The Country and People
Guyana is a secular state that embodies a multi-ethnic society - East Indians, Africans, Chinese, Portuguese, Europeans and indigenous Amerindians - of approximately 747, 884 inhabitants (2012). Religious affiliation for the Guyanese population breaks down as follows: Christian 54.3%, Hindu 28.8%, Muslim 7.3% and other 5% (2002). Members of different religions cohabit peacefully. English is the official language of Guyana and is the language of education, commerce and government.
Guyana’s total area is approximately 215,000 square kilometres (83,000 square miles), slightly smaller than Great Britain. The country is divided into three counties: Demerara, Essequibo and Berbice and ten administrative regions, with its capital residing in the city of Georgetown. Ninety percent of the population lives on the coastal strip. The Amerindians, Guyana’s indigenous people, mainly inhabit the savannahs and forest regions.
The topography is varied and may be divided into the following four ecological zones:
The Coastal Zone – This is a low, narrow plain about 25 km (15 mile) wide, adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean and occupying about five percent of the country’s land mass. This coastline lies below sea level in parts and is dissected by the estuaries of sixteen major rivers, scores of smaller creeks and countless drainage and irrigation canals. Protected by sea defences, the majority of the population lives here and the zone is the most important administrative, agricultural, commercial and industrial area in the country.
The Hilly Sand and Clay Zone – This 150 to 250 km (90 to 150 miles) wide area lies south of the coastal plain and occupies about 25% of the country’s landmass. The soil supports valuable timber stands and bauxite mines. The sparse population is concentrated among logging and mining centers and a few Amerindian settlements.
The Forested Highland Zone – This zone contains the country’s four major mountain ranges – Acarai, Imataka, Kanuku and Pakaraima, which form part of the greater Guiana Highlands, and includes the richest gold and diamond deposits. Here, the population is sparse, with a few settlements of loggers and miners.
The Interior Savannahs Zone – Comprising 11,655 km2 (4,500 square miles), this zone is made up of dry, gently rolling grassland with clumps of trees and several small villages. Rainfall is moderate but is concentrated in a single, long, rainy season from the end of April to the end of September.
The area of the Guiana’s is believed to have been settled before 900 AD by Warrau Indians, and later by the Arawak and Carib tribes. Sir Walter Raleigh’s voyage in 1595, and his subsequent book on the riches of Guyana, did much to stimulate interest in the area.
The French and English, as well as the Dutch, laid claim to the region in the 17th century, and it was settled in separate areas by the three nations – including the Dutch colony located in what is now Guyana.
From 1781 onwards, British influence became increasingly evident, but it was not until 1814 that the colonies of Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice were finally ceded to Britain. In 1831, the colonies merged to become present day Guyana. The territory attained independence on May 26, 1966 and became a Republic on February 23, 1970.
Guyana is the only English-speaking country on the South American continent.
Investment and Trade
Guyana is an emerging economy with enormous untapped potential. The country’s geographic position as the gateway to the Caribbean and South America, combined with its abundant natural resources, access to key export markers, English-speaking population and affordable labour, present investors with profitable opportunities to do business. These are supported by stable macroeconomic policies, attractive investment incentives, and a regulatory environment and corporate tax regime that do not discriminate against foreign investors.
Guyana is considered one of the most open economies in the Caribbean and has enjoyed steady export growth since 2000. CARICOM (Caribbean Community), E.U., Canada and the U.S. continue to be Guyana’s primary export markets; while regional and bilateral trade agreements - including those involving CARICOM - with countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela, present opportunities to diversify markets. Through its trade agreements and geographic proximity, Guyana enjoys easy access to 277 million consumers. And an export market in excess of US130 billion with an overall purchasing power of over US2 trillion.
Guyana has achieved remarkable progress in its efforts to open its economy through market-oriented reforms and improvements in the investment climate, while at the same time stabilizing inflation, reducing fiscal and balance of payments deficits, and strengthening infrastructure, health services and the education system.
While Guyana’s traditional export products (e. g. sugar, rice, bauxite, gold and timber) continue to enjoy robust growth, Guyana’s non-traditional exports (e. g. value-added wood products, non-traditional agricultural products, seafood and light manufacturing) are becoming increasingly important sources of export earnings.
Investment Incentives – In order to facilitate investment, the Government of Guyana provides an array of across-the-board investment incentives, including a flat business tax rate, tax holidays, waivers of customs duties, export tax allowances, and unrestricted repatriation of capital, dividends and profits, as well as additional incentives in the sectors listed above.
The Guyana Office for Investment (Go-Invest) is the country’s main export promotion agency and the prime contact for investors, to facilitate the investment process and expedite applications for investment concessions and government support. Go-Invest’s activities, complemented by those of sector-specific agencies and organizations, provide investors with the information, support and advocacy needed to capitalize on Guyana’s opportunities.
GUYANA OFFICE FOR INVESTMENT
190 Camp & Church Streets
Tel: (592) 227-0653/4 or (592) 225 0658
Fax: (592) 225 0655