whole of the country forming one electoral area and each voter casting a vote for a party list of candidates. Guyana has 10 administrative regions.

The tax system in Guyana is poorly administered, and the level of collection is far below the system's potential. Evasion, avoidance, and corruption are rampant. For example, in 1991 tax revenue from the private sector amounted to only 21 percent of the GDP. Many firms enjoy overly generous tax and tariff holidays as part of the government's attempt to encourage new investment through incentives. Corrupt revenue officials issue lower tax demands as the result of bribery.

Sales taxes are very high for some products (up to 150 percent), though other sectors, such as services, are ignored entirely. Fees charged for public services, which often have not been adjusted for inflation, are very low or simply remain uncollected or are non-existent. The present tariff structure remains protective. While it follows the CARICOM structure, the top tariff rate of 45 percent is high by present standards in Latin America. Many other Latin American countries have reduced tariffs to a maximum of 20 percent. It has been estimated that the system of tariff protection and fiscal incentives cost the country G$150,000 for every job created. However, the Economic Recovery Program (ERP) launched in 1988 began to reverse these policies. It eliminated import licensing, reduced tariffs, and began an overhaul of the entire tax system. Corporate income tax is relatively high at 45 percent. The tax rate on capital gains is 20 percent, and interest and dividends paid by non-resident companies are subject to a 15 percent withholding tax.


Most public sector infrastructure necessary to support the private sector has deteriorated almost to the point of non-existence. Power and water supplies are so erratic that many large private sector firms have invested in their own generators and water sources. The road system has deteriorated, particularly the critical farm-to-market network of feeder roads. In 1996 it was estimated that there were 7,970 kilometers (4,953 miles) of highways, of which only 590 kilometers (367 miles) were paved. Passenger cars numbered 24,000 in 1993, and there were approximately 9,000 commercial vehicles. The sea wall system, which protects the most productive agricultural land, has been breached in several places and patched temporarily but needs major reconstruction. Even in urban areas most of the population lacks access to safe water supplies.

Social services are inadequate to meet the needs of the population. Schools lack basic repairs, books, equipment, and supplies. Hospitals operate with most equipment not working, with no drugs to dispense, insufficient budgets for food, and the inability to carry out simple diagnostic tests, such as X-rays or blood tests. In 1994, there were 30 hospitals (5 private), 162 health centers,

Country Telephones a Telephones, Mobile/Cellular a Radio Stations b Radios a TV Stations a Televisions a Internet Service Providers c Internet Users c
Guyana 70,000 (2000) 6,100 (2000) AM 3; FM 3; shortwave 1 420,000 3 46,000 3 3,000
United States 194 M 69.209 M (1998) AM 4,762; FM 5,542; shortwave 18 575 M 1,500 219 M 7,800 148 M
Brazil 17.039 M 4.4 M AM 1,365; FM 296; shortwave 161 (1999) 71 M 138 36.5 M 50 8.65 M
Suriname 64,000 4,090 AM 4; FM 13; shortwave 1 300,000 3 (2000) 63,000 2 10,000
aData is for 1997 unless otherwise noted.
bData is for 1998 unless otherwise noted.
cData is for 2000 unless otherwise noted.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online].

and 14 health posts. In 1997 there were 38.8 hospital beds per 10,000 persons.

Guyana has a small government-owned railway in the northwest region, while the Guyana Mining Enterprise operates a standard gauge railway of 133 kilometers (82.6 miles). The private line runs from Linden, located on the Demerara River, to Huhi and Coomacka. There is an international airport at Georgetown. Guyana has 4 ports, with the major shipping port located in Georgetown. Guyana has an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles.

There is an inland public telegraph and radio communication corporation. In 1997, there were 55,100 telephone main lines (65.2 per 1,000 population). Cellular phone subscribers numbered 1,200 in 1995, and there were 85 post offices. In 1998, electricity production was 325 million kilowatt hours (kWh). More than 98 percent of electricity was produced from fossil fuels and less than 2 percent from hydropower.

Guyana has no domestic petroleum resources. The National Energy Authority (GNE) imports all petroleum products other than those required by the bauxite industry, largely through a Venezuelan line of credit. At present some exploration activity is going on both offshore and in southern Guyana, but no commercially viable resources have yet been located.


Upon gaining independence, Guyana followed a socialist strategy for development. Major productive sectors were controlled either through government investment or through price controls and foreign exchange rationing. Since 1990 Guyana has pursued an economic policy where state control has been reduced by privatization .

Agriculture accounted for approximately 35 percent of the GDP in 1998, with the main products being sugar, coffee, cocoa, coconut and edible oils, copra, fruit, vegetables, and tobacco. In 1995, the total area of forestland totaled 18.58 million hectares (46 acres). Guyana and neighboring Suriname were the world's most heavily forested countries in 1995. About 25 percent of the country's energy needs are met by woodfuel. Timber production in 1996 was 580,000 cubic meters. Total fish catches in 1995 came to approximately 46,000 metric tons, of which more than 98 percent was from marine sources.

Industry generated 32.5 percent of the GDP in 1998, with the main activities being agro-processing (sugar, rice, timber, and coconut) and mining (gold and diamonds). There is a light manufacturing sector, and textiles and pharmaceuticals are produced by state and private companies.

Services accounted for about 33 percent of the GDP in 1998. The service sector is comprised mainly of banking and financial services, post and telecommunications, transport, tourism, hotels and restaurants, and public administration.


Guyana has a rich and potentially very productive agriculture sector that can make major contributions to the recovery of the economy. There is scope for expansion, as a considerable amount of suitable land is currently not being cultivated. Guyana is mostly self-sufficient in food.

The main agricultural exports are sugar, rice, and shrimp. Sugar production has risen from 162,573 metric tons in 1991 to 280,066 metric tons in 1996. Approximately 255,655 metric tons of sugar were produced in 1998 despite the severe drought. Most of the sugar is exported to Europe under the Lomé Convention (an agreement by the European Union under which preferential trade terms are offered to certain developing countries). Most of the rice is produced by small-scale farmers, unlike sugar production, which is mainly a plantation activity. Other agricultural products are coffee, cocoa, cotton, coconut, copra, fruit, vegetables, and tobacco.

There is some cattle ranching, and pigs, sheep, and poultry are also raised. The fishing industry, which supplies both the domestic and export markets, is expanding. A big fisheries complex that is being constructed on the Demerara River will provide freezing and packing facilities. Forestry covers around 75 percent of the country. Large areas are, therefore, inaccessible, and agricultural development is hindered by the lack of electricity and economic transport.

Most agricultural output is derived from a thin belt of land close to the sea, most of which is below sea level. The sea wall system, which prevents inundation at high tide, is in danger of collapse due to lack of maintenance and wave damage during storms. Repairs to the sea wall are critical, and the immediate action program will cost about US$36 million, a large sum relative to the Guyanese economy.

The country's drainage and irrigation systems are in need of repair and currently are poorly managed. The divestment of state-owned land and the provision of adequate land titles to privately owned farms is a daunting but essential task if the market system is to raise agricultural productivity.

Agriculture provides the raw materials for Guyana's agro-based industries. The major crops include rice, sugar, coffee, cocoa, coconuts, edible oils, copra, fruit, vegetables, and tobacco. Livestock include cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, and chickens.


The main industries in Guyana are agro-processing (sugar, rice, timber, and coconut) and mining (gold and diamonds). There is a light-manufacturing sector, and textile and pharmaceuticals are produced by state and private companies. Manufacturing constituted 7.3 percent of the GDP in 1996. Manufacturing output declined at 3.9 percent annually between 1977 and 1987. The manufacturing sector then recovered through a government reform program and expanded at 8.8 percent annually between 1988 and 1998. About 75 percent of production is comprised of processing primary products (rice, coconut, sugar, bauxite, gold, diamonds, and timber). There are also many small workshops and factories producing flour, footwear, clothing, soap, cigarettes, and soft drinks. Mining and quarrying contributed about 16.5 percent of the GDP in 1996. Outdated equipment and the industry's indebtedness have hampered the bauxite/alumina industry.


Guyana has a small but significant tourism sector, which generated about US$39 million from 93,000 visitors in 1997. Many of the tourists were expatriate Guyanese. Guyana has great potential for adventure and nature-watch holidays, with the Kaieteur Falls especially offering considerable tourist potential. Hotel accommodation is available in Georgetown but does not meet demand. There are camps and resorts in the interior of the country, most of which are connected with Georgetown hotels. Tours by light aircraft are also available.


Guyana's economic situation remains constrained by its difficulties in external payments, although exports are beginning to respond to recent adjustments in the exchange rate. In 1991, the current account deficit amounted to 52 percent of the GDP. Guyana's external debt in early 1998 was US$1.65 billion. Interest payments on external debt took up 20 percent of export earnings in 1998.

In 1991, total exports increased by 17 percent largely because of better results in the bauxite, sugar, and rice sectors. Imports, however, increased by the same amount, reflecting an increase in the level of investment, particularly in the public sector and general recovery of the economy. By 2000, exports were valued at US$570 million and imports at US$660 million.

Principal commodities exported in 1996 were sugar, US$150.7 million; gold, US$105.9 million; rice, US$93.7

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Guyana
Exports Imports
1975 .357 .342
1980 .396 .365
1985 .206 .226
1990 .251 .311
1995 .467 .528
1998 .485 N/A
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

million; and bauxite, US$86.0 million. Other important exports include shrimp, timber, and rum. The main export markets in 1998 were the United States (25 percent), Canada (24 percent), the United Kingdom (19 percent), Netherlands Antilles (11 percent), and Jamaica (5 percent).

Most imports consist of capital goods (about 45 percent of the total in 1990) and intermediate goods (42 percent). Fuels and lubricants are the principal intermediate goods. Imports in 1998 came from the United States (28 percent), Trinidad and Tobago (21 percent), Netherlands Antilles (14 percent), the United Kingdom (7 percent), and Japan (8 percent).


The unit of currency is the Guyanese dollar (G$), which is divided into 100 cents. The Guyanese dollar became a floating currency in 1991 in order to curb the large-scale illegal trade in foreign currency. It then depreciated rapidly from G$40=US$1 in 1990 to G$143=US$1 at the start of 1995. The value of the Guyanese dollar held steady from 1995 to 1997. It began to fall again in 1998 due to falling commodity prices and domestic political uncertainty. By mid-2001 it had depreciated to G$180.5=US$1. The depreciation meant that, as compared with 1990, imported goods cost over 4 times as much. There has been a major push to make do with locally produced substitutes for imports. For exports,

Exchange rates: Guyana
Guyanese dollars (G$) US$1
Nov 2000 184.1
2000 182.2
1999 178.0
1998 150.5
1997 142.4
1996 140.4
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].
GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Guyana 873 819 626 554 825
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Brazil 3,464 4,253 4,039 4,078 4,509
Suriname 888 930 801 787 N/A
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

the revenue in Guyanese dollars for producing a kilogram of gold became more than 4 times greater, providing a major incentive to produce more for export.


