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.
|TI Corruption Perceptions Index||2020||83 of 180||http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview|
|World Bank’s Doing Business Report||2020||134 of 190||http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings|
|Global Innovation Index||2020||N/A||https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator|
|U.S. FDI in partner country||2015||USD 178 million||https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/|
|World Bank GNI per capita||2019||6,630||http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD|
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
The GoG recognizes foreign direct investment (FDI) as critical for growing and diversifying the Guyanese economy. Guyanese law does not discriminate against foreign investors. Shortly after being sworn in, President Ali committed to institute an electronic single window application process to expedite business registration, permitting, and improve the country’s Ease of Doing Business ranking. The GoG has prioritized investments in the following sectors: agriculture, agro-processing, light manufacturing, renewable energy, tourism and information and communications technology (ICT). The Guyana Office for Investment (GO-INVEST) is the GoG’s primary vehicle for promoting FDI opportunities and assisting foreign corporations with their business registrations and applying for tax concessions. Companies and investors are encouraged to do their due diligence and have robust business plans completed before approaching GOINVEST.
The GoG expects to table local content legislation before Parliament in the second quarter of 2021, which will set baseline requirements for foreign firms to hire Guyanese and establish taxation standards to foster greater local participation in the oil and gas sector. The aim of this legislation is to promote long term investments in Guyana, build local capacity, and avoid the resource curse.
Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
Guyana’s constitution protects the rights of foreigners to own property in Guyana. Foreign and domestic firms possess the right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of commerce. Private entities are governed by the 1991 Companies Act (amended in 1995) under which they have the right to establish business enterprises and are free to acquire or dispose of interest in accordance with the law. Some key sectors like aviation, forestry, banking, mining, and tourism are heavily regulated and require licensing. The process to obtain licenses can be time consuming and may in some instances require ministerial approval.
The GoG prohibits foreign ownership of small-and-medium-scale mining (ASM) concessions. Foreign investors interested in participating in the industry at those levels may establish joint ventures with Guyanese nationals, under which the two parties agree to jointly develop a mining property. However, this type of relationship can carry a high level of risk because arrangements are governed only by private contracts and the sector’s regulatory agency, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), offers little recourse for ASM disputes. The U.S. Embassy strongly encourages investors to thoroughly conduct their due diligence when exploring business opportunities.
Other Investment Policy Reviews
Guyana’s macro-economic fundamentals have remained stable over the past decade. The Ali administration is revising its Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) to balance sustainable development goals with booming oil production. Developmental policies include incentives for priority areas, including education, health, renewable energy, agriculture, and agro-processing.
Government policy focuses on attracting inward FDI. The GoG applies national treatment to all economic activities, except for certain mining operations, although some foreign-owned companies conduct large-scale mining operations in the country. During its first months in office, the Ali administration took actions to improve the business environment such as repealing of taxes on corporate taxes on health, education, and construction materials. Incentives for FDI includes income tax holidays, and tariff and value-added tax (VAT) exemptions.
All companies operating in Guyana must register with the Registrar of Companies. Registration fees are lower for companies incorporated in Guyana than those incorporated abroad. Locally incorporated companies are subjected to a flat fee of approximately $300 and a company incorporated abroad is subject to a fee of approximately $400. Depending on the type of business, registration may take three weeks or more. Newly registered businesses are encouraged to visit the Guyana Revenue Authority and apply for a tax identification number (TIN). If a company employs Guyanese workers, the company must demonstrate compliance with the National Insurance Scheme (social security). Businesses in the sectors requiring specific licenses, such as mining, telecommunications, forestry, and banking must obtain operation licenses from the relevant authorities before commencing operations. Guyana has six municipal authorities which also assess municipal taxes: Anna Regina, Corriverton, Georgetown, Linden, New Amsterdam, and Rosehall.
