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Originally 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 ethnocultural divide has persisted and has led to turbulent politics. Guyana achieved independence from the UK in 1966, and since then it has been 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. After his death five years later, his wife, Jane JAGAN, became president but resigned in 1999 due to poor health. Her successor, Bharrat JAGDEO, was reelected in 2001.


Northern South America, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Suriname and Venezuela

Geographic coordinates:

5 00 N, 59 00 W


total: 214,970 sq km
land: 196,850 sq km
water: 18,120 sq km

Land boundaries:

total: 2,462 km
border countries: Brazil 1,119 km, Suriname 600 km, Venezuela 743 km


459 km

Maritime claims:

territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the outer edge of the continental margin


tropical; hot, humid, moderated by northeast trade winds; two rainy seasons (May to August, November to January)


mostly rolling highlands; low coastal plain; savannah in south

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mount Roraima 2,835 m

Natural resources:

bauxite, gold, diamonds, hardwood timber, shrimp, fish

Land use:

arable land: 2.23%
permanent crops: 0.14%
other: 97.63% (2005)

Irrigated land:

1,500 sq km (2003)

Natural hazards:

flash floods are a constant threat during rainy seasons

Environment - current issues:

water pollution from sewage and agricultural and industrial chemicals; deforestation

Geography - note:

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


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 2006 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 26.2% (male 102,551/female 98,772)
15-64 years: 68.6% (male 265,193/female 260,892)
65 years and over: 5.2% (male 17,043/female 22,794) (2006 est.)

Median age:

total: 27.4 years
male: 26.9 years
female: 27.9 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate:

0.25% (2006 est.)

Birth rate:

18.28 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate:

8.28 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate:

-7.49 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.75 male(s)/female
total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 32.19 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 35.8 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 28.4 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 65.86 years
male: 63.21 years
female: 68.65 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate:

2.04 children born/woman (2006 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

2.5% (2003 est.)

people living with HIV/AIDS:

11,000 (2003 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

1,100 (2003 est.)


noun: Guyanese (singular and plural)
adjective: Guyanese

Ethnic groups:

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


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


English, Amerindian dialects, Creole, Hindi, Urdu


definition: age 15 and over has ever attended school
total population: 98.8%
male: 99.1%
female: 98.5% (2003 est.)

Country name:

conventional long form: Co-operative Republic of Guyana
conventional short form: Guyana
former: British Guiana

Government type:

republic within the Commonwealth



Administrative divisions:

10 regions; Barima-Waini, Cuyuni-Mazaruni, Demerara-Mahaica, East Berbice-Corentyne, Essequibo Islands-West Demerara, Mahaica-Berbice, Pomeroon-Supenaam, Potaro-Siparuni, Upper Demerara-Berbice, Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo


26 May 1966 (from UK)

National holiday:

Republic Day, 23 February (1970)


6 October 1980

Legal system:

based on English common law with certain admixtures of Roman-Dutch law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction


18 years of age; universal

Legislative branch:

unicameral National Assembly (65 members elected by popular vote, also not more than four non-elected non-voting ministers and two non-elected non-voting parliamentary secretaries appointed by the president; members serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 19 March 2001 (next to be held by 4 August 2006)
election results: percent of vote by party - PPP/C 52.9%, PNC/R 41.9%, GAP/WPA 2.4%, ROAR 0.9%, TUF 0.7%, other 1.2%; seats by party - PPP/C 34, PNC/R 27, GAP/WPA 2, ROAR 1, TUF 1

Judicial branch:

Supreme Court of Judicature, consisting of the High Court and the Judicial Court of Appeal, with right of final appeal to the Caribbean Court of Justice

Economy - 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 slowed in 2003 and came back gradually in 2004, buoyed largely by increased export earnings; it slowed again in 2005. 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 from restructuring and partial privatization. Export earnings from agriculture and mining have fallen sharply, while the import bill has risen, driven by higher energy prices. Guyana's entrance into the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) in January 2006 might broaden the country's export market, primarily in the raw materials sector.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$2.895 billion (2005 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):

$779 million (2005 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

-2.5% (2005 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$3,800 (2005 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 36.8%
industry: 20.2%
services: 43% (2005 est.)