It is difficult to know exactly the nature and the extent of poverty in Guyana. Since the 1980s, thankfully, out-migration has resulted in a low population growth rate, so a growing population is not among Guyana's problems. At the same time, the real GDP has fallen by 24 percent, and consumption spending has fallen by 22 percent. The incidence of underweight children suggests that about 16 percent of the population was below the dollar-a-day poverty line in 1998.

The measure of per capita GDP using the purchasing power parity conversion (which makes allowance for the low price of basic commodities in Guyana) was US$4,800 in 2000 which puts Guyana near the top of the low-income group of countries. The United Nations Human Development Index (which combines measures of income, health, and education) ranked Guyana as 96th out of 174 countries in 1998, and Guyana was judged to have a medium level of human development. Thus, Guyana is placed among those countries with levels of income, health provision, and educational facilities that

Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage
Share: Guyana
Lowest 10% 2.4
Lowest 20% 6.3
Second 20% 10.7
Third 20% 15.0
Fourth 20% 21.2
Highest 20% 46.9
Highest 10% 32.0
Survey year: 1993
Note: This information refers to expenditure shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita expenditure.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

are mid-way between the high human development countries of Europe and North America and the countries that are the poorest and most deprived.


The labor force was 245,492 in 1992 with an unemployment rate of 12 percent, a rate that remained the same in 1999. However, the majority of the population relies on agriculture for their livelihoods, and there is probably considerable "disguised unemployment" in small-scale farming. There is relatively little work to do for much of the year in subsistence farming , and the work is shared among the family members. During planting and harvesting there is more work to be done, and everyone is more fully occupied. Even in these periods, however, there may be more than enough labor to do the tasks, and the work is again shared by many. Everyone who shares the work appears to have an occupation in agriculture, but in fact workers are not engaged full time for the entire year, hence the "disguised unemployment."

There is no regulation of working conditions in the small-scale farming sector. In other sectors of the economy regulation is not enforced, and minimum wage levels have been rendered obsolete by inflation. Guyanese workers generally possess very low skills levels, as most skilled workers have left the country for better jobs elsewhere. There are active labor unions that exist in nearly every organized industry, but they have not been very effective in attaining better conditions for their laborers.


1600. The Dutch begin to settle along the coast of Guyana.

1796. The Dutch are ousted by the British.

1831. Britain consolidates the area as the colony of British Guiana.

1966. Guyana becomes a self-governing dominion within the British Commonwealth; Forbes Burnham becomes prime minister.

1968. Burnham's People's National Congress (PNC) wins electoral victory following the controversial enfranchisement of overseas Guyanese. The United Force (UF) leaves the coalition, protesting irregularities in the elections.

1970. Guyana is proclaimed a Cooperative Republic; the post of governor-general is abolished. Supreme Court Justice Arthur Chung is elected president.

1971. The Demerara Bauxite Company is nationalized.

1973. Legislation is passed permitting preventive detention without trial and restricting freedom of movement.

1974. By the Declaration of Sophia, the PNC is transformed into a socialist party committed to nationalization of all foreign enterprises and redistribution of land.

1975. The Reynolds Guyana Mines are nationalized.

1976. The Booker Sugar Estates are nationalized. The government announces plans to nationalize the school system.

1977. Burnham rejects the plan of Cheddi Jagan, leader of the opposition People's Progressive Party (PPP), for a national coalition government. A strike by sugar workers becomes violent as the government uses police force to break it.

1978. Jonestown, Guyana is the scene of a mass suicide by over 900 members of the People's Temple commune, led by U.S. cultist, Jim Jones.

1980. Guyana adopts the presidential form of government when a new constitution is approved; Burnham becomes the first president under the new constitution.

1985. Burnham dies and is succeeded in office by Hugh Hoyte, who promises to continue Burnham's leftist policies. In national elections, Hoyte is elected president, and the PNC wins with a massive majority.

1990. Guyana accepts IMF conditions and begins receiving assistance. The World Bank and the Caribbean Development Bank resume lending.

1991. Guyana becomes a member of the Organization of American States (OAS).

1992. In elections held in October, the PPP/Civic Congress, still led by Dr. Cheddi Jagan, wins 54 percent of the vote and gains 28 seats. The PNC wins 23 seats and 2 seats are won by other parties.

1997. Jagan dies from a heart attack in March. Elections held in December are won by the PPP/Civic Congress with 56 percent of officially counted votes. Jagan's widow becomes Guyana's first female president.

1998. Violent PNC-supported protests over election results rock the country in mid-January. The PNC agrees to join parliament in July following a CARICOM summit in St. Lucia.

1999. An agreement between members of the PPP/Civic Congress and PNC is reached to draft a new constitution focusing on limiting the powers of the president and making the electoral process more transparent. President Jagan resigns in August because of illness and nominates Bharrat Jagdeo as president.

2001. National Assembly elections give the PPP/Civic Congress 35 seats, the PNC 27 seats, and other parties 4 seats.


The long-term outlook for Guyana continues to be discouraging. The problems of shortages caused by setting prices and fixing the exchange rate have ended with the abolition of these regulations, but economic recovery will remain slow until the government earns the full confidence of the international community. The country still suffers from the accumulated costs of past policies, including an external debt that is over 240 percent of the GDP and a very low per capita income in comparison to the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Severe drought and political turmoil caused Guyana to report a negative growth rate of-1.5 percent in 1998, following 6 straight years of growth of 5 percent or higher. Growth rebounded to 1.8 percent in 1999 and 3 percent in 2000. Underlying factors in the GDP growth have included expansion in the key agricultural and mining sectors, a more favorable atmosphere for business initiative, a realistic exchange rate, a moderate inflation rate , and continued support from international organizations. President Jagdeo, the former finance minister, is taking steps to reform the economy, including drafting an investment code and restructuring the inefficient and unresponsive public sector. Problems hindering the economy include a shortage of skilled labor and an inadequate and poorly maintained transportation system. Electricity has been in short supply, but the privatization of the sector in 1999 is expected to improve prospects.

Guyana is rich in minerals, especially bauxite, gold, and diamonds. In comparison to general worldwide deforestation, Guyana has suffered little and until 1990, only a small fraction of the extensive forests had been felled. An improved infrastructure will harness the potential in mining and forestry and enable Guyana to experience steady progress.


Guyana has no territories or colonies.


Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Guyana. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

Embassy of the Republic of Guyana, Washington, D.C. <>. Accessed October 2001.

Guyana News and Information. <>. Accessed October 2001.

Jeffrey, Henry B. Guyana: Politics, Economics, and Society: Beyond the Burnham Era. Boulder, Colorado: Rienner Publishers, 1986.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2001. <>. Accessed September 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2001 Country Commercial Guide: Guyana. <>. Accessed October 2001.

Allan C. K. Mukungu




Guyanese dollar (G$). One Guyanese dollar equals 100 cents. Notes come in denominations of 20, 100, 500, and 1,000 dollars. Coins come in denominations of 1, 5, 50, and 100 cents. U.S. currency is also accepted in Guyana.


Sugar, gold, bauxite/alumina, rice, shrimp, molasses, rum, and timber.


Manufactures, machinery, petroleum, and food.


US$3.4 billion (purchasing power parity, 2000 est.).


Exports: US$570 million (f.o.b., 2000 est.). Imports: US$660 million (f.o.b., 2000 est.).

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Republic of Guyana
Region (Map name): South America
Population: 697,181
Language(s): English, Amerindian dialects, Creole, Hindi, Urdu
Literacy rate: 98.1%
Area: 214,970 sq km
Number of Television Stations: 3
Number of Television Sets: 46,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 66.0
Number of Satellite Subscribers: 789
Satellite Subscribers per 1,000: 1.1
Number of Radio Stations: 7
Number of Radio Receivers: 420,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 602.4
Number of Individuals with Computers: 22,000
Computers per 1,000: 31.6
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 4,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 5.7

Background General Characteristics

Guyana (full name, Co-operative Republic of Guyana) is a tropical country lying on the northern coast of South America. The sparse population of the country's savannahs and highland regions consists mostly of Amer-indians, Guyana's indigenous people. The capital, and the country's main harbor, is Georgetown, whose population is around 185,000. Guyana is comprised of six ethnic groups, which reflect the fact that modern Guyana began as a nation of plantations run by Dutch, French and British settlers who imported slave labor. Around 40 percent of the population is African; East Indians comprise 51 percent, and the remainder are Chinese, Portuguese, European, and Amerindian. The official language of Guyana is English, but other languages are spoken, including several Amerindian dialects, Creole, Hindi, Urdu and Creolese, which is a mixture of English and Creole. Guyana is a secular state, but everyone is guaranteed religious freedom under the Constitution. About 57 percent of Guyanese are Christian; Hindus comprise 33 percent; and 9 percent are Muslim.

The country's varied terrain, extensive savannahs, mountainous regions, and dense forests have made communication difficult and have divided the country's newspaper publication into two distinct groups: newspapers published in remote regions for local consumption, and those published in Georgetown. The largest savannah occupies about 6,000 square miles in the southwestern part of the country and is divided by the Kanuku mountain range.

The country's major newspapers are published in Georgetown and must be shipped to interior regions either by air or boat because of the country's terrain. Only unpaved roads and trails link the savannahs and interior towns. The main paved roads are located in the coastal area and extend through the towns and villages near the coast. Consequently, rivers are an important means of transportation to the country's remote areas. Air communication is the main link to the interior of Guyana, which is served by about 94 airstrips, most of which receive only light aircraft.

Regional newspapers traditionally have been small, both in readership and in the kind of news printed. By contrast, newspapers published in the capital have had a much broader scope and larger circulation. Journalists would also be affected by the country's geography. The better trained, more experienced, and better educated journalists would gravitate to the capital, where the readership was larger and press facilities were more advanced than in the smaller cities and remote villages.

Guyana's first known newspaper, the Royal Essequibo and Demerary Gazette, was published in 1796 by the government, but it was small and filled almost entirely with advertisements. In the nineteenth century a series of private newspapers, such as the Creole, frequently sprang up all over Guyana, but they usually lasted only days or months, and sometimes mere hours. They had little or no financial support and their publishers, who doubled as reporters, lacked formal training or professional experience. One of these early efforts, the Working Man, may have been typical of these amateur newspapers. It championed the cause of the poor and working class in opposition to powerful forces in the colony. Predictably, Working Man failed to attract advertisements from influential businesses and, like other small newspapers, succumbed before the year was out. By the 1940s, newspaper publication was centered in the capital. Three dailies were being published: Daily Argosy, Guiana Graphic, and Daily Chronicle, all privately owned and all serving a population of about 75,000.

Although newspapers have been part of Guyana's history for 200 years, literacy among the non-European population did not begin until 1876, when universal primary education was introduced; the establishment of secondary schools early in the twentieth century helped spread literacy. Today, the government reports an overall literacy rate of 98 percent, but research indicates that the average literacy rate is actually much lower if measured in terms of the basic ability to sign one's name. Other studies show that the overall functional literacy rate is a little more than 50 percent.