GO-INVEST advises the GoG on the formulation and implementation of national investment policies and provides facilitation services to foreign investors, particularly in completing administrative formalities, such as commercial registration and applications for land purchases or leases. Under the Status of Aliens Act, foreign and domestic investors have the same rights to purchase and lease land. However, the process to access licensing can be complex and many foreign companies have opted to partner with local companies which may assist with acquiring a license. The Investment Act specifies that there should be no discrimination between foreign and domestic private investors, or among foreign investors from different countries. The authorities maintain that foreign investors have equal access to opportunities arising from privatization of state-owned companies.
While the GoG is focused on attracting inward investment into Guyana, there are no restrictions for domestic investors to invest abroad. GO-INVEST supports Guyanese investors and exporters looking to operate overseas. In 2019, the Natural Resource Fund Act (NRF) was passed which created Guyana’s sovereign wealth fund. The Act provides the Minister of Finance with responsibility for the overall management of the fund. The NRF is currently held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and, as of February 2021, has a balance of $246.5 million from its nascent oil revenues and royalty payments. The Ali administration plans to amend the existing Natural Resource Fund Act and has committed to leave all funds on deposit until a new regulatory framework is adopted. The GoG has not stated an official investment policy for the sovereign wealth fund as of March 2021.
3. Legal Regime
Transparency of the Regulatory System
Legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are consistent with international norms. Guyana is a democratic state and a separation of powers exists among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government.
As captured in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report, bureaucratic procedures are cumbersome, often requiring the involvement of multiple ministries. Investors report having received conflicting messages from various officials, and difficulty determining where the authority for decision-making lies. In the absence of adequate legislation, most decision-making remains centralized. An extraordinary number of issues continue to be resolved in the presidential cabinet, a process that is commonly perceived as opaque and slow. Attempts to reform Guyana’s many bureaucratic procedures have not succeeded in reducing red tape.
International Regulatory Considerations
Guyana has been a World Trade Organization (WTO) member since 1995 and adheres to Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMs) guidelines. Guyana is also a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and is working to harmonize its regulatory systems with the rest of the CARICOM member states. Guyana is a member of the UNFCCC and reduces emissions from deforestation and forest degradation REDD+ initiative.
Guyana has laws on intellectual property rights and patents. However, a lack of enforcement offers few protections in practice and allows for the relatively uninhibited distribution and sale of illegally obtained content.
Legal System and Judicial Independence
Guyana’s legal system is mixed following the combination of civil and common laws. Guyana’s judicial system operates independently from the executive branch. The Caribbean Court of Justice, located in Trinidad and Tobago, is Guyana’s highest court. Registered companies are governed by the Companies Act and contracts are enforced by Guyanese courts or through a mediator. Guyana has a commercial court in its High Court, which has both original and appellate jurisdiction.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
Legislation exists in Guyana to support foreign direct investment, but the enforcement of these regulations continues to be inadequate. The objective of the Investment Act of 2004 and Industries and Aid and Encouragement Act of 1951 is to stimulate socio-economic development by attracting and facilitating foreign investment. Other relevant laws include: the Income Tax Act, the Customs Act, the Procurement Act of 2003, the Companies Act of 1991, the Securities Act of 1998, and the Small Business Act. Regulatory actions are still required for much of this legislation to be effectively implemented. The Companies Act provides special provisions for companies incorporated outside of Guyana called “external companies.” Companies should direct their inquiries about regulations on FDI to GO-INVEST.
Guyana has no known examples of executive interference in the court system that have adversely affected foreign investors. The judicial system is generally perceived to be slow and ineffective in enforcing legal contracts. The 2020 World Bank’s Doing Business Report states that it takes 581 days to enforce a contract in Guyana.
Competition and Antitrust Laws
The Competition Commission of Guyana was established under the 2006 Competition and Fair Trading Act. The Competition and Fair Trading act seeks to promote, maintain, and encourage competition; to prohibit the prevention, restriction, or distortion of competition, the abuse of dominant trade positions; and to promote the welfare and interests of consumers. The Competition Commission and Consumer Affairs Commission (CCAC) is responsible for investigating complaints by agencies and consumers, eliminating anti-competitive agreements, and may institute or participate in proceedings before a Court of Law. For mergers and acquisitions within of the banking sector, the Bank of Guyana has ultimate oversight and approval.
