Guyana is an amazing blend of the Caribbean and South America.
The name Guyana is an Amerindian word meaning “Land of Many Waters”.
Guyana is divided into three counties: Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice; four geographical/natural regions: the interior savannahs, the highland region, the hilly sand and clay area and the low coastal plain; and 10 administrative regions.
Guyana is bordered by Suriname to the east; by Brazil to the south and southwest; by Venezuela to the west; and by the Atlantic Ocean to the north. At 215,000 square kilometers (83,000 sq. mi), Guyana is the third-smallest independent state on the mainland of South America after Uruguay and Suriname. Its population is approximately 770,000, consisting of six (6) ethnic groups – Amerindian, African, East Indian, Portuguese, European and Chinese. Guyana, a member state of the Commonwealth of Nations, is the only South American nation whose official language is English. The main economic activities in Guyana are agriculture (production of rice and Demerara sugar), bauxite mining, gold mining, timber, shrimp fishing and minerals.
In May 2015, ExxonMobil announced a significant oil discovery on the Stabroek Block offshore Guyana. The gross recoverable reserves for the Stabroek block are 3.2 billion barrels of oil-equivalent, making it one of the most significant global finds in recent years. These discoveries have de-risked the basin, which is estimated to contain at least 7 billion oil-equivalent barrels and has resulted in the significant ramping up of exploration activities in other already-allocated off-shore blocs.
Production starts in 2020
Guyana was initially colonized by the Netherlands in the 17th Century. However, by 1814 it became a British colony and remained so for over 200 years until it achieved independence on May 26, 1966. On 23 February 1970, Guyana officially became a Republic.
The original ‘Guiana’ was inhabited by semi-nomadic Amerindian tribes, notably the Arawaks and Caribs. Colonial competition for territory began with Spain’s sighting in 1499. Later came the Dutch then the British, French and Portuguese. The British rule imported African slaves to develop their plantations, first of tobacco and later sugar, and to labour on constructing the coastal drainage system and the elegant city of Georgetown. On February 23, 1763, there was an uprising that was considered the first true attempt by slaves to fight for their freedom. During the revolt, a household slave named Cuffy from plantation Lilienburg, quickly assumed a leading role in the rebellion and organized many riots against plantations owners. The uprising lasted for more than a year before the Dutch were able to overcome the slaves.
The abolition of slavery on 1st August 1834 led to a settlement of urban areas by former slaves and the importation of indentured servants from India to work the sugar plantations. On May 5, 1838, 396 Indians arrived in British Guiana on two sailing ships, the Whitby and the Hesperus. This Indentureship ended in 1917.
In recent years, Guyana’s economy has shown moderate economic growth and is dominated by the extractive industries, such as gold and bauxite mining, and agriculture, which is concentrated largely on the alluvial belt along the coast. Commodities such as sugar, gold, bauxite, timber, shrimp and rice represent nearly 60% of the country’s GDP, however, in recent years there has been growth due to a surge in gold production. In January 2006, Guyana’s entrance into the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) has expanded the country’s export market, primarily in the raw materials sector. During the first half of 2017, Guyana’s economy has recorded real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 2.2 percent, which was mainly driven by the expansion of the agriculture, fishing, and forestry sectors. The manufacturing, construction, and service sectors also made significant contributions. Growth in the agriculture, fishing, and forestry sector was led by expansion in the rice and fishing industries attributable to favourable international prices, strong demand, and entry into new markets. Non-sugar growth declined from 3.1 percent, in the first half of 2016, to 2.4 percent during the same period in 2017. Other updated statistics include:
- GDP (purchasing power parity): $6.367 billion (2017 est.)
- GDP – real growth rate:5% (2017 est.)
- GDP – per capita (PPP): $8,300 (2017 est.)
- Gross national saving:8% of GDP (2017 est.)
- Inflation rate (consumer prices): 2.3% (2017 est.)
- Exports: $1.474 billion (2017 est.)
- Imports: $1.776 billion (2017 est.)
In 2020, Guyana could see substantial revenues from its Stabroek Block as ExxonMobil begins first production of oil offshore Guyana. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts that Guyana’s growth rate is expected to jump from 3.5 percent between 2017 to 38.5 percent in 2021. The current account is projected to run a persistent surplus, with a significant increase in official reserves and a gradual decline of the public debt-to-GDP ratio.
