During the 1970s, large parts of Guyana’s business were nationalized, such as the mining and sugar industries that dominated for many years. However, economic problems in the form of rising oil prices and falling bauxite and sugar prices led to the country facing economic collapse in the late 1980s.
In 1989, a reform program was devised to privatize business and encourage foreign investment. Despite some sluggishness in the reform work, the economy improved, and growth increased during the 1990s. During the 00s, the positive development continued, mainly due to high world market prices for the country’s export goods. In 2005, the country was hit by floods that caused major damage to agriculture.
Only 2 percent of the land area is cultivated, but agriculture still accounts for 19 percent of employment and 40 percent of exports through the two most important crops, sugar and rice. Agriculture is fairly mechanized. Sugar accounts for almost 30 percent of the country’s exports and is grown mainly on large plantations, while rice predominates on small family farms. Otherwise, the most important products are poultry, coconuts, fruits and vegetables. About 5 percent of the area is pasture, which is used for breeding cattle, sheep and pigs.
Minerals, energy and industry
For many years, bauxite was the most important mineral resource. Despite a significant reduction in production in the 1980s and 1990s, it still forms the basis for large parts of the industry. In addition, during the late 00s, some recovery of bauxite production could be noticed. The most important mining areas are around Linden and in the vicinity of Kwakwani, about 60 km southeast of Linden, on the Barbice River. Since the mid-1990s, gold production has grown significantly in importance and now gold accounts for a large part of export earnings. Until the mid-1990s, gold mining was conducted by large companies, but now it is often run by small and medium-sized companies or by individual gold miners. Diamond production is also important.
The rich water energy resources in the country’s interior are only used to a small extent, but are nevertheless of great importance for electricity generation and the mineral industry. However, most of the energy consumption is covered by imports of oil and oil products (these imports correspond to almost half of total imports).
In 2013, the industry (including the mining and energy industry) accounted for 38 percent of GDP. The bauxite industry dominates, but there are also lighter industries that process agricultural products, such as breweries, tobacco industries and rum manufacturers.
The country normally has a trade deficit. According to Countryaah, the most important export goods are gold, sugar, rice and bauxite. Most of the imports consist of machinery and other industrial products as well as oil products. The most important trading partners are the United States and Canada, as well as Trinidad and Tobago.
Tourism and gastronomy
Until the 1990s, tourism played a minor role in Guyana. In addition to being in the capital Georgetown, hotels and tourist facilities were few, transport opportunities were limited and the authorities’ interest in tourism as a source of income was minimal. Conditions have slowly changed, and a development of the tourism industry has taken place. During the 2000s, the number of tourists has slowly increased, and in 2012 the country was visited by 177,000 tourists.
However, bathing vacations or other mass tourism are not relevant, but they mainly focus on so-called ecotourism and adventure trips to the country’s inner parts. There is a rare rich plant and animal life and an exciting nature with, among other things, original rainforests, peculiar plateau mountains, numerous rivers and waterfalls. The Kaieteurfall, with a vertical fall of 226 meters and just over 90 meters wide, is considered one of the world’s most impressive waterfalls. It is surrounded by unspoilt nature in the middle part of the country.
Rice, cassava, coconut, vegetables and fruits, poultry, shrimp, crabs and fish are the main ingredients of a food culture influenced by Creole cuisine, as well as Indian, Native American, Indonesian, African and British cuisine. Genuinely native dishes such as stew on belts or grilled capy bar are still available, as are cassava bars, cassava juice used to flavor pots on mainly chicken meat.