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Guyana Facts




Historical Background:  A Dutch colony in the 17th century, by 1815 Guyana had become a British possession. The abolition of slavery led to black settlement of urban areas and the importation of indentured servants from India to work the sugar plantations. This ethno cultural divide has persisted and has led to turbulent politics. Guyana achieved independence from the UK in 1966, but until the early 1990s it was ruled mostly by socialist-oriented governments. In 1992, Cheddi JAGAN was elected president, in what is considered the country's first free and fair election since independence. Upon his death five years later, he was succeeded by his wife Janet, who resigned in 1999 due to poor health. Her successor, Bharrat JAGDEO, was reelected in 2001.


Official Name: Co-operative republic of Guyana

Location: Northern South America, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Suriname and Venezuela; Brazil makes up the southern border.

Area: 214970 km (133,600 sq mi)

Coastline: 459 km (285 mi)

Climate: Tropical; hot, humid, moderated by trade winds; two rainy season from May to mid-August and from mid-November to mid-January

Elevation: lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m; highest point: Mount Roraima 2,835 m (9,301 ft)

Natural Resources: bauxite, gold, diamonds, hardwood timber, shrimp, fish

Natural Hazards: flash floods during rainy season

Environmental Current Issues: water pollution from sewage and agricultural and industrial chemicals; deforestation

Geography Note: Guyana is the third-smallest country in South America after Suriname and Uruguay; substantial portions of its western and eastern territories are claimed by Venezuela and Suriname respectively


Population: 705,803 note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2004 est.)

HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 2.5% (2003)

HIV/AIDS: 11,000 (2003)

HIV/AIDS Deaths: 1,100 (2003)

Ethnic Groups: East Indian 50%, black 36%, Amerindian 7%, white, Chinese, and mixed 7%

Religions: Christian 50%, Hindu 35%, Muslim 10%, other 5%

Languages: English, Amerindian dialects, Creole, Hindi, Urdu

Literacy: Definition: age 15 and over has ever attended school: 98.8%


Capital: Georgetown

Independence: 26 May 1966 (from UK)

National Holiday: Republic Day, 23 February (1970)

Constitution: 6 October 1980


Economic Overview: The Guyanese economy exhibited moderate economic growth in 2001-02, based on expansion in the agricultural and mining sectors, a more favorable atmosphere for business initiatives, a more realistic exchange rate, fairly low inflation, and the continued support of international organizations. Growth then slowed in 2003. Chronic problems include a shortage of skilled labor and a deficient infrastructure. The government is juggling a sizable external debt against the urgent need for expanded public investment. The bauxite mining sector should benefit in the near term by restructuring and partial privatization.


GDP Per Capita: $4,000 (2003)

Unemployment Rate: 9.1% (underestimated 2003)

Agricultural Products: sugar, rice, wheat, vegetable oils; beef, pork, poultry, dairy products; fish (shrimp)

Industries: bauxite, sugar, rice milling, timber, textiles, gold mining

Export Commodities: sugar, gold, bauxite/alumina, rice, shrimp, molasses, rum, timber

Export Partners: Canada, US, UK, Portugal, Belgium, Jamaica

Economic Aid Recipient: $84 million (1995), Heavily Indebted Poor Country Initiative (HIPC) $253 million (1997) (2000 est.)

Currency: Guyanese dollar (GYD)

Exchange Rates: Guyanese dollars per US dollar - 190.665 (2002), 187.321 (2001), 182.43 (2000), 177.995 (1999)


Highways: 7,970 km (5,000 mi) – 93% of which is unpaved

Airports: 49 - 84% (41) of which are unpaved

31 Jan 2005

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