Historical Background

Guyana was first populated by the indigenous peoples of the region, the Amerindians, comprised of nine aboriginal tribes. European settlement began in 1615 with the Dutch West India Company, which established plantations on the coast and brought West African slaves to work the newly established cotton and sugar plantations. The French and English soon laid claim to various parts of the region, bringing in their own slaves to work their plantations. From 1781 onwards, the British became the dominant power, ultimately uniting various colonies into British Guiana. When slavery was abolished in 1834, laborers were brought from India to work the plantations in place of the former slaves who left. Immigrants also came from Europe and China.

British Guiana gained independence in 1966, giving birth to the new country of Guyana, which adopted its own constitution in 1980 and a new economic philosophy, co-operative socialism. Many industries were nationalized, and many educated Guyanese emigrated in response to these changes and to the economic slump that hindered the country's growth into the 1990s. In recent years Guyana was attempting new economic initiatives to try to reverse the lingering effects of the recession of the 1970s and 1980s, and though it was making encouraging progress on many fronts, more than half the population lives in poverty. In an effort to relinquish control of industry, the ruling party is privatizing many businesses, and has liberalized its stance toward the media by funding professional courses in journalism at the University of Guyana.

The Guyanese press was established in 1793, and politics have sometimes played a part in which publications survived and which did not, and in how the survivors fared. During World War II, the government established the Bulletin, a free publication that promulgated news of the government's war efforts. Later, the Bulletin was expanded into a full-fledged newspaper with a circulation of around 52,000, the country's largest at the time, to deliver the state's propaganda across Guyana. The Bulletin 's function as a dispenser of information, not a gatherer of news, has remained the government's version of media participation ever since. Over the years, and despite the country's small population, a plethora of periodical publications have come and gone. Each group serves specific areas of the country or special groups. For example, among the journals Polyglot: Journal of the Humanities publishes academic research for and by linguists. Newsletters and magazines offer an economical and expedient way to disseminate information for a wide variety of groups, such as accountants, the police, the University of Guyana History Society, Georgetown Sewerage and Water Commissioners, the Adult Education Association of Guyana, various alumni associations, religious groups, political parties, and many other groups. Visions and Voices, the newsletter of the National Democratic Movement, focuses mainly on Georgetown's social problems. Other newsletters deal with sports, HIV/AIDs, and current topics of interest to readers. GY Magazine aims to offer Guyanese women "a magazine of quality" with articles on glamour, health and fitness, romance, sex, and literature. The humanities are further represented by The Guyana Christmas Annual, a magazine of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, and photography. Sports Digest, a quarterly sports magazine, covers local sports from around Guyana. Emancipation, a magazine started in 1993, deals with the history and culture of the African-Guyanese and contains features on villages, personalities and literature. The Guyana Review has established itself as Guyana's preeminent national news magazine. A monthly publication, it offers a wide range of economic, environmental, political and cultural news.

Guyana's newspapers are relatively few in comparison to the country's other print media, but the combined circulation of all newspapers in the country is a little more than 407,850. Newspapers with the largest reader-ship are the Guyana Chronicle, a government-owned daily published in Georgetown, and New Nation, the voice of the People's New Congress, one of the two major political parties, with a circulation of about 26,000. Dayclean, published for the Working People's Alliance, was founded in 1979 and has a circulation of 5,000; its aim is to defend "the poor and the powerless" against abuses of power by the ruling party. The Mirror, owned by the ruling People's Progress Party, was begun in 1962 and grew to 16 pages by 1992. It is published twice a week in Georgetown and has developed a readership of about 25,000. Stabroek News is a liberal independent newspaper that started out as a weekly and increased to six times a week by 1991. The Catholic Standard, published by the Roman Catholic Church since 1905, has a readership of 10,000.

Several special-interest newspapers also are available. True News, published weekly in Georgetown, is aimed at a readership that likes sensational social, legal and medical stories. Flame, published in Georgetown by the National Media & Publishing Company Ltd., is a mid-week newspaper that offers "fascinating stories from Guyana, the Caribbean and the rest of the world" for an adult, mass readership. Civil Society, also a Georgetown weekly newspaper, offers cultural, political and social information in a manner intended to be thought-provoking. Guyana even has a weekly tabloid, Spice, which publishes sensational stories with racy photographs of young women.

Guyana's diverse geography has resulted in widespread racial separation, the Indians staying mainly in the rural areas and the Africans moving to the cities. Consequently, Indians on the plantation have long dominated the sugar and rice industry, and Africans now dominate the civil service and urban industries. But in the last 30 years, integration has increased as large numbers of Indians have settled in the cities, bringing new stresses as they mix with other races. The ethnic troubles of the 1960s divided the Guyanese people and have led to street violence, particularly around election times, and have raised fears of social disintegration. Turbulent politics and ethnic strife continue, and protests following the 1997 and 2001 elections increased political instability and often have threatened to bring the country's economic recovery to a halt. Through much of Guyana's history, the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches have helped maintain the social and political stability. The Roman Catholic Church and its newspaper, the Catholic Standard, opposed the ideology of the People's Progressive Party in the 1950s and became closely associated with conservative forces. In the late 1960s, the Catholic Standard became more critical of the government and, as a consequence, the government forced a number of foreign Roman Catholic priests to leave the country. By the mid-1970s, the Anglicans and other Protestant denominations had joined to oppose government abuses.

Economic Framework

Guyana's economy is dependent on a narrow range of products for its exports, employment and gross domestic product. Although Guyana is richly endowed with natural resources, it is one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere. Political antagonism and ethnic strife continue to hamper economic recovery and social reconstruction; consequently, the national spirit suffers as well. Nevertheless, some believe the biggest problem is the lack of experienced, educated people who can run the civil service, manage the country's institutions, and perform important administrative functions. A stable infrastructure and efficient bureaucracy would allow reform measures to progress and would provide the continuity the country needs in its struggle to remain viable.


The 1980 constitution guarantees freedom of the press, but the government owns the nation's largest publication and exercises indirect control over other newspapers by controlling the importation of newsprint.

Guyana's present constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press in the following words: "Every person in Guyana is entitled to the basic right to a happy, creative and productive life, free from hunger, disease, ignorance and want. That right includesfreedom of conscience, of expression and of assembly and association." The government claims that it respects these rights. Indeed, Guyanese citizens openly criticize the government and its policies, but a rancorous relationship between the press and the government has existed since the country won independence from Great Britain in 1966. Journalists have been physically attacked during public protests.

The printed press has flourished despite opposition by the government, which also has been accused of trying to control the electronic media. The independent Stabroek News publishes daily, and a wide range of religious groups, political parties, and journalists publish a variety of privately owned weekly newspapers. The government has its own daily newspaper, the Guyana Chronicle, which covers a broad spectrum of political and nongovernmental issues. The country has three radio stations, all owned by the government. A government television station plus 17 independent stations are in operation. The Ministry of Information censors the Internet and restricts public access to a variety of sites.

From 1966 onward, the government, through the newly established Guyana News Agency, has sought to control the flow of information from within and outside the country. One of the agency's assignments was to gather "information about developments in Guyana particularly in areas outside the cityand disseminating same to the Guyana in the form of news and feature articles, etc., via the print and broadcast media." Administrations before and after the 1980 Constitution have employed a variety of other techniques to stifle opposition. In the 1960s, the government purchased the independent Guyana Graphic, whose editors had criticized the governmentfired the paper's editors and created its own Daily Chronicle and Citizen newspapers.

The government also brought frequent charges of libel against editors who criticized the government. The opposition Stabroek News survived despite these conditions and has become widely regarded as the only reliable and nonpartisan source of news in Guyana. The Mirror, established in 1962, also remains free of state control. Although the government has declared publicly that it allows freedom of the press, the Mirror details several ways the government can and does interfere with the newspaper's freedom: the government has increased the cost of bonds, which are required to publish a newspaper, pamphlet, or leaflet; the government also controls the import of printing equipment, paper, and other supplies necessary for publishing a newspaper. It also uses "archaic libel laws" to pressure advertisers not to advertise in certain newspapers and has forced the closure of at least one newspaper, the Liberator. At about the same time the Stabroek News expanded operations in 1991, the Mirror was allowed to import new presses and increase its size from four to 16 pages per issue.

The days when the media were almost completely dominated by the ruling party seem to be numbered. The government's influence over the press has lessened, and increased criticism has flourished, but whenever a party is in power, it wishes to maintain its position by controlling the media. The state has retained control over the country's radio stations and is in no hurry to relinquish whatever control it still has over other media. Political rivalry is said to be the main reason for state control of the media; no ruling party wants to silence the mediathe task would be doomed to failure and would expose the government to harsh criticism from within and from foreign sources. The government simply wishes to control the kind of information that is broadcast, and to that end, it needs the media.

Ironically, the media has come under criticism in recent years, and has been accused of being dominated by "vested interests" that interfere with the government's efforts to improve economic and social conditions, and to privatize the media and industry. Some claim the loud and persistent questioning of government policy and other media practices distort issues, and that by reporting on the country's crime, violence, and deteriorated social conditions, the media obscures the positive gains the government has made. Many voices in the country are calling for more balanced, fair news coverage.

State-Press Relations

Stabroek News regularly publishes editorials that openly criticize the ruling party and question the state of the country, and the practices of the ruling class. Although its editor has formally complained that government advertisements, a form of press subsidy, are allocated unfairly, the newspaper remains an important voice in Guyana's political and public affairs. Both of the major parties have committed themselves to the divestment of the state media. When the People's Progressive Party returned to power in 1992, it pledged that there would be "no government or state monopoly," and it guaranteed "private ownership in keeping with a pluralistic democracy and freedom of the media." It claimed it would also encourage "different shades of opinion" in the media.

Guyana's president recently joined 26 other heads of state to sign the Declaration of Chapultepec, which is based on the essential precept that no law or act of government may limit freedom of expression or of the press, whatever the medium of communication. The signing of the declaration by Guyana's president demonstrated to the international community that Guyana is not interested in returning to the ruthless denial of press freedom under the authoritarian regime that prevailed before 1992. The declaration, in part, embraces the following principles: freedom of expression and of the press is an inalienable right; every person has the right to seek and receive information, express opinions and disseminate them freely; no journalist may be forced to reveal his or her sources of information; the media and journalists should neither be discriminated against nor favored because of what they write or say; tariff and exchange policies, licenses for the importation of paper or news-gathering equipment, assigning of radio and television frequencies and the granting or withdrawal of government advertising may not be used to reward or punish the media or individual journalists; membership of journalists in guilds, their affiliation to professional and trade associations and the affiliation of the media with business groups must be strictly voluntary; and the credibility of the press is linked to its commitment to truth, to the pursuit of accuracy, fairness and objectivity and to the clear distinction between news and advertising.

The Declaration further states that "the attainment of these goals and the respect for ethical and professional values may not be imposed. These are the exclusive responsibility of journalists and the media. In a free society, it is public opinion that rewards or punishes; no news medium or journalists may be punished for publishing the truth or criticizing or denouncing the government." A careful reading of these guidelines not only reveals the government's ostensible desire to improve its relations with the country's press community but also gives, by implication, a clear picture of the abuses that have persisted since the country began.