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Guyana at a glance
|Location||North Atlantic coast of South America, between latitudes 1 and 9 and longitudes 57 and 61.|
|Neighbouring countries||Suriname to the east, Brazil to the south and southwest, and Venezuela to the west.|
|Climate Tropical||Coast wet season mid-November to mid-January and May to mid-July; interior wet season May to end of August; short rains December; rest of year generally dry. Average temperature 27.5˚C; coastland ranges from 18 to 34˚C; interior ranges from 18 to 40˚C|
|Status||Republic within Commonwealth|
|Population||769,141 (2010 est.)|
|Capital||Georgetown (population 170,000)|
|Other main towns/villages||Linden, New Amsterdam, Rose Hall, Anna Regina, Bartica, Lethem|
|Regions||10 Administrative Regions|
|Counties||Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice|
|Economy||Agriculture, timber, fishing, mining|
|GDP||USD 3.7 billion (2017, estimate)|
|Languages||English (official), Creole, Amerindian dialects, Hindi, Urdu|
|Religion||Christian, Hindu, Muslim|
|Currency||Guyana dollar (G$) (for up-to-date rates, go to www.xe.com)|
|National airport||Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA)|
|Electrical voltage||110V in Georgetown and lodges; 220V in most other places; three-pin ‘American-style’ plugs|
|Weights and measures||Metric|
|Flag||Green background with red isosceles triangle with left border on left side superimposed on a long, yellow arrowhead with white border|
|National anthem||Dear Land of Guyana|
|National flower||Victoria Amazonica|
|Public holidays||1 January, 23 February (Republic Day and Mashramani), Good Friday, Easter Monday, 1 May (Labour Day), 5 May (Indian Arrival Day), 26 May (Independence Day), first Monday in July (CARICOM Day), 1 August (Emancipation Day), 25 December, 26 December|
The literacy rate in Guyana is 91.8% (CIA World Factbook). The Government of Guyana provides free public education to all Guyanese from the age of 3 years and six months to early adulthood. This provision represents the government’s conviction that education is a priority in raising the standard of living of the people of Guyana. Even though tuition fees must be paid for University education, student loans are available. Education, through the school system, is administered and supervised by the Ministry of Education. The Ministry has a political head – the Minister of Education, who is held responsible for education policy and administration in the country and is a member of the Parliament.
The school system comprises of:
- Preschool/Nursery Education
Nursery schools offer a two-year early childhood programme to all children acquiring the age of three years and one month. This level of education is not compulsory, but each Guyanese child is guaranteed a place in school. Parents may choose not to send their children to nursery schools. There are more than 350 schools with over 26,000 children.
- Primary Education (Elementary)
Primary schools accept children who attain the age of five years and nine months and provide a six-year programme leading to entrance in a secondary school programme. This level of education is, by law, compulsory hence parents can be deemed negligent if a child older than five years and nine months is not enrolled and does not attend school. The students are evaluated through a series of periodic assessments so that they might gain entrance to Secondary Schools.
- Secondary Education (High School)
Secondary schools offer three types of programmes for children who have completed Primary School and taken the SSEE. The programmes are referred to as: The Community High School, the Multilateral High School and the General Secondary School. Entrance to these programmes is solely dependent on the student’s performance score on the SSEE. Students undergo a four-year programme. During the first two years, they are exposed to basic academic studies, i.e., English Language, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, Health and Physical Education and Music, and pre-vocational activities such as Art and Craft, Agriculture, Home Economics and Industrial Arts and vocational activities needed in the community.
- Special Education
The Government provides programmes of study for children and adults who have special needs in the areas of the handicapped and mentally deficient. Some young children are taught job-related skills and helped to find suitable employment.
- Vocational Education
Provision for this level of education is shared by both the government and the private sector. The government provides training programmes in several vocational fields including commerce, home economics, automotive mechanics, agro-studies, business, engineering, architecture and other technical fields. The schools under the administration of the government are the Government Technical Institutes, Government Industrial Training Colleges, the Guyana School of Agriculture and the Carnegie School of Home Economics.
- Teacher Education
There are two Teacher-training institutions in Guyana which provide
pre-service training for primary school teachers and lower-form secondary levels, and post-graduate diploma courses for teachers at both primary and secondary levels. These institutions are the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE) and the University of Guyana. More than 500 Teachers are trained annually at Government’s expense at the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE).
