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Executive Summary

Guyana is located on South America’s North Atlantic coast, bordering Venezuela, Suriname, and Brazil, and is the only English-speaking country on the continent. Guyana became an oil producing nation in 2019 and, with a population of 782,766, is poised to dramatically increase its per capita wealth. While it is currently the third poorest country in the western hemisphere, Guyana’s economy grew by 43.5 percent in 2020, the only country in the Caribbean to register positive GDP growth. Guyana’s gross domestic product (GDP) is projected to grow by 16.4 percent in 2021 with inflation expected to hover around 2 percent. The Government of Guyana (GoG) is taking steps to diversify the economy way from production of commodities such as gold, bauxite, rice and sugar, towards value added industries and services. The United States has been Guyana’s largest trading partner since 2019.

Guyana emerged from a 20-month extra-constitutional and electoral crisis on August 2, 2020 when opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) coalition presidential candidate Irfaan Ali was elected as president. This crisis began with a no-confidence vote in the National Assembly in December 2018 that brought down the then-ruling A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) coalition government. Subsequent to the vote, protracted litigation over the no-confidence motion and contested March 2020 national elections ended with certification of the PPP/C coalition victory and Ali’s swearing-in.

Despite global economic headwinds due to COVID-19, Guyana’s nascent oil production made it the fastest growing economy in the world while non-oil and gas GDP contracted by 6 percent. Guyana reopened its borders in October 2020 to all countries so long as travelers present a negative COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test obtained within 72 hours of their travel to Guyana.

Guyana’s medium-term prospects remain positive with the discovery of vast oil reserves in Guyana’s waters that will provide decades of substantial oil revenues. The GoG plans to overhaul the regulatory framework governing its sovereign wealth fund and has yet to tap into the fund, which is held at the New York Federal Reserve Bank. The National Budget of 2021 prioritizes education, health, infrastructure, and agriculture.

The Government of Guyana (GoG) actively encourages foreign direct investment (FDI) and offers tax concessions for priority projects through the Guyana Office for Investment (GO-INVEST). According to the Bank of Guyana’s Half Year Report for 2020, Guyana’s FDI increased from $826.4 million to $834.7 million. The growth in FDI was fueled mainly by developments within the oil and gas sector and its support industries. The GoG plans to table local content legislation before parliament in the first half of 2021. Until the details of this legislation are made publicly available the impact on oil and gas companies investing in Guyana remains unknown.

As of April 2021, the ExxonMobil-led consortium (which includes Hess and the China National Offshore Oil Company) drilling offshore has achieved an 80 percent success rate for its exploratory wells. In March 2021, Exxon announced that it now estimates the Guyana Suriname basin has a basin potential of twice the discovered resources, more than 18 billion barrels of oil.

Guyana offers foreign and domestic investors investment opportunities in agriculture, oil and gas, construction, wholesale and retail, health, transportation, and agro-processing. Opportunities exist within the services sector such as renewable energy, business process outsourcing (BPO), call centers, information technology services, hospitality, and tourism. Guyana is the only English-speaking country in South America, creating unique potential for call centers and other service industries.

The GoG is revising its Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), which serves as its overarching strategy guiding document for government priorities. The GoG’s 2021 priorities include a focus on agriculture, supporting emerging and value-added industries, improving the business climate, investing in sea defenses, and transitioning to renewable energy using gas as a transition fuel. One key concern remains high crime rates. Guyana also ranked 134 out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s 2020 report on Ease of Doing Business. President Ali committed to improving the country’s Ease of Doing Business ranking by establishing a single window business registration system, reducing energy costs and facilitate faster approvals for permits.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 83 of 180
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 134 of 190
Global Innovation Index 2020 N/A
U.S. FDI in partner country 2015 USD 178 million
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 6,630

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Compared to responsible business conduct (RBC) norms in North America and Europe, Guyana-based businesses lag in adopting RBC policies and activities. Most companies conform to their business responsibilities outlined by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), including human rights and labor rights, information disclosure, environment, bribery, consumer interests, science and technology, competition, and taxation. Guyana’s laws align with the guidelines for RBC by the OECD. Despite these improvements, Guyana has human rights concerns, especially involving child labor in outlying regions.

Local companies have improved RBC as firms react to increased levels of competition, partly to compete or subcontract with companies in the oil and gas sector that emphasize it.  Guyanese consumers are increasingly aware of RBC principles as the population becomes more sensitized. The GoG has expressed hope that large multinational companies will lead the way on RBC practices, setting an example for smaller local firms to follow, particularly in the extractive industries sector.  Guyana joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) as a candidate country in October 2017.  Guyana is not a signatory of the Montreux Document.

Additional Resources

Department of State

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

The law provides criminal penalties for corrupt practices by public officials. The relevant laws enacted include the Integrity Commission Act, State Assets Recovery Act, and the Audit Act. Several media outlets reported on government corruption in recent years and it remains a significant public concern.  Guyana has regulations to counter conflict of interests in the award of contracts. There are instances where the previous administration engaged in those practices, and it remains to be seen if the current administration will continue the trend; new administrations often seek legal action against members of previous administrations based on charges of fraudulent dealings. Media and civil society organizations continued to criticize the government for being slow to prosecute corruption cases.  The government passed legislation in 1997 that requires public officials to disclose their assets to an Integrity Commission prior to assuming office.  There are no significant compliance programs to detect bribery of government officials.

Widespread concerns remain about inefficiencies and corruption regarding the awarding of contracts, particularly with respect to concerns of collusion and non-transparency.  In his 2020 annual report, the Auditor General noted continuous disregard for the procedures, rules, and the laws that govern public procurement system.  There were reports of overpayments of contracts and procurement breaches.  Nevertheless, the country has made some improvements. According to Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), Guyana ranked 83 out of 180 countries for perceptions of corruption, falling 2 spots in comparison to 2019.

Companies interested in doing business in Guyana may contact a “watchdog” organization (international, regional, local nongovernmental organization operating in the country/economy that monitors corruption, such as Transparency International) for more information:

Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc.
157 Waterloo Street
Second Floor Private Sector Commission Building
North Cummingsburg
+592 231 9586 

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