Attitude Toward Foreign Media

In 1980, the government established the Guyana News Agency in order to control what kind of information from foreign sources was allowed into the country. The agency was assigned the task of "channeling overseas news to the local media, government leaders and other decision-makers, and other relevant publics, in Guyana and, through its missions overseas, to the relevant publics outside Guyana." The agency was also to provide "an editing service, eventually, for overseas materials, to give them a Third World orientation and make them more meaningful to the Guyanese readership." Some observers saw the agency's mandate as a thinly veiled attempt by the government to control information flowing into and from Guyana. The government, however, could not stop criticism from the foreign press and from those journalists ousted by the ruling party. This source of information and opinion continued to be an important counterbalance to the state's attempts to stifle media criticism within the country.

In general, as a member of the Caribbean community, Guyana cannot escape scrutiny by its neighbors. Its concerns are the concerns of the whole community. Information, ideas, and issues are given voice by The Guyana Caribbean Politics and Culture Web site, which bills itself as "a unique forum for conversation on Caribbean society a Center for Popular Education whose main aim is to provide information and discussion as a means of empowering Caribbean people of all classes and station in life." To that end, it devotes a special section to "Opinions Views and Commentary on Guyana," where up-to-date information about Guyana and other members of the Caribbean community may be exchanged.

Broadcast Media

Guyana's communication system includes a government-dominated television and radio network. The country's two radio stations are owned by the government, which also operates one television channel. Two private television stations relay satellite services from the United States. A large number of private television channels are available that freely criticize the government. As of 1997, the Guyanese owned 46,000 television sets.

Electronic News Media

By the year 2000, about 4,000 Guyanese used the Internet. Several of Guyana's publications also may be found on the Internet. Stabroek News is perhaps the most dependable source of unbiased online news coming out of Guyana. Guyana Chronicle is an online version of Guyana's largest newspaper. It follows the line of the ruling party of the day and is therefore considered unreliable as objective reporting. Guyana Review is a monthly, topical online magazine that offers respected articles on current events along with photographs. The magazine's regular features include a "Georgetown journal," consisting of news about the capital, national and business reports, sports information, a crime watch, interviews and obituaries.

Education & TRAINING

Guyana's journalists have lacked professional training and formal education from the country's birth. Those who worked in the profession needed only a secondary education and many early reporters lacked even that much education. Wages were low and conditions were difficult. Those who wished to become established in newspaper publishing worked their way up from menial jobs to political reporting and then, if they were bright enough and committed, to an office job. Their salary would remain low, hardly enough to pay for basic necessities; they had no union, no pension, and no regular hours. They could be fined for inaccuracies in their stories, which had to be hurriedly written, and they could be dismissed without notice for insubordination or unpunctuality. To put journalists on a better footing, the government in 1975 funded a program at the University of Guyana, with the objectives "to provide development workers and planners, extension personnel, information and media practitionerswith a broad education aimed at improving their ability to understand and interpret social issues and the value of human communication in the development process; and, to give participants specialized training the techniques of interpersonal communication and the media." Unfortunately, this high-minded effort was subverted by the fact that entrants into the program were nominated by government agencies and approved by the government's Ministry of Information. Candidates from media that were critical of the government were effectively excluded. The program also was hampered by inadequate facilities, funding, equipment and staff. In the first four years, only 32 out of an initial 50 entrants returned to the profession. Still, the program has survived. In 1980 it was lengthened to two years and, in 1997, a four-year degree was offered.


To broaden its readership, Guyana's press must rely on the government's efforts to improve the country's deteriorated educational system so more people will be better educated than they are and the dropout rate reduced. As a consequence of the decline of educational standards in recent decades, many adults are unable to read or write, and the finger of blame is pointed at Guyana's educational system, which is one of the worst in the Caribbean community. The Ministry of Education has created a "strategic development plan" to address this problem; meanwhile, the press suffers because many adults are illiterate. Many Guyanese feel that the country's future, not just the future of its newspapers, depends on better educating more people. To raise the quality of its profession, Guyana's press corps needs to be better trained. The University of Guyana is improving its programs in journalism, but for years the university lacked equipment, qualified staff, and other resources to offer adequate training, and progress has been slow. Without such professional training, journalists are not well respected. After a history of disorganization and poor schooling, the press corps suffers from a lack of professional solidarity and goals, professional ethics, adequate training and education, self-confidence, and self-respect. A strong union is needed to bring to all members of the country's media a sense of being among professionals whose social consciousness and training are equal to the task of gathering, analyzing, interpreting, and disseminating information for public consumption in a country still struggling to enter the new millennium.

At the same time, the government has made commendable strides toward relinquishing its control of the country's media, but the move toward total freedom of expression has not been completed.

Significant Dates

  • 1980: in an effort to control information, the government created the Guyana News Agency, whose mandate was to "oversee news to the local media," to disseminate information about Guyana to the Guyanese, and to edit "overseas materials."
  • 2000: The Guyana Press Association, dormant since 1995, was resurrected. It offers a means by which Guyana's press corps can, as an organized and self-governing body, address their own problems and set professional standards regarding ethics, education, and social responsibility.


Granger, David A. "Guyana's State Media: the Quest for Control." Stabroek News, June 18, 2000.

. "Guyana's Press Corps and Its Problems." Sunday Stabroek, December 3, 2000.

Jagan, Cheddi. The West on Trial: My Fight for Guyana's Freedom. St. John's, Antigua: Hansib, 1997.

Jagan, Cheddi, and Moses Nagamootoo. The State of the Free Press in Guyana. Georgetown, Guyana: New Guyana Co., Ltd., for the People's Progressive Party, 1980.

Lee, Paul Siu-nam. Development Journalism, Economic Growth and Authoritarianism/Totalitarianism. Presented at the 38th Annual Conference of the International Communications Association at New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, 1988.

Morrison, Andrew. Justice: The Struggle for Democracy in Guyana 1952-1992. Published by Fr. Andrew Morrison, SJ. Printed and Bound in Guyana by Red Thread Women's Press, 1998.

Nagamootoo, Moses. Paramountcy over the Guyana Media: A Case for Reform. Georgetown, Guyana: The Union of Guyana Journalists, 1992.

Ratliff, William E. "Guyana." In Communism in Central America and the Caribbean, ed. Robert Wesson, 143-58. Stanford, Calif.: Hoover Institution Press, 1983.

Sidel, M. Kent. The Legal Foundations of Mass Media Regulation in Guyana: A Commonwealth Caribbean Case Study. Presented to the International Communication Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Annual Convention inMontreal, Canada, August, 1992.

Spinner, Jr. Thomas, J. A Political and Social History of Guyana, 1945-1983. Boulder: Westview Press, 1984.

White, Dorcas. The Press and the Law in the Caribbean. Bridgetown, Barbados: Cedar Press, 1977.

Bernard E. Morris

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of Guyana
Region: South America
Population: 697,286
Language(s): English, Creole, Hindi, Urdu
Literacy Rate: 98.1%
Number of Primary Schools: 420
Compulsory Schooling: 8 years
Foreign Students in National Universities: 38
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 102,000
  Secondary: 62,043
  Higher: 8,965
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 96%
  Secondary: 75%
  Higher: 11%
Teachers: Primary: 3,461
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 29:1
  Secondary: 29:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 96%
  Secondary: 78%
  Higher: 12%

History & Background

The Republic of Guyana, formerly British Guiana, lies between Suriname and Venezuela on the northern coast of South America. Brazil lies on the southern border. More than 90 percent of Guyana's population of almost 800,000 people occupy an arable coastal range 40 miles wide. Guyana's ethnic mixture and educational system are the result of the country's colonial economy. Early plantation owners brought in African slaves. When slavery was abolished in 1838, indentured workers became the main source of cheap labor. The largest number came from India, and their descendants now comprise nearly half the population. Afro-Guyanese make up a third of the population, and the remainder consists of Amerindians, Asians, and Europeans. Nonetheless, Guyana's official language is English.

Public schools, operated by religious organizations, began to appear in the early 1800s. Elementary schools flourished under the direction of the London Missionary Society, and in 1876 primary education became compulsory for children aged 6 to 14. Textbooks were prepared in the United Kingdom favoring continental history and literature. All the examinations were given in Great Britain. Technical education was not available. Trades were learned solely from an apprenticeship to a journeyman. Until the University of Guyana was established in 1963, those seeking higher education had to attend universities abroad.

The educational system underwent major reform in 1961, when the government assumed control of the schools and established the Ministry of Education. Gaining independence in 1966, the country inherited a well-established educational system, but its curricula and educational aims were patterned after the British system. The government introduced changes to align the schools with the country's political goals, ethnic blend, and economic needs. In 1976, private education was abolished and education became free from nursery school through the university. Anyone, no matter their income, could attend school. The Constitution of 1980 guaranteed everyone the right to continuous education and training. Those attending high school would choose between academic, academic and technical, and vocational high schools. The government also established trade schools, which offered job training in such fields as engineering and construction.

With these improvements in place, the literacy rate rose above 95 percent, but conditions in the schools were far from ideal. In the 1970s, schools became overcrowded, and teachers who resisted government efforts to make all teachers teach loyalty to the government and its socialist objectives were fired. Truancy and illiteracy increased. As teachers departed and conditions deteriorated in the schools, scores on the Caribbean-wide examinations vastly dropped.

Guyana's economic troubles in the 1980s, combined with the government's commitment to finance free public education, led to underfunding of the schools. The quality of education declined even further. The school structures were neglected, educational materials became scarce or nonexistent, and equipment deteriorated. Teachers' salaries were poor, and as supply budgets dwindled, so did the number of trained teachers, many of whom sought positions out of the country to escape political oppression and job insecurity. In 1989, the government introduced an Economic Recovery Program, turning from a state-controlled, socialist economy toward a free-market system. By 1999, improvement in education was among the government's top priorities of the government. Teachers' salaries have been raised and new schools are being built, reflecting an upturn in the country's struggling school system.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

The mission of the Ministry of Education was to give all Guyanese children equal access to a quality education. The Minister of Education was a political appointee with a seat on the President's cabinet. In 1980, the educational system was decentralized somewhat when it was divided into 10 regions, each with its own council in charge of schools. Each region was headed by a Regional Democratic Council made up of members appointed by various political parties. The Regional Executive Officer was responsible for all the school services in the region, but a Regional Education Officer, appointed by the Ministry of Education, overseen day-to-day operations and prepared the education budget. By 1985, the 10 Regional Democratic Councils were in charge of constructing and maintaining schools, recruiting and paying teachers, and ensuring that schools operated according to regional and national objectives.

The University of Guyana, the country's only university, receives most of its funding from the Minister of Finance and is separate from the rest of the education system. The Guyana School of Agriculture was incorporated in 1962 and empowered to teach the theory and practice of agriculture and to manage, develop, and operate farms. It also conducted experiments and research. The Kuru-Kuru Co-operative College, founded in 1973, provides courses in cooperative education and management techniques. It also combines technical assistance to Guyana's neighboring countries with courses in business administration, cooperative socialism, and ideological teaching.