The University of Guyana offers courses of study which lead to the Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts, Fine Arts, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, Education and Forestry, Technology and Law. The University also offers a Master’s Degree in History. There are Diploma programmes in Public Administration, Medical Technology, and Social Work. A Medical School is also operated by the University.
- Continuing Education
There are two adult education programmes. One operates under the auspices of the University, and the other is under the Adult Education Association which collaborates with and receives funding from the Ministry of Education. The programmes aim at upgrading adult skills and knowledge which may lead to acquiring the necessary entrance qualifications for the University of Guyana or Universities overseas.
For Further information visit Ministry of Education
Guyana’s ethnically diversified culture reflects the traditions of Amerindians, Europeans, Africans, East Indians, Chinese, and Portuguese. Guyana is also linguistically and religiously diverse. Although the official language is English, Creole, Hindi, Urdu and Amerindian dialects are also spoken, while 50% of people are Christian, 33% Hindu and less than 10% Muslim. The main cultural events in Guyana include:
- Deepavali (Diwali)
- Folk Festival
Music, Visual Arts and Literature
Guyana’s musical tradition is a mix of Indian, African, European, and native elements. Pop music includes American, Caribbean (reggae, calypso, chutney), Brazilian and other Latin musical styles. Popular Guyanese performers include Terry Gajraj, Mark Holder, Eddy Grant, Dave Martin & the Tradewinds, Aubrey Cummings and Nicky Porter. Among the most successful Guyanese record producers are Rohit Jagessar, Eddy Grant, Terry Gajraj and Dave Martin.
Art takes many forms in Guyana, but its dominant themes are Amerindians, the ethnic diversity of the population and the physical beauty of Guyana. Popular artists include Stanley Greaves, Ronald Savory, Philip Moore and the late Aubrey Williams.Popular Guyanese authors included Wilson Harris, Jan Carew, Denis Williams and E. R. Braithwaite. Braithwaite’s memoir, “To Sir With Love”, details his experiences as a black high school teacher in a white London slum. Edgar Mittelholzer is well known outside of Guyana for such novels as Corentyne Thunder and a three-part novel known as the Kaywana trilogy, which focused on one family through 350 years of Guyana’s history.
Theatre and Film
The beginnings of theatre in 19th century Georgetown was European in nature. In the early 20th century there was an emergence of new African and Indian Guyanese middle-class theatre. In the 1950s there was an explosion of an ethnically diverse and socially committed theatre. There was a struggle to maintain theatre post-1980 despite an economic depression. Serious repertory theatre was highlighted by Carifesta and the Theatre Guild of Guyana.
Wordsworth McAndrew has been prominent in Guyanese theatre since the 1960s.
Guiana 1838, a film by the U.S. based award-winning Guyanese born director Rohit Jagessar, is the historic epic film depicting the abolition of slavery in British Guiana (now Guyana) indentured Indian servants on their first arrival to the Caribbean in 1838. Guiana 1838 was released on September 24, 2004 when it scored the highest screen average of all movies released that weekend at the North American box office.
Guyanese cuisine is enriched by traditional foods from every ethnic group in the country. These dishes have been adapted to Guyanese tastes, often by the addition of spices.
Favourite dishes include pepper pot, a stew made with bitter cassava juice, meat, hot pepper and seasoning; roti and curry; garlic pork; cassava bread; chow mein and “cook up”, a one-pot meal which can include any favourite meats. Popular homemade drinks are mauby, made from the bark of a tree; sorrel drink, made from a leafy vegetable used in salads; and ginger beer, made from ginger root.
Over 400 Guyanese recipes are listed at Guyana Outpost: http://www.guyanaoutpost.com/guyana.shtml.
Tourism and World Heritage
Guyana, the 4th smallest country on the continent of South America, sits on the coast bordered by Venezuela, Brazil, Suriname and the Atlantic Ocean. It is the only country on the continent that has English as its national language and as such it is the gateway for the rest of the English-speaking world to this region. Guyana is promoted for tourism under the tag “Guyana – South America Undiscovered” for this very reason.