Labor force:

418,000 (2001 est.)

Unemployment rate:

9.1% (understated) (2000)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

5.5% (2005 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):

36.2% of GDP (2005 est.)


revenues: $320.1 million
expenditures: $362.6 million; including capital expenditures of $93.4 million (2005 est.)

Agriculture - products:

sugarcane, rice, wheat, vegetable oils; beef, pork, poultry, dairy products; fish, shrimp


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

Electricity - production:

779 million kWh (2003)

Electricity - consumption:

724.5 million kWh (2003)

Oil - consumption:

11,300 bbl/day (2003 est.)

Current account balance:

-$92.72 million (2005 est.)


$587.2 million f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Exports - commodities:

sugar, gold, bauxite/alumina, rice, shrimp, molasses, rum, timber

Exports - partners:

Canada 23.2%, US 19.2%, UK 10.9%, Portugal 9.1%, Belgium 6.4%, Jamaica 5.2% (2004)


$681.6 million f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Imports - commodities:

manufactures, machinery, petroleum, food

Imports - partners:

Trinidad and Tobago 24.8%, US 24.5%, Cuba 6.8%, UK 5.4% (2004)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$248.8 million (2005 est.)

Debt - external:

$1.2 billion (2002)

Economic aid - recipient:

$84 million (1995), Heavily Indebted Poor Country Initiative (HIPC) $253 million (1997)

Currency (code):

Guyanese dollar (GYD)

Fiscal year:

calendar year

Telephones - main lines in use:

102,700 (2004)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

104,600 (2004)

Telephone system:

general assessment: fair system for long-distance service
domestic: microwave radio relay network for trunk lines
international: country code - 592; tropospheric scatter to Trinidad; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean)

Radio broadcast stations:

AM 3, FM 3, shortwave 1 (1998)

Television broadcast stations:

3 (one public station; two private stations which relay US satellite services) (1997)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

914 (2005)

Internet users:

145,000 (2005)


69 (2005)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 8
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
under 914 m: 5 (2005)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 61
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 12
under 914 m: 47 (2005)


total: 187 km
standard gauge: 139 km 1.435-m gauge
narrow gauge: 48 km 0.914-m gauge
note: all dedicated to ore transport (2001 est.)


total: 7,970 km
paved: 590 km
unpaved: 7,380 km (1999)


Berbice, Demerara, and Essequibo rivers are navigable by oceangoing vessels for 150 km, 100 km, and 80 km respectively (2005)

Merchant marine:

total: 7 ships (1000 GRT or over) 11,031 GRT/12,899 DWT
by type: cargo 6, refrigerated cargo 1
foreign-owned: 1 (Germany 1)
registered in other countries: 4 (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 3, unknown 1) (2005)

Ports and terminals:


Military branches:

Guyana Defense Force: Ground Forces, Coast Guard, Air Corps, Guyana People's Militia

Disputes - international:

all of the area west of the Essequibo (river) is claimed by Venezuela preventing any discussion of a maritime boundary; Guyana has expressed its intention to join Barbados in asserting claims before UNCLOS that Trinidad and Tobago's maritime boundary with Venezuela extends into their waters; Suriname claims a triangle of land between the New and Kutari/Koetari rivers in a historic dispute over the headwaters of the Courantyne; Guyana seeks arbitration under provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to resolve the long-standing dispute with Suriname over the axis of the territorial sea boundary in potentially oil-rich waters

Illicit drugs:

transshipment point for narcotics from South America - primarily Venezuela - to Europe and the US; producer of cannabis; rising money laundering related to drug trafficking and human smuggling