The country's educational system has four levels: nursery, primary, secondary, and postsecondary. The government, along with certain private groups, also provides education for the handicapped and mentally deficient and has training programs in several vocational fields, including home economics, automotive mechanics, and other technical fields. All instruction is in English, and the average student must complete the six-year Primary course and two years of secondary education. The statutory age for entering school is five years nine months, and students are usually expected to remain in the school system until age 16. Those who leave the school system early may participate in a number of adult education programs offered by the University of Guyana, the Institute of Adult and Continuing Education, or the Adult Education Association.

Preprimary & Primary Education

Of Guyana's 386 nursery schools, more than 200 are in rural areas. Children are admitted at three years nine months and may remain in the system for two years. Although nursery education is not compulsory, each Guyanese child is guaranteed a place in school, with attendance remaining above 70 percent and continuing to increase. This, despite the fact that transportation is difficult in many cases, fewer than half the teachers are trained, and the school buildings are often makeshift and in poor condition. The nursery program is intended to encourage physical, social, emotional, and intellectual development; teach basic skills; and instill the desire to learn. The hours of school are from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon. Guyana's nursery school teachers are responsible for teaching more than 50,000 children. The student-teacher ratio is 17:1.

In primary school, children receive instruction in basic literacy and arithmetic. Guyana's 426 primary schools administer more than 100,000 pupils who have reached the age of five years and nine months. The student-teacher ratio is 29:1. Students attend school five hours per day from Monday to Friday, usually from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., with a lunch period from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The school year lasts from September to July, followed by a six-week vacation at the end of the third term. Each term is 13 weeks long, and a school year has 189 days.

Secondary Education

At the end of primary school, students take the Secondary School Entrance Examination (SSEE) to determine which type of secondary school they will attend; all secondary schools offer an academic program along with prevocational courses. Students who score poorly on the examination continue their education in the secondary department of the primary school, which has a four-year program. Those with higher scores go to a community high school, and top scorers qualify for general secondary school. Both higher schools have a five-year program. Students who continue in secondary departments of primary schools and those who enter community high schools take another proficiency examination at the end of Form 3 (Grade 9). Successful candidates qualify for transfer to a general secondary school; unsuccessful candidates remain in their original placement.

Students in all the secondary schools receive instruction in English language and literature, French, art, Spanish, the sciences, geography, history, nutrition, music, and physical education. In the first three years, they are given prevocational courses as well, such as arts and crafts, agriculture, home economics, and industrial arts. General secondary school gives students a wide choice of educational and professional opportunities while preparing them to take the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) examination or London General Certificate of Education (GCE), or both. Students who perform well at these examinations qualify for university admission or may pursue studies for the GCE advanced level examination, needed to qualify for higher education out of the country. A multilateral school program within the general high school emphasizes preparation for the CXC examination. It takes an average student five years to prepare for the CXC and an additional two years to prepare for the GCE advanced level examination.

Higher Education

Postsecondary education is provided by the University of Guyana, which has seven faculties besides programs in law and medicine. Full-time classes for the majority of students began in 1973, the same year the first graduate program began. The Faculty of Education offers a Master's degree and a certificate in nursery education. Other faculties include agriculture, arts, health sciences, technology, and social sciences, which has updated its curriculum to include women's studies. An Amerindian unit is now part of the university, and students can earn a Master's degree in Guyanese and West Indian history. Most of these programs are four years long. The semester system became university-wide in 1974, when students began paying tuition. Tuition for two semesters is about US$1,000. Medical school costs about US$2,000, and a year in law school costs about US$3,500. The enrollment today is more than 4,600 students, with a student-teacher ratio of 12:1.

Technical and vocational education may be obtained at a number of institutions. The Georgetown Technical and New Amsterdam Technical Institutes specialize in trade courses, such as carpentry, plumbing, welding, and bricklaying, and courses in mechanical and electrical engineering, building and civil engineering, surveying, and telecommunications. Students may earn a certificate or diploma in commerce and secretarial science as well. The Guyana Industrial Training Center also offers a course in masonry, mechanics, and other trades. The Carnegie School of Home Economics specializes in household management and catering. These adult-education programs are regulated by the University of Guyana and the Adult Education Association, which collaborate with and receive funding from the Ministry of Education.

In 1976, the Institute of Adult and Continuing Education was inaugurated primarily as a center for study and research in adult education and for training teachers of adults and administrators of adult education programs. In 1996, the Institute included distance education in its curriculum to train teachers in Guyana's rural areas. The Guyana School of Agriculture, which prepares students to teach agriculture or to work as managers or field assistants, covers natural science and economics and the practical aspects of farming and animal science. The school accepts students from Guyana and other countries, some of them from Nigeria and Zimbabwe. More than 2,000 students enrolled between 1963 and 1982, about 20 percent of them female. Graduates may continue their education at the University of Guyana, and some obtain employment in the Ministry of Agriculture.

Several non-university institutions accommodate a wide variety of groups with special needs. The Government Technical Institute accepts both males and females and offers full-time, part-time, and evening courses in general education, trade training, and science and technical training.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

The largest portion of Guyana's education budget, more than 70 percent from 1992-1994 went to the nursery, primary, and secondary schools. In the same period, the University of Guyana received 16 percent, and the rest of the budget was distributed among teacher training, vocational and technical, and other institutions. Educational institutions also received financial assistance from non-government sources. Many families purchase uniforms, books, and supplies for their children, and in some cases travel and boarding expenses. Community organizations donate cash, and some employers support training outside the workplace. In 1995, for example, the budget for education was 6.6 percent of the national budget. Of this amount, 5.5 percent came from the government; 14.0 percent came from external sources; almost 22.0 percent came from household expenditures, and another 7.4 percent was provided by employers. The educational system also receives loans from the Inter-American Development Bank.

Research remains an important part of Guyana's educational community, which strives to stay up to date on environmental issues, energy sources, social developments, and other concerns of a nation in the process of economic recovery and educational and intellectual growth. At the University of Guyana, research is required for promotion and has focused on local issues, such as environmental radioactivity, oral traditions, socialism, and migration. Subjects relating to the Caribbean area and the Third World generally are researched, and staff members participate in international research projects.

The Institute of Applied Science and Technology and the National Science and Research Council research ways that technology may be used in the handling of the country's natural resources, including solar energy. Researchers at the Guyana School of Agriculture study, among other subjects, the development of egg-grading equipment and foreign livestock feeds. The Institute of Adult and Continuing Education has done research on the needs of the elderly. Many research projects are financed by other countries in the form of donations, student sponsoring, and the support of staff development with scholarships to study or train abroad.

Nonformal Education

Though not part of the formal educational system, several institutions are important adjuncts to it. The Board of Industrial Training, sponsored by the Ministry of Labour, is responsible for the apprenticeship and in-plant training of workers. The Private Aircraft Owners Association operates a training center for pilots and aircraft engineers. Other large and medium-sized companies have established training centers to develop skilled workers in, for example, computing, accounting, business, electronics, and mechanics. A number of schools are devoted to teaching children with learning disabilities and those with physical handicaps. Many churches, parent associations, community groups, and business organizations also have become involved in education. Further education is conducted informally by various government agencies, trade unions, cooperative societies, youth clubs, and adult-education groups. Since the 1980s a parallel system has developed alongside the Ministry-controlled system of education. In response to the shortcomings of the educational system, parents began hiring competent teachers to tutor their children. The practice spread throughout the educational system and has become an important adjunct of the educational system, despite its negative implications.

Teaching Profession

Teachers are trained principally by the Cyril Potter College of Education, which offers a two-year program for those entering the nursery and primary schools and a three-year program for those aiming to become secondary or vocational teachers. To be accepted, all applicants must pass four subjects (which must include English and mathematics) on the CXC examination or a qualifying level on the General Certificate of Education examination. A fee is required, and each student must agree to serve the government for five years after graduation. Certification requires 85 percent attendance in all subjects, and the course lasts 20 hours a week. Programs include such topics as study skills and the teaching of reading, and lectures are given on the English language, mathematics, music, and moral education and guidance. Gender-free teaching skills and gender sensitivity training are also part of the curriculum.

Graduates earn a teaching certificate from the Cyril Potter College of Education. Between 1995 and 2000, more than 2,200 trained teachers graduated from this college, though many of them chose to teach in private schools or in foreign countries, attracted by higher wages and better working conditions. Female students are the majority in the college, especially in the nursery, primary, and secondary programs. The college also has programs for untrained teachers and programs for upgrading teachers in the remote areas of the republic.

Teachers may also be trained at the University of Guyana, which offers courses in education that lead to a diploma, bachelor's degree, or a master's degree. The university works closely with the Cyril Potter College, and both programs are supervised by the Ministry of Education, which also places graduates. The Lilian Dewar College of Education, which specializes in training secondary teachers, was founded in 1968 in response to the growing need for secondary teachers.


Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Guyana's educational system underwent a dramatic decline. As political and economic conditions worsened, many teachers left the country, seeking better pay and greater job security. Schools fell into disrepair and mismanagement became widespread. A democratic government and an improved economy have led to educational reform and many enhancements. Budget allocations to education steadily increased in the 1990s. Teachers were given substantial salary increases, although by the year 2000, teachers were still paid as little as US$100 per month. New schools were being built, and school management has improved.

Although government funding has increased in recent years, the education system is still under funded, and government expenditures on education remain low when compared to education funding in neighboring countries. In 1990, for example, middle-income Latin American countries spent nearly 16 percent of their budget on education, whereas the Guyanese government spent only 4.2 percent. The consequences of under funding are serious. When teachers are poorly paid, the education system cannot attract and keep qualified teachers. Under funding has also been responsible for a lack of learning materials and adequate learning facilities. Nearly a third of the community high schools, when surveyed in 1995, did not have library books. In regional school districts, management is inefficient and poorly supervised. The Ministry does not know how educational funds are actually spent. In the Ministry itself, low pay and understaffing have reduced its efficiency and effectiveness. Teacher training remains the weakest link in the system. As of 1994, approximately 55 percent of the nearly 2,000 nursery school teachers in Guyana had not passed the examinations required of teachers. In the interior regions, the percentage of unqualified teachers was above 80 percent.

The effect of these conditions on student performance is reflected on test scores. On the Secondary School Entrance Examination, scores were consistently low in the 1990s. Performance on the CXC examination was equally disappointing. The number of students qualifying for the University of Guyana has declined to a point where faculty, laboratories, and workshops are underused. Poor attendance is also widespread in primary and secondary schools, and schools face the problem of increasing violence and the lack of discipline, which is said to be the reason for an average attendance of 65 percent. The use of illegal drugs, vandalism, fighting among students, attacks on teachers, and cheating on exams have compounded the problems school officials face. In the remote regions, the language used in school is often not the same as the language spoken in the home. Government expenditures favor secondary and higher education, whereas primary education is in greater need. As a result of these and other weaknesses and inequities, a student entering primary school now has only a 4 percent chance of reaching the university.

