Guyana Economy

Guyana Economy

According to naturegnosis, Guyana borders the Atlantic Ocean to the north, Suriname to the east, Brazil to the south and Venezuela to the west.

The mountain and hilly landscapes in the interior of the country are part of the Guiana Mountains, they reach 900-1300 m above sea level in the south and southwest, in the Roraima (on the border with Venezuela) 2,810 m above sea level. Numerous rivers plunge into the depths over the edges of the sandstone slabs (quay waterfalls: 226 m).

To the north, the mountains merge into a gently undulating hull area. The 20–70 km wide coastal plain, mostly alluvial land, is partly 1–5 m below sea level and is protected by dikes. The most important river is the Essequibo.


Despite its wealth of natural resources, Guyana is one of the poorest countries in Latin America with a gross national income (GNI) of (2017) US $ 4,460 per resident. The backbone of the economy is agriculture and gold and bauxite mining. In the 1970s, parts of the economy were nationalized. The mismanagement in the state sector, together with the global economic recession, led to a dramatic deterioration in the economic and social situation. At the end of the 1980s, an economic reorientation from socialism to a market economy was initiated (privatization, rescheduling, reducing public spending, promoting foreign investments) – with noticeable success. Economic growth has been achieved almost without exception in recent years. Even in the year of the global economic and financial crisis (2009) the economy grew by 3.3%. Decisive for this were inter alia. high raw material prices for bauxite and gold and an increase in foreign direct investment. Obstacles to the country’s further development are still the inadequate infrastructure (especially the poor development of the hinterland) and – despite the debt relief of many creditors – the still high foreign debt (2016: 1.14 billion US $). Money transfers from the Guyanese working abroad make a significant contribution to the economy (2015: US $ 416.5 million).

Foreign trade: With the exception of a few years, the trade balance has always been negative since 1976 (import value 2016: 1.6 billion US $; export value: 1.5 billion US $). The most important export goods are gold, sugar, bauxite, rice and shrimp. The main imports are crude oil and fuels, food and machinery. The main customer countries are Canada and the USA. The main supplier countries are Trinidad and Tobago and the USA.


Only 8.5% of the area is used for agriculture. Nevertheless, agriculture (2016) contributes 18.5% to the gross domestic product (GDP). On the lower reaches of the rivers Essequibo, Demerara, Berbice and Pomeroon are the main cultivation areas, developed by dykes, irrigation and drainage systems. The most important agricultural products are rice and sugar for export; in addition, coconuts, oranges and tropical fruits and vegetables for personal use.

Forestry: Over three quarters of the country’s interior is covered by tropical rainforest. As a result of inadequate traffic development, its economic use is almost exclusively limited to the peripheral areas. The forest companies, which are often in the hands of foreign corporations, have so far not paid attention to sustainability or resource conservation and are displacing indigenous people from their living space.

Fisheries: The catches of the fishing industry were (2018) 40,500 t, of which 21,942 t were crustaceans. Fishing regularly suffers severe losses in El Niño years. Of greater economic importance are shrimp, the majority of which are exported. Fish and shrimp contributed 7.1% to export revenues (2018).


The share of industry (including mining and construction) in the gross domestic product is 29.0% (2016). Commercial production focuses on bauxite processing (production of clay), pharmaceuticals, the sugar industry (including rum production), wood and fish processing, as well as the food and textile industries.


Tourism (especially ecotourism) is becoming increasingly important. In 2018, 287,000 foreign visitors came to Guyana, the only English-speaking country in South America. The main destinations of the predominantly North American visitors are the rainforest with its tropical biodiversity and the Kaieteur Falls.


Traffic development is largely limited to the coastal plain because of the difficult-to-access rainforest. The most important inland settlements can only be reached by plane or inland waterways. The road network (around 3,200 km, of which 800 km is asphalt) leads only around 150 km along the main rivers inland. The few railway lines that were used exclusively to transport goods were shut down at the beginning of the 21st century. The most important sea ports are the capital Georgetown and New Amsterdam in the northern part of the coast. Timehri International Airport is 25 miles from Georgetown.

Guyana Economy