Nation at a Glance - Guyana

History

Originally a Dutch colony in the 17th century, by 1815 Guyana had become a British possession. The abolition of slavery led to settlement of urban areas by former slaves and the importation of indentured servants from India to work the sugar plantations. The resulting 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, Janet JAGAN, became president but resigned in 1999 due to poor health. Her successor, Bharrat JAGDEO, was reelected in 2001 and again in 2006. Early elections held in May 2015 resulted in the replacement of President Donald RAMOTAR by David GRANGER.

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

Border Countries: Brazil 1,308 km, Suriname 836 km, Venezuela 789 km

Total Area: 214,969 sq km Land: 196,849 sq km Water: 18,120 sq km

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

Terrain: Mostly rolling highlands; low coastal plain; savanna in south

Natural resources: Bauxite, gold, diamonds, hardwood timber, shrimp, fish

Land use: Agricultural land: 8.4% arable land 2.1%; permanent crops 0.1%; permanent pasture 6.2% Forest: 77.4% Other: 14.2% (2011 est.)

Ethnic groups: East Indian 43.5%, Black (African) 30.2%, Mixed 16.7%, Amerindian 9.1%, Other 0.5% (includes Portuguese, Chinese, white) (2002 est.)

Languages: English (official), Guyanese Creole, Amerindian languages (including Caribbean and Arawak languages), Indian languages (including Caribbean Hindustani, a dialect of Hindi), Chinese (2014 est.)

Religions: Protestant 30.5% (Pentecostal 16.9%, Anglican 6.9%, Seventh Day Adventist 5%, Methodist 1.7%), Hindu 28.4%, Roman Catholic 8.1%, Muslim 7.2%, Jehovah's Witness 1.1%, other Christian 17.7%, Other 1.9%, None 4.3%, Unspecified 0.9% (2002 est.)

Population: 735,909

Literacy: 88.5%; Male: 87.2%; Female: 89.8% (2015 est.)

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

Economy: The Guyanese economy exhibited moderate economic growth in recent years and is based largely on agriculture and extractive industries. The economy is heavily dependent upon the export of six commodities - sugar, gold, bauxite, shrimp, timber, and rice - which represent nearly 60% of the country's GDP and are highly susceptible to adverse weather conditions and fluctuations in commodity prices. Much of Guyana's growth in recent years has come from a surge in gold production in response to global prices, although downward trends in gold prices may threaten future growth. In 2014, production of sugar dropped to a 24-year low.Guyana's entrance into the Caricom Single Market and Economy in January 2006 has broadened the country's export market, primarily in the raw materials sector. Guyana has experienced positive growth almost every year over the past decade. Inflation has been kept under control. Recent years have seen the government's stock of debt reduced significantly - with external debt now less than half of what it was in the early 1990s. Despite recent improvements, the government is still juggling a sizable external debt against the urgent need for expanded public investment. In March 2007, the Inter-American Development Bank, Guyana's principal donor, canceled Guyana's nearly $470 million debt, equivalent to 21% of GDP, which along with other Highly Indebted Poor Country debt forgiveness, brought the debt-to-GDP ratio down from 183% in 2006 to 67% in 2015. Guyana had become heavily indebted as a result of the inward-looking, state-led development model pursued in the 1970s and 1980s.Chronic problems include a shortage of skilled labor and a deficient infrastructure.

Agriculture - products: Sugarcane, rice, edible oils; beef, pork, poultry; shrimp, fish

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

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