The government has employed a number of ways to improve the educational system. One of those measures is the Guyana Education Access Project I, a five-year project funded by the United Kingdom to help provide equal access to all Guyanese children and young people to quality education, focusing on secondary education in two disadvantaged regions. The Secondary School Reform Project is part of a multiphased program whose goals include developing a common curriculum for Forms 1-3, providing textbooks and instructional materials, furnishing school libraries, and promoting community participation. Twelve schools are to be refurbished and others will be given emergency repairs. The project also aims to improve organization and management of schools. The National Plan of Action has also been established to meet the specific needs of Guyana's children by improving the quality of day care centers and primary schools, improving access to them, and teaching literacy and math skills to those who have left school without this education.

At the center of all recommendations for educational reform is the need for adequate funding. With it, teachers would be better trained and those who graduate from the schools would join the public school system and remain. Curricula need to be updated to address the needs of the poor; more women are needed in the technical fields, more schools are needed, and more of the ones in operation need to be repaired. Better management in all areas of the system would help solve many problems associated with funding. Allocating funds equally among the regions is one of the priorities of reform. Perhaps the most promising element in Guyana's struggle to improve its educational system is the willingness on the part of national leaders and educators alike to acknowledge the need to reform. They have identified specific areas where reform is needed and are determined to achieve their goals.


Abrams, Ovid. Metegee: The History of Guyana. New York: Ashanti Books, 1997.

Bacchus, M. K. Education for Development or Underdevelopment: Guyana's Educational System and Its Implications for the Third World. Waterloo, Ontario, Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1980.

Bray, Mark, ed. Ministries of Education in Small States: Case Studies of Organization and Management, 1991.

Brill, Marlene Targ. Enchantment of the World: Guyana. Chicago: Children's Press, Inc., 1994.

Country, 2000. Available from

"Education Policy Document: State Paper on Education Policy, Guyana." Ministry of Education and Cultural Development, 1995.

Fletcher, Gem, Lynette France, and Iris Sukdeo. Higher Education in Guyana: University of Guyana. Venezuela: CRESALC-UNESCO, 1987.

"Guyana: From Economic Recovery to Sustained Growth." Washington, DC: The World Bank, 1993.

Samaroo, Noel K. "The Political Economy of Education in Guyana: Implications for Human Rights." Journal of Negro Education 60 (4) (Fall 1991): 512-23.

Singh, Chaitram. Guyana: Politics in a Plantation Society. New York and London: Praeger, 1988.

Spinner, Thomas J., Jr. A Political and Social History of Guyana, 1945-1983. Boulder and London: Westview Press, Inc., 1984.

Tsang, Mun C. The Financing of Education in Guyana: Issues and Strategies. Inter-American Development Bank, 1997.

University of Guyana Home Page, 2001. Available from

Watson, D., and C. Craig, eds. Guyana at the Crossroads. New Brunswick and London: Transaction Publishers, 1992.

Wickremasinghe, Walter, ed. Handbook of World Education: A Comparative Guide to Higher Education & Educational Systems of the World, 1991.

Williams, David, et al. Privatization versus Community: The Rise and Fall of Industrial Social Welfare in Guyana, 1998.

Bernard E. Morris

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Official name: Cooperative Republic of Guyana

Area: 214,970 square kilometers (83,000 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Mt. Roraima (2,835 meters/9,302 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Western

Time zone: 8 a.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 436 kilometers (271 miles) from east to west; 807 kilometers (501 miles) from north to south

Land boundaries: 2,462 kilometers (1,530 miles) total boundary length; Brazil 1,119 kilometers (695 miles)

Coastline: 285 miles (459 kilometers)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


Guyana is a small independent republic located on the northeastern coast of South America, between Suriname and Venezuela. A former British colony, it is the only member of the British Commonwealthand the only English-speaking countryin South America. With an area of 214,970 square kilometers (83,000 square miles), Guyana is almost as large as the state of Idaho.

Native animals include the anteater, the tapir, and the anaconda. Endangered species include the jaguar, black cayman, and giant otter. As the rainforest environments around the world are destroyed, Guyana is one of the few places where the world's largest eagle, the harpy, still has a native habitat.


Guyana has no territories or dependencies.


Guyana has a hot, humid subtropical climate moderated by trade winds off the Atlantic. There is little temperature variation between seasons. Temperatures rarely rise above 32°C (90°F) or fall below 21°C (70 °F). The average annual temperature in the capital city of Georgetown is 27°C (81°F). Average annual rainfall ranges from about 165 centimeters (65 inches) in the savannah regions to 229 centimeters (90 inches) on the coast and in elevated parts of the interior. The coastal areas have two rainy seasonsone between November and January and the other between May and Julywhile the savannah has only one, between April and August.


Guyana has four major types of terrain. A narrow but densely populated strip of plains extends the full length of the coast. Beyond the coastal plain lies a hilly, forested interior that covers most of the country. The interior also includes two major savannah regions, and highlands that rise in the south and west. The country has rich deposits of bauxite and manganese. Discovery of gold and diamond deposits likely will lead to development of greater mining.


The northern coast of Guyana borders the southeastern North Atlantic Ocean.

Seacoast and Undersea Features

Silt carried on the rivers that drain into the Atlantic Ocean keeps the water off Guyana a brown churning mass of sandbars and mud. Mud flats continue up to 24 kilometers (15 miles) offshore before navigation is considered free. Guyana's seacoast, much of which lies below sea level, is in danger of being submerged if the ocean levels rise due to global warming.

Coastal Features

The deep indentation at the mouth of the Essequibo River divides Guyana's coast into two nearly equal sections. The one to the west is smooth, while the one to the east is more indented, especially at the mouths of the Essequibo and Courentyne Rivers.


There are no notable inland lakes in Guyana.


Guyana has four major riversthe Courantyne, Berbice, Demerara, and Essequibowhich flow northward and empty into the Atlantic. The longest and widest is the Essequibo, which has its source in Brazil, as does the Courantyne, whose course forms Guyana's border with Suriname. The Potaro, Mazaruni, and Cuyuni rivers, all tributaries of the Essequibo, drain the northwestern part of the country. The Rupununi River flows through the savannah land in the southwest that bears its name. Kaieteur Falls, in the Pakaraima Mountains, is the world's seventh most forceful waterfall. Kaieteur is only one of many waterfalls in Guyana, including several other large ones.


There are no desert regions in Guyana.


Guyana's name comes from an Amerindian word meaning "Land of Many Waters."


The narrow coastal plain varies in width from 16 to 65 kilometers (10 to 40 miles). It is cut off from the forested interior zone by a barrier of swamps. Poor drainage has also created swampland along Guyana's rivers. Guyana has two savannah regions. The largest is the Rupununi in the extreme southwestern part of the country. The Rupununi features broad areas of grassland dotted with large termite mounds. Visitors to the Rupununi region must get a permit from the government. A second area, the "intermediate savannah," lies about 96 kilometers (60 miles) inland from the mouth of the Berbice River. Guyana's hilly zanderij ("white-sand") area extends down the center of the country in a band that widens in the southeast and covers over three-fourths of the country. The hills, whose elevations range from 15 meters (50 feet) to 120 meters (400 feet), gradually rise from west to east.


The Pakaraima Mountains rise from the Kaieteurian Plateau in the western part of the country. Their peaks rise to over 2,743 meters (9,000 feet) near Venezuela and Brazil and include the country's highest point, Mount Roraima. Farther south the Kanuku Mountains extend from east to west in the southwestern part of Guyana. Reaching heights of 914 meters (3,000 feet), they cut the Rupununi savannah region into two sections. The Acarai Mountains rise to elevations of over 610 meters (2,000 feet) in the southeast.


There are no notable canyons or caves in Guyana.


The Kaieteurian Plateau, which, together with the Pakaraima range, dominates west-central Guyana, is generally less than 610 meters (2,000 feet) in elevation. This ancient crystalline plateau was once below sea level.


The coast is protected by 225 kilometers (140 miles) of seawall and an extensive system of drainage canals to keep it from flooding at high tide, as much of it lies below sea level. The swamps of the coastal plain are prevented from intruding into the croplands farther inland by a series of "back-dams."

As of late 2002, plans for the Amaila Falls Hydroelectricity Project were progressing. The dam is being planned at the place where the Amaila and Kuribrong Rivers join, about 250 kilometers (125 miles) southwest of Georgetown and about 195 kilometers (120 miles) north of Kaieteur Falls.


Kourou, located at 5°14" N latitude on the northeast coast of Guyana, is perfectly situated to serve as a rocket launch site. The European Space Agency (ESA) has been launching rockets from the rocket launch site at Kourou since 1977.



Adamson, Alan H. Sugar Without Slaves: The Political Economy of British Guiana. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1972.

Burnett, D. Graham . Masters of All They Surveyed: Exploration, Geography, and a British El Dorado. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Spinner, Thomas J. A Political and Social History of Guyana, 1945-1983. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1984.

Web Sites

Guyana News and Information. (accessed April 4, 2003).

Tourism Association of Guyana. (accessed April 4, 2003).

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Guyana (gīăn´ə, –än´–), officially Co-operative Republic of Guyana, republic (2005 est. pop. 765,000), 83,000 sq mi (214,969 sq km), NE South America. It is bordered on the N by the Atlantic Ocean, on the E by Suriname, on the S and W by Brazil, and on the W by Venezuela. The capital and largest city is Georgetown.

Land and People

On the east Guyana is separated from Suriname by the Courantyne (Corantijn or Corentyne) River. The Akarai Mts. form the southern border with Brazil. Several rivers make up much of the western border with Brazil and Venezuela, and the Essequibo River flows through the center of the country. There is a cultivated coastal plain and a forested, hilly interior (for a more detailed description of the physical characteristics of the area, see Guiana). The climate is hot and humid, and the rainfall is heavy.

Most of the population lives along the coast. About half of the people trace their ancestry to India, and the rest are of African, mixed, or indigenous descent. English, Hindi, Urdu, and various indigenous dialects are spoken. Christianity and Hinduism are the main religions, and there is a substantial Muslim minority. The Univ. of Guyana in Georgetown was founded in 1963.


Agriculture and mining are the principal economic activities. Sugarcane and rice are the leading crops, and wheat, corn, coconuts, and citrus fruit are also grown. Cattle and other livestock are raised. Bauxite, gold, diamonds, and manganese are mined. There are large forest resources (notably greenheart and balatá) that have been exploited.

The chief exports are sugar, gold, bauxite, alumina, rice, shrimp, molasses, rum, and timber. Imports include manufactures, machinery, petroleum, and foodstuffs. Reforms were instituted in the late 1980s to liberalize the country's economy and to attract foreign aid and investment, and the economy grew in the 1990s and early 2000s. The United States, Trinidad and Tobago, Canada, and Great Britain are the most important trading partners.


Guyana is governed under the constitution of 1980. The president, who is the head of state, is popularly elected (as leader of a parliamentary party list) for a five-year term. The president appoints the prime minister, who is the head of government, and the cabinet. The legislature is the unicameral National Assembly, whose 65 members are elected for five-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into ten regions. Guyana is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.


