Discusses key economic indicators and trade statistics, which countries are dominant in the market, the U.S. market share, the political situation if relevant, the top reasons why U.S. companies should consider exporting to this country, and other issues that affect trade, e.g., terrorism, currency devaluations, trade agreements.
Last Published: 7/8/2019

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 percent of whom live on the 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 2018 at USD 3.5 billion, with a per capita GNI of USD 4,500, based on the purchasing power parity model.  Today, Guyana is one of South America's poorest countries. But within the decade, it could be among the richest.  In 2015, ExxonMobil and its international partners discovered vast oil reserves off the Caribbean coast of this country.  The economy is expected to grow 4.6 percent in 2019 and over 30 percent in 2020, boosted by oil output. Guyana could be among the world's largest per-capita oil producers by 2025.  This poses new challenges for the country that will require a careful management of economic, governance, and environmental risks.  The Bank of Guyana reported a 3.4 percent annual GDP growth for 2018, compared to the 2.1 percent growth rate in 2017.  In 2018, the main drivers of the economy were gold, bauxite, rice, and manufacturing, along with services such as transportation and storage.  The urban inflation rate for 2018 was contained at 1.6 percent, despite moderate increases in food and fuel prices.  Net international reserves at the end of 2018 stood at USD 528.4 million, compared to USD 584.0 million in 2017.  According to the Bank of Guyana, remittances to Guyana increased in 2018 by 3.4 percent to USD 327.9 million from USD 317.2 million in 2017.  Remittances in 2018 represented approximately 14 percent of Guyana’s GDP. 

Fiscal and Monetary Policy:  According to the Bank of Guyana’s Annual Report 2018, the Guyanese dollar depreciated against the U.S. dollar at the end of December 2018.  This information can be referenced at Bank of Guyana.   Recently, media reporting indicated that 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” (exchange houses in Guyana).  Consequently, the GoG was forced to introduce a stipulation limiting the spread between the buying and selling rate to 3 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. 

Guyana’s stocks of domestic debt and external public debt amounted to GYD 80 million and USD 1,309 million, respectively, according to the Bank of Guyana’s 2018 Annual Report.  Domestic public debt declined by 9.3 percent in 2018, while external public debt increased by 5.5 percent and accounted for 33.9 percent of GDP over the same time period.   This outcome reflected a decrease in the issuance of treasury bills to promote economic growth through the stimulation of credit to the private sector.   The increase in the outstanding stock reflected greater loan disbursements primarily by the International Development Association (IDA) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for project financing targeting citizen security strengthening, sanitation improvement, economic diversification, education sector improvement, and financial & fiscal stability.  According to the Bank of Guyana’s Annual Report 2018, domestic debt service declined by 28.3 percent to USD 7.7 million largely on account of a decline in total interest payments by GYD 637 million or 32.4 percent in 2018.  External debt service payments rose by 27.7 percent to USD 78 million from USD 61 million in 2017 on account of higher principal and interest payments to multilateral and bilateral creditors, as well as interest payments to commercial banks.  There were no external debt service obligation for Bank of Guyana in 2018. 
Total debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) program for 2018 amounted to USD 59 million.  Total debt relief for 2018 under the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative amounted to USD 14 million. 

The Government:  Guyana is a constitutional parliamentary democracy, which has been dominated by two rival parties for the past 50 years.  National elections were held in May 2015.  The coalition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) with the Alliance for Change won both the presidency and the majority of Parliamentary seats.  International and local observers considered the election free, fair, and credible.

Local government elections were last held in November 2018 and were also considered free, fair, and credible.  The next national and regional elections were set to occur in 2020.  A December 21, 2018, no-confidence vote in Guyana’s National Assembly may result in elections being held in 2019.  Guyana’s main Opposition the People’s Progressive Party has made public statements questioning the validity of agreements and contracts concluded with the current GoG after December 21, 2018, and/or after other dates calculated from December 21, 2018.  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 in an effort to fight corruption and create efficiencies in the system. 

The Trade Relationship: The United States continued to be one of Guyana’s leading trade partners in 2018.  According to the Guyana Bureau of Statistics, Guyana recorded a USD 230 million merchandise trade deficit with the United States in 2018.  The U.S. market remained significant for Guyana with export earnings of USD 199 million at the end of 2018, although there was an approximately 35 percent decrease from export earnings of USD 269 million at the end of 2017.  Guyana’s imports from the United States amounted to USD 429 million at the end of 2018, a 5 percent increase from an imports value of USD 408 million in 2017.  Guyana’s major exports to the United States in 2018 continued to be non-monetary gold, fish and shellfish, bauxite, lumber, and wood, and apparel and household goods.  The major imports from the United States in 2018 were articles of iron and steel, motor cars, machinery, foodstuffs, animal feeds, petroleum products, chemicals, computers and computer accessories, passenger vehicles, telecommunication equipment, and pharmaceuticals.

Guyana’s total merchandise exports for 2018 amounted to USD 1,374 million, a decline of 4.5 percent when compared to USD 1,436 million at the end of 2017.  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 1,835 million in 2018, a decrease of 11 percent compared to USD 1,644 million at the end of 2017.  In 2018, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States, China, Suriname, and Japan comprised Guyana’s primary import markets.  During this period, Guyana’s merchandise trade deficit amounted to USD 451.2 million at the end of 2018, USD 244.6 million above the 2017 level.

Prepared by our U.S. Embassies abroad. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the U.S. Commercial Service trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting http://export.gov/usoffices.