Guyana - Market OverviewGuyana - Market Overview
The Country: Guyana is located on the northeast Atlantic coast of South America and bordered by Venezuela, Suriname, and Brazil. It is the only English-speaking country on the continent. Although geographically a part of South America, Guyana has strong cultural and political ties to the Caribbean. Its capital Georgetown hosts the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) Secretariat. Guyana is roughly the size of Idaho and claims a population of around 750,000, 90% of whom live on a narrow, fertile coastal plain. The interior remains sparsely populated and features pristine rainforests and savannahs.
The Economic Environment: The Bank of Guyana’s Annual Report calculated the GDP for 2016 at USD 2.6 billion, with a per capita GNI of USD 4,090, based on the purchasing power parity model. Guyana remains one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, currently ranking fifth, above only Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Bolivia. This makes Guyana the second poorest country in both South America and the Caribbean. The Bank of Guyana reported annual GDP growth for 2016 as 3.3%. The drivers of the economy were gold, bauxite, rice, sugar, and manufacturing, along with service activities in the transportation and storage sub-sectors. The urban inflation rate for 2016 increased by 1.4% due to agricultural shortages from adverse weather conditions. Net international reserves at the end of 2016 stood at USD 624.6 million, compared to USD 594.7 million in 2015. According to the Bank of Guyana, in 2016 remittances to Guyana decreased by 9.9% (equivalent to USD 28.9 million) to USD 264.6 million. Remittances in 2015 represented 19.41% of Guyana’s GDP. The share of remittances reflected in Guyana’s GDP is not yet available for 2016.
Fiscal and Monetary Policy: According to the Bank of Guyana’s Annual Report 2016, the Guyanese dollar depreciated marginally by 0.12% against the U.S. dollar at the end of December 2016. The exchange rate deteriorated at approximately GYD 206.5 to USD 1 at the end of December 2016. This information can be referenced at Bank of Guyana. More recently, the exchange rate appeared to be under pressure, as evidenced by a recent rise in price reflecting a reported shortage of foreign currency by the private sector and “cambios” (or exchange houses in Guyana). The GoG was forced to introduce in January a stipulation limiting the spread between the buying and selling rate to three points. The Ministry of Finance and the Bank of Guyana jointly noted that stabilizing the foreign exchange rate (which currently floats at GYD 215-220 per one U.S. dollar) is of utmost priority to the GoG, though both stated that there is no shortage of dollars at the Bank of Guyana or Guyana’s reserves and retention bank accounts. Currently, the exchange rate is quite stable.
Guyana’s stocks of domestic debt and external public debt amounted to GYD 90 billion and USD 1.2 billion, respectively, according to the Bank of Guyana’s 2016 Annual Report. Domestic public debt increased by 10.9% in 2016, while external public debt increased by 1.2% over the same time period. This outcome reflected an increase in the issuance of treasury bills to sterilize excess liquidity in the banking system, as well as the issuance of a non-negotiable debenture (i.e., a debt instrument backed by general credit, as opposed to collateral, or loan certificate) to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS). This upswing in domestic public debt reflected a decline in the redemption of treasury bills. The increase in the stock of external debt was due primarily to increased disbursements received mainly from the Export-Import Bank of China, as well as the Caribbean Development Bank, for project financing.
According to the Bank of Guyana’s Annual Report 2016, domestic debt service increased by 9.8% to USD 9.3 million due to higher interest payments on treasury bills. External debt service payments fell by 45.5% to USD 54 million from USD 98 million in 2015, primarily due to the suspension in principal payments made to the Guyana Rice Development Board for rice and paddy previously supplied to Venezuela under a debt swap agreement. Similarly, debt service by the Bank of Guyana decreased to USD 4 million from USD 9 million at end-2015. The Bank of Guyana, as of November 2016, has fulfilled principal repayments to the IMF for the loan obtained in 2006 under the Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust.
Total debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) program for 2016 amounted to USD 55 million. Total debt relief for 2016 under the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative amounted to USD 26 million.
The Government: Guyana is a constitutional parliamentary democracy, which had been dominated by one party for 23 years until national elections were held in May 2015, when a coalition of opposition parties won a majority of seats in Parliament. Political gridlock and infighting have historically hampered efforts to make improvements to the system, although the current administration has reorganized some ministries and created new ones, and appears committed to fighting corruption and creating efficiencies in the system. Local elections were held in March 2016, for the first time since 1994, and were considered free, fair, and credible.
The Trade Relationship: The United States continued to be one of Guyana’s leading trade partners in 2016. According to the Guyana Bureau of Statistics, Guyana recorded a USD 96 million merchandise trade deficit with the United States in 2016. This represents a decrease from 2015 in which Guyana recorded a trade surplus of USD 63 million. The U.S. market remained significant for Guyana with export earnings of USD 286 million at the end of 2016. This represented a 6% decrease from export earnings of USD 303.2 million at the end of 2015. Guyana’s imports from the United States amounted to USD 382 million at the end of 2016, a 4% increase from an imports value of USD 368.1 million in 2015. Guyana’s major exports to the United States in 2016 continued to be non-monetary gold, fish and shellfish, aluminum and bauxite, lumber and wood, and apparel and household goods. The major imports from the United States in 2016 were machinery, foodstuffs, animal feeds, petroleum products, chemicals, computers and computer accessories, passenger vehicles, telecommunication equipment, and pharmaceuticals.
According to the Bank of Guyana Annual Report 2016, Guyana’s merchandise exports for 2016 amounted to USD 1,440.6 million, an increase of 0.8% when compared to USD 1,151.3 million at the end of 2015. The United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica served as the primary markets for Guyanese exports. Guyana’s merchandise imports amounted to USD 1,447.8 million in 2016, a decrease of 1% when compared to USD 1,491.6 million at the end of 2015. In 2016, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States, China, Suriname, and Japan comprised Guyana’s primary import markets. During this period, Guyana’s merchandise trade deficit fell to USD 7.2 million at the end of 2016, a decline of 97.9% from the deficit of USD 304.9 million at the end of 2015.
Guyana Trade Development and Promotion