Before the arrival of European settlers, the indigenous Warrau tribe controlled the territory of Guyana. In the early 17th cent. the Dutch established settlements about the Essequibo River, and England and France also founded colonies in the Guiana region. By the Treaty of Breda (1667) the Dutch gained all the English colonies in Guiana. Possessions continued to change hands in the late 18th and early 19th cent. until the Congress of Vienna (1815) awarded the settlements of Berbice, Demerara, and Essequibo to Great Britain; they were united as British Guiana in 1831. Slavery was abolished in 1834. In 1879 gold was discovered, thus speeding British expansion toward the Orinoco delta and resulting in the Venezuela Boundary Dispute.

After World War II significant progress toward self-government was made. Under the 1952 constitution, elections were won (1953) by the PPP, headed by Cheddi Jagan, who formed a government. However, the British deemed the government pro-Communist and suspended the constitution. Subsequently the PPP split, and Forbes Burnham formed the PNC. The PPP again won elections in 1957 and (after self-government was granted) in 1961, but was politically weakened by strikes and unrest; it later emerged that much of the agitation was precipitated or funded by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency at the instigation of the Kennedy administration. Proportional representation was then introduced, in response to PNC charges that the electoral system was unfair.

After the 1964 elections the PNC and the UF were able to form a ruling coalition, and Burnham became prime minister. Full independence was negotiated in 1966. In the elections of 1968 and 1973 the PNC won a majority, and Burnham continued as prime minister. Antagonism between the East Indians, who control a substantial portion of the nation's commerce, and Africans led to frequent clashes and bloodshed in the 1960s, but violence subsided by the 1970s.

Guyana became a republic in 1970, embarking on a socialist path that ultimately led to economic ruin. The boundaries with Venezuela and Suriname continued to be a matter of dispute, with Venezuela still laying claim to some 60% of Guyana's territory. In 2007 the disputed sea border with Suriname was settled by a UN Law of the Sea tribunal, but sections of the Suriname land border remain contested. Concessions granted by Guyana for offshore oil exploration revived the boundary dispute with Venezuela in 2015. In 1978 more than 900 followers, mostly Americans, of a religious cult (the People's Temple) led by Jim Jones committed suicide in Jonestown, a jungle village in Guyana. In 1980 a new constitution was adopted, under which Burnham became president. In the early 1980s, the government instituted heavy media restrictions and openly harassed opposition parties.

After Burnham's death in 1985, he was replaced by Desmond Hoyte, who began some liberalization programs and invited foreign aid and investment. In the late 1980s, austerity policies implemented by the government caused considerable unrest, as opposition parties called for new elections. In 1992 Hoyte lost the presidency to the former prime minister (1957–64) and ex-Marxist Cheddi Jagan of the PPP. Under Jagan, the country saw economic growth, especially in the agricultural and mining sectors, and enjoyed continuing international support.

Jagan died in Mar., 1997, and his prime minister, Samuel Hinds, became president, naming Jagan's widow, Janet Jagan, as prime minister. In December of that year, she was elected president. Janet Jagan resigned in Aug., 1999, because of ill health and was succeeded by Bharrat Jagdeo, Guyana's finance minister. Jagdeo and the PPP were returned to power in elections held in March, 2001. Heavy rains, high tides, and drainage canals in disrepair resulted in severe flooding in Georgetown and coastal areas of Guyana in early 2005, disrupting the lives of almost half of the population. Jagdeo was reelected in Aug., 2006, and at the same time the PPP increased its legislative majority by two seats.

In the Nov., 2011, elections the PPP won the election but fell shy of a majority of the legislative seats; PPP leader Donald Ramotar became president. A threatened no-confidence vote by the opposition led in Nov., 2014, to the suspension and then dissolution of the legislature by the president. In early elections in May, 2015, a five-party coalition dominated by A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC) narrowly won control of the legislature, and APNU/AFC candidate David Granger, a retired general, was elected president.


See R. A. Glasgow, Guyana: Race and Politics among Africans and East Indians (1970); A. H. Adamson, Sugar Without Slaves: The Political Economy of British Guiana, 1838–1904 (1972); R. H. Manley, Guyana Emergent: The Post Independence Struggle for Non-Dependent Development (1982); C. Singh, Guyana: Politics in a Plantation Society (1988).

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Guyana (formerly British Guiana)


214,970sq km (83,000sq mi)



capital (population):

Georgetown (225,800)


Multiparty republic

ethnic groups:

Indian 49%, Black 36%, Mixed 7%, Native American 7%, Portuguese, Chinese


English (official)


Christianity (Protestant 34%, Roman Catholic 18%), Hinduism 34%, Islam 9%


Guyana dollar = 100 cents

Republic on the Atlantic Ocean, ne South America; the capital is Georgetown.

Land and Climate

More than 80% of Guyana is forested. Its interior includes rainforests, savannas, valleys of the Essequibo River, and the Pakaraima Mountains, which rise to 2772m (9094ft) at Mount Roraima. The narrow, alluvial coastal plain is largely reclaimed marshland and mangrove swamp. Guyana has a hot and humid climate. There are two dry seasons: February to April, and August to November.


The Dutch settled here in 1581, and the Treaty of Breda (1667) awarded them the area. Land reclamation for plantations began in the 18th century, under the control of the Dutch West India Company. Britain gained control in the early 19th century, and set up the colony of British Guiana in 1831. Slavery was abolished in 1838. After World War II, progress towards self-government was achieved with a new constitution (1952), and the election of Cheddi Jagan. In 1966 British Guiana became independent, and Forbes Burnham of the socialist People's National Congress (PNC) became the first prime minister. Ethnic conflict between the majority East Indian and African minority marred much of the 1960s. In 1970, Guyana became a republic. In 1980, Burnham became president, and a new constitution increased his power. After Burnham's death in 1985, Desmond Hoyte introduced liberal reforms. Jagan defeated Hoyte in 1992 presidential elections and Jagan's People's Progressive Party (PPP) formed the first non-PNC government since independence. After Jagan's death in 1997, his wife, Janet Jagan, became president. In 1999, she resigned due to poor health, and Bharrat Jagdeo succeeded her.


Guyana is a developing country (2000 GDP per capita, US$4800), its economy dominated by mining and agriculture. Principal exports: sugar, rice, bauxite. Diamond and gold mining are important. Fishing and forestry industries are expanding, as is ecotourism.

Political map

Physical map


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GUYANA. A country of the Caribbean coast of South America and member of the COMMONWEALTH. Languages: English (official), English Creole, Bhojpuri, Hindi, Urdu, Amerindian languages. The region was sighted by Columbus in 1498 and settled by the Dutch in the 16c. The Dutch colonies of Essequibo, Demerara, and Berbice were ceded to the British in 1815, and consolidated as British Guiana in 1831, with independence in 1966. The term Guyanese English is used, in opposition to Creolese or Guyanese Creole English, to refer to educated local usage. Its vocabulary contains items from DUTCH (paal boundary mark, stelling wharf), Amerindian (warishi basket for heavy loads, mashramani celebration after cooperative work), and Indian languages (sardar field supervisor on a plantation, dhan rice paddy). See CARIBBEAN ENGLISH, CARIBBEAN ENGLISH CREOLE, SURINAM.

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Culture Name



Identification. Guyana is an Amerindian word meaning "the land of many waters." Attempts to forge a common identity have foundered, and it is more accurate to speak of African, Indian, and Amerindian Guyanese cultures. There were small European, Portuguese "colored," and Chinese communities before large-scale migration to Canada and the United States in the late 1960s. British Guiana was referred to as "the land of six peoples."

Location and Geography. Guyana is on the northeastern shoulder of South America, bounded on the north by the Atlantic Ocean, on the east by Suriname, on the northwest by Venezuela, and on the south and southwest by Brazil. The capital city is Georgetown. In an area of 83,000 square miles (212,000 square kilometers), there are three regions: the narrow coastal belt of rich alluvium; the densely forested, hilly sand and clay belt; and the Rupununi grasslands between the rain forests and the frontier with Brazil. Over 90 percent of the population lives on the coastal belt, which is below sea level. The Dutch, using African slaves in the eighteenth century, made this area habitable. Every square mile of cultivated land has forty-nine miles of drainage canals and ditches and sixteen miles of high-level waterways.

Demography. The population was 758,619 in 1980. It had declined to 723,800 in 1991, and an estimated 720,700 in 1996. In 1991, the population consisted of 49 percent Indians; 35 percent Africans; 7 percent mixed race peoples; and 6.8 percent Amerindians. Indians are of the following religions: Hindu, 65 percent; Muslim, 20 percent; and Christian, 15 percent. Massive migration has led to the virtual disappearance of Chinese, mixed, Europeans, and Portuguese.

Linguistic Affiliation. The official language is English. No African languages survived slavery, nor have those of the indentured laborers (Indians, Madeiran Portuguese, and Chinese). Guyanese speak creole dialects of English with varying ethnic lexical imprints. However, all dialects are mutually intelligible.

Symbolism. There are few national symbols or metaphors. The national hero, Cuffy, the leader of the Berbice Slave Rebellion in 1763, is primarily an African Guyanese hero whose statue in Georgetown evokes Indian antipathy. Indians tend to identify with an India of the imagination and the Hindu and Muslim religions. Africans often look to an imagined Africa. The utopian vision of GuyanaEl Doradocreated by Sir Walter Raleigh in the 1590s, claims the imagination of most Guyanese today.

History and Ethnic Relations

National Identity. The colonial rulers promoted images of Britishness to inculcate loyalty to the empire, but although various ethnic groups absorbed aspects of that culture, they retained their identities. The Portuguese attempted to selectively Anglicize their Madeiran Catholic culture to stress their European-ness. Most Africans adapted British culture to an essentially African core. Indians, coming after the Africans (between 1838 and 1917), sustained a stronger sense of their national identity. This process of "creolization" affected all groups but did not forge a national culture.

Ethnic Relations. After adopting British cultural idioms, the African and mixed middle class deprecated the "backward coolie" culture of Indians. The Indians, steeped in ancient notions of caste, brought rigid ideals of color and physical features to their judgment of African people, although most Indian immigrants were themselves dark. Africans and Indians thus constructed distinct identities. A brief political compromise in the early 1950s could not moderate their mutual incomprehension. In the early 1960s, both groups violently contested the space being vacated by the British; this has left a legacy of racial hatred. Ethnic relations since independence in 1966 have been undermined by the notion that politics consists of the allocation of the spoils of power to the ruling ethnic section. Alternating ruling African and Indian elites publicly criticize the role of culture and ethnicity in political mobilization while exploiting it.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

The two main commercial centers are Georgetown and New Amsterdam. The colonial architecture found in parts of Georgetown is still impressive wooden buildings with jalousies and high ceilings to facilitate ventilation, some featuring large, wooden verandas. In rural areas, there are many wooden buildings made up of many eclectic styles, but all are built on stilts to protect them from floods. Wooden buildings are fading into the past, however, as concrete buildings are becoming more common.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Basic foods reflect ethnic preferences, but there has been considerable cross-fertilization. The creole foods created by Africans have been adopted by all the other groups. Dishes made from "ground provisions" now constitute a national menu: crab or fish soups with plantains, eddoes, cassava, dasheen, and coconut milk; "cook-up rice" with black-eyed peas, pigs tail, green plantain, and cassareep; and Indian curries and roti.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. At African festivals and life cycle rites, creole foods are served. Vegetarian curries are provided at Hindu weddings; the day after a wedding, curried meat is served.