Covering a land surface of 83,000 sq. miles of which more than 70% remains virgin rainforest, the Amazon is home to a wealth of flora and fauna. Guyana has one of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world and its eco-tourism potential remains incomparable. The tumbling 741 feet waterfall, Kaieteur, is one of the world’s most inspiring natural wonders. Kaieteur is amongst one of the 300 waterfalls that can be found in Guyana and is the longest single drop waterfall in the world, five times the size of Niagara. Guyana is home to more than 750 species of birds such as the toucan, the harpy eagle, and the hoatzin. Giant animals such as the sloths, caimans, manatees, anteaters, boas, turtles and river the otters just to name a few.
Proceeding out of the jungle and onwards to Georgetown the capital city, home to most of the population, the experience is quite different. There are lots to do that can appeal to a variety of interests such as, visiting the gardens, the museum, a factory tour or shopping along regent street into Stabroek Market which is known as the main shopping district. A city tour can be done by air or on land where one will be taken to monuments, buildings and site of historical significance to Guyana. Included on these city tours are places proposed for listing under UNESCO Heritage such as:
- The City Hall
- Fort Zeelandia (including the Court of Policy)
- Georgetown’s Plantation Structure and Historic Buildings
- Shell Beach (Almond Beach)
- Georges Anglican Cathedral
Guyana offers the party and flare of the Caribbean on one hand with the peace and tranquility of nature on the other.
The major sports in Guyana are cricket (Guyana is part of the West Indies as defined for international cricket purposes), softball cricket (beach cricket) and football. The minor sports in Guyana are netball, athletics, rounders, lawn tennis, basketball, table tennis, boxing, squash, motor racing (GMRSC), rugby, and a few others. Guyana hosted international cricket matches as part of the 2007 Cricket World Cup. A brand new 15,000 seat-stadium, Providence Stadium, also referred to as Guyana National Stadium, was built in time for the World Cup, and was ready for the beginning of play on 28 March. History was made on that date at the first international game of CWC 2007 held at the stadium when Lasith Malinga of the Sri Lanka team performed a helmet trick, or double hat-trick (four wickets in four consecutive deliveries).
Everest Cricket Club – http://eccgy.com/
Guyana Football Federation – https://www.gffonline.com/
Government and Politics
The Constitution of Guyana is the republic’s supreme law and spells out the powers and branches of the government. Guyana is governed by three separate, but complementary, branches of Government: The Legislature (National Assembly), the Executive (President, Cabinet and Government Departments) and the Judiciary (Courts). In brief:
- The Legislature (parliament consists of the President and the National Assembly) is the most important branch of the Government that makes the laws, including the highest law in the country, the Constitution. It can also change and amends laws. The President is not a member of the National Assembly but has the power to attend and address the Assembly at any time. The President must assent to a bill passed by the National Assembly before the bill becomes law.
- The Executive branch governs Guyana. The President is the Head of State, the supreme executive authority and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Guyana. The President appoints the Prime Minister and other Ministers and assigns responsibilities to them. The Cabinet consists of the President, the Prime Minister and other Ministers appointed to it by the President. It aids and advises the President in the general direction and control of the Government.
- The Judiciary branch vests its authority in the courts. The courts determine and interpret the law. The courts are independent and impartial and subject only to the Constitution and the law. The Chancellor of the Judiciary is the chief representative of the judicial authority of Guyana. The Supreme Court consists of the Court of Appeal and the High Court.
The power to run the country is divided among the three branches to create a system of checks and balances. Over the years, the Constitution has been amended on several occasions. The constitutional basis for the conduct of the conduct of elections in Guyana since 1964 is by way of a system of proportional representation. According to the Constitution, the President of Guyana is not only the head of government or the head of state, but also the commander-in-chief of the Republic’s armed forces. The Presidency is an elective post where an elected president serves a maximum of two consecutive 5-year terms. In the early post-independence years, the president was elected by the National Assembly and mainly wielded ceremonial powers. However, a 1980 constitutional referendum gave the president executive powers. The President is deputized by the Prime Minister.
On May 11, 2015, there was a regime change in Guyana, where the A Partnership for National Unity and the Alliance for Change coalition (APNU/AFC), led by President David Granger, won the majority of seats in the sixty-five-member Parliament. The outgoing regime, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) is the official opposition. The opposition were in power for 23 years (since 1992).
For Further information visit Parliament of Guyana, Branches of Government