Basic Economy. Most food is produced locally, including rice, fruits and vegetables, sugar, cooking oils, fish and seafood, meat, and rum. Colonial tastes survive in the form of sardines, corned beef and mutton, chocolate, and whiskey. Imports largely consist of fuels and lubricants, cars, agricultural machinery, clothing and footwear, and consumer durables.

Commercial Activities. In a primarily agricultural country, the main exports are sugar and rum. Rice is grown primarily on small farms, and coconuts also are an important crop. The major industrial products are bauxite, gold, and lumber. Fishing is established, as is livestock rearing. Tourism, mainly to the wild interior, is in its infancy.

Major Industries. Industry is still in its infancy in Guyana. The one exception to this are the companies that process bauxite and the facilities in rural areas set up to dredge for gold.

Trade. Guyana trades primarily with the European Union (mainly the United Kingdom), Canada, the United States, and the Caribbean community. Most of the country's main export, sugar, is sold to the European Union. The bulk of rice production goes to the Caribbean, and bauxite is exported to Canada and the United States.

Division of Labor. Eighty percent of workers in the sugar industry and 90 percent of rice farmers are Indian, as are many growers of fruits and vegetables and forestry and fishing workers. Africans tend to go into the professions, work in public service, and seek employment as skilled workers in urban centers and the interior.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. There are class differences within each ethnic group. One can identify an Indian middle class based primarily in commerce and an African middle class in the professions and the upper echelons of public service. Middle class consciousness across ethnic lines is weak, and includes very few Amerindians. Between 1988 and 1996, gross domestic product increased by forty percent, with remarkable growth in sectors where Indians are disproportionately represented. The public sector, where Africans dominate, experienced no growth in that period.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Markers that locate people as middle class regardless of ethnicity include place of residence, the employment of security guards, the type of car driven, the type of English spoken, the frequency of travel overseas, where and what the men drink, where the women shop, clubs, and access to private tutors for children.

Political Life

Government. The 1992 and 1997 general elections were won by the predominantly Indian People's Progressive Party (PPP). The elections of 1968, 1973, 1980, and 1985 and the referendum of 1978 were widely seen to be rigged in favor of the predominantly African People's National Congress (PNC), which ruled from 1964 to 1992. The electoral system has been one of proportional representation since 1964. Fifty-three seats in the national Parliament are allocated proportionally. Another tier of government serves the ten regions; the President, who is the leader of the victorious party, heads the government but does not sit in Parliament.

Leadership and Political Officials. Elections are a demonstration of ethnic strength rather than a reflection of popular will. Cheddi Jagan and L. F. S. Burnham were the cofounders of the PPP, a loose coalition of the two main ethnic groups. The first PPP government, elected in April 1953, was thrown out by the British for fear of communism. Party rivalries since that time have involved different versions of Marxism, and the various parties have failed to deal with racial antagonism.

Military Activity. Before the 1990s, the army was crucial to the projection of political power, and was a source of employment for African youths. In 1992, the Guyana Defence Force was 97 percent African and 3 percent Amerindian, with Indians accounting for less than one percent.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. The economic and political spheres are dominated by men, but a few women are senior officials in the government. Although there has been one female president, there is a paucity of women in the cabinet, the legislature, and the leadership of political parties. Women play a significant role as farmers, market vendors, teachers, nurses, civil servants, and clerks, as well as doing housework. In recent years girls have outperformed boys in regional examinations, and more women than men attend university.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. The abandonment of children by fathers and a culture of male-centered drinking frequently leave women with the sole responsibility for their children. In urban areas, where the extended family is often nonexistent, many African women are the family breadwinners. The state provides virtually no social welfare assistance.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Among Hindus and Muslims, arranged, comparatively early marriages are common. Middle-class Indians have greater freedom in choosing a spouse, especially if the woman is a professional. Marriage usually occurs later, and the family is smaller. Indian families are patriarchal and often function as corporate economic units. Formal marriage is less common among the African working class, and the middle classes marry later.

Domestic Unit. There is a high incidence of multi-generational women-centered households in working-class families. Younger men may belong to and contribute to the household, and older men may join later. Men usually marry late and often engage in serial monogamy before forming a stable relationship.


Infant Care. Among all the ethnic groups, the extended family plays a role in the socialization of children. In an outdoor society, children are allowed to roam. In rural communities, discipline is a communal responsibility. Children and younger adults address elders not by their names but as "auntie" or "uncle." Children usually are carried by parents, siblings, and relatives.

Child Rearing and Education. Teaching children "correct" behavior is a priority. Corporal punishment is considered indispensable, and attendance at church, temple, or mosque is used to inculcate moral values. Life cycle rites and rituals are central to the shaping of a child.

Higher Education. Mixed people and Africans were pioneers in education. Until the 1930s, Indians tended to resist educating girls, but the example of other groups and the emergence of an Indian middle class have led to a changed attitude. Until decolonization in the late 1960s, secondary schools were excellent. The University of Guyana, founded in 1963, has produced many distinguished scholars and professionals, but it has also suffered from the mass exodus of Guyanese academics.


Religious beliefs. African, Amerindian, and Indian traditional cultures have sustained folk practices that have penetrated Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam. Obeah has its roots in African folk religion but influences Indians as well, and Indian spirit possession has affected rural African religious sensibility.

Religious Practitioners. Christian ministers, Hindu priests (Brahmins), and Muslim imams command considerable deference. However, folk religious leaders such as obeah men and women, charismatic leaders in Afro-Christian sects, and similar leaders in folk Hinduism compete with the established religious leaders.

Death and the Afterlife. Death requires the public articulation of grief; the "wake" or vigil, facilitates communal support for the bereaved, who reciprocate by providing a feast for the community. Hindus believe in reincarnation, and Africans believe that the spirit of the dead must be placated and assisted.

Secular Celebrations

Most festivals are based on Christian, Hindu, and Islamic beliefs, so there are few truly secular holidays or events. However, "Mashramani" is celebrated to mark the country's Republic Day on 23 February, and the anniversary of the Berbice Slave Rebellion of 1763 is also noted.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. It is extremely difficult for artists to survive as public funding is very limited. Many artists have migrated.

Literature. Africans celebrate their history of resistance and achievement through Anancy tales, proverbs, songs, and stories. This tradition has shaped Guyanese literary sensibility. The first major Guyanese novelist was Edgar Mittelholzer (19091965), who lived and worked in England most of his life. His first novel, Corentyne Thunder, was published in 1941 and was followed by 22 additional novels. Another noted Guyanese author, Wilson Harris (1923), also did most of his writing in England. His works were greatly influenced by Amerindian myths and the haunting solitude of the rain forests and its majestic rivers. The country's best-known poet is Martin Carter (19271996), whose work was influenced by the political turmoil of the 1940s and early 1950s.

Graphic Arts. The country's most accomplished painter, Aubrey Williams, was steeped in Amerindian motifs and images of the hinterland. The work of the sculptor Philip Moore is informed by West African artistic forms and motifs. In pottery, woodcraft, and basketry, Amerindians produce for the domestic and foreign markets. There is a national collection of paintings but no national gallery.

Performance Arts. There is a rich heritage of folk music, dance, and drama in each of the main ethnic groups but no art form to project a national identity. The impact of the national School of Dance has been limited; music and dance are still essentially ethnic. The Theatre Guild in Georgetown has sustained a dramatic tradition, as has the professional Theatre Company, but drama appeals mainly to the elite.


Adamson, Alan H. Sugar without Slaves: The Political Economy of British Guiana, 18381904, 1972.

Benjamin, Joel, Lakshmi Kallicharan, Ian McDonald, and Lloyd Searwar, eds. They Came in Ships: An Anthology of Indo-Guyanese Prose and Poetry, 1998.

Brown, Stewart ed. The Art of Martin Carter, 2000.

Carter, Martin. Selected Poems, 1997.

Jagan, Cheddi. The West on Trial: My Fight for Guyana's Freedom, 1966.

McGowan, Winston F., James G. Rose, and David A. Granger, eds. Themes in African Guyanese History, 1998.

Menezes, Mary Noel. The Portuguese of Guyana: A Study in Culture and Conflict, 1994.

Moore, Brian. Cultural Power, Resistance and Pluralism: Colonial Guyana, 18381900, 1995.

Rodney, Walter. A History of the Guyanese Working People, 18811905, 1981.

Seecharan, Clem. "Tiger in the Stars": The Anatomy of Indian Achievement in British Guiana, 19191929, 1997.

. "The Shaping of the Indo-Caribbean People: Guyana and Trinidad to the 1940s." Journal of Caribbean Studies 14 (12): 6192, 19992000.

Smith, Raymond T. The Negro Family in British Guiana: Family Structure and Social Status in the Villages, 1956.

. British Guiana, 1962.

Spinner, Thomas J., A Political and Social History of Guyana, 19451983, 1983.

St. Pierre, Maurice. Anatomy of Resistance: Anti-Colonialism in Guyana, 18231966, 1999.

Sue-a-Quan, Trev. Cane Reapers: Chinese Indentured Immigrants in Guyana, 1999.

Clem Seecharan

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Guyana, an independent republic within the Commonwealth since 1970, was the only British colony on the South American mainland. The population is about 800,000 and the chief exports are sugar, rice, and bauxite. The first European settlements were made by the Dutch. During the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars they changed hands repeatedly, but in 1803 Essequiba, Berbice, and Demerara were finally taken by the British. In 1831 they were united as British Guiana and became a crown colony in 1928. The capital is Georgetown.

J. A. Cannon

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The people of Guyana are called Guyanans. A little more than half of the population is of Asian Indian descent. About 43 percent are Afro-Guyanans, of African descent. There are also Amerindians (native people), Chinese, Portuguese, and other Europeans.

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GuyanaAlana, Anna, bandanna, banner, Branagh, canna, canner, Diana, fanner, Fermanagh, Guyana, Hannah, Havana, hosanna, Indiana, Joanna, lanner, Louisiana, manna, manner, manor, Montana, nana, planner, Pollyanna, Rosanna, savannah, scanner, spanner, Susanna, tanner •Abner • Jaffna • Patna • caravanner •Africana, Afrikaner, Americana, ana, banana, Botswana, bwana, cabana, caragana, Christiana, Dana, darner, Edwardiana, garner, Georgiana, Ghana, Gloriana, Guiana, gymkhana, Haryana, iguana, Lana, lantana, liana, Lipizzaner, Ljubljana, Mahayana, mana, mañana, marijuana, nirvana, Oriana, pacarana, piranha, prana, Purana, Rosh Hashana, Santayana, Setswana, sultana, Tatiana, Tijuana, Tirana, tramontana, Tswana, varna, Victoriana, zenana •Gardner • partner •antenna, Avicenna, duenna, henna, Jenna, Jenner, Morwenna, Ravenna, senna, Siena, sienna, tenner, tenor, Vienna •Edna • interregna • Etna • Pevsner

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