Expropriation and Compensation
The government can expropriate property in the public interest under the 2001 Acquisition of Land for Public Purposes Act, although there are no recent cases of expropriation. There is adequate legislation to promote and protect foreign investment, however, enforcement is often ineffective. Many reports view Guyana’s judicial system as being slow and ineffective in enforcing legal contracts. All companies are encouraged to conduct due diligence and seek appropriate legal counsel for any potential questions prior to doing business in Guyana.
Guyana is a party to the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID Convention). Additionally, Guyana has ratified the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958 New York Convention), which entered into force in December 2014.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
Guyana does not have a bilateral investment treaty with the United States. Negotiations began in 1993 but broke down in 1995. Since then, the two countries have not conducted subsequent negotiations.
Double taxation treaties are in force with Canada (1987), the United Kingdom (1992), and CARICOM (1995). Other double taxation agreements remain under negotiation with India, Kuwait, and the Seychelles. The CARICOM-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement provides for the negotiation of a double taxation agreement, but no significant developments have occurred since March 2009.
There is one ongoing investment dispute involving a U.S. telecommunications company, which previously held a legal monopoly in Guyana, contesting its liability for back taxes.
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
International arbitration decisions are enforceable under the 1931 Arbitration Act of British Guiana, as amended in 1998. The Act is based on the Geneva Convention for the Execution of Foreign Arbitral Awards of 1927. The GoG enforces foreign awards by way of judicial decisions or action, and such awards must be in line with the policies and laws of Guyana.
According to the 2020 World Bank’s Doing Business Report, resolving disputes in Guyana takes 581 days, and on average costs 27 percent of the value of the claim. According to many businesses, suspected corrupt practices and long delays make the courts an unattractive option for settling investment or contractual disputes, particularly for foreign investors unfamiliar with Guyana.
The GoG has set up a Commercial Court to expedite commercial disputes, but this court only has one judge presiding, and companies have reported that it is overwhelmed by a backlog of cases. The Caribbean Court of Justice, based in Trinidad and Tobago, is Guyana’s court of final instance. In practice, most business disputes are settled by mediation which avoids a lengthy court battle and keeps costs low to both parties. Guyanese state-owned enterprises are not widely involved in investor disputes. To date, there are no complaints on the court process relating to judgments involving state owned enterprises.
The 1998 Guyana Insolvency Act provides for the facilitation of insolvency proceedings. The 2004 Financial Institutions Act gives the Central Bank power to take temporary control of financial institutions in trouble. This Act provides legal authority for the Central Bank to take a more proactive role in helping insolvent local banks.
According to data collected by the World Bank Doing Business Report, resolving insolvency in Guyana takes three years on average and costs 28.5% of the debtor’s estate, with the most likely outcome being that the company will be sold piecemeal. The average recovery rate is 18 cents on the dollar. Globally, Guyana ranks 163 out of 190 economies on the Ease of Resolving Insolvency Report.
4. Industrial Policies
Guyana offers an array of incentives to foreign and domestic investors alike in the form of exemption from various taxes, accelerated depreciation rates, full and unrestricted repatriation of capital, profits and dividends. The first point of contact in applying for tax concessions is GO-INVEST. The GoG utilizes investment incentives to advance its broader policy goals, such as boosting research and development, or spurring growth in a particular region.
Information on investment incentives in Guyana can be found on the following websites:
Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation
Guyana does not have free trade zones, however, the GoG is contemplating establishing free trade zones in Lethem, a Guyanese town on the Brazilian border that relies heavily on cross border commerce.
Guyana was the 53rd WTO member and first South American country to ratify the new Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). The WTO Secretariat received Guyana’s instrument of acceptance on November 30, 2015.
Performance and Data Localization Requirements
There are no data localization requirements in Guyana. Foreign investors are not required to establish or maintain a certain amount of data storage within the country. There is no visa requirement for U.S. citizens to visit Guyana. There are no government-imposed conditions to invest. However, if seeking tax concessions, an entity will be bound to an investment agreement.
A requirement to hire locally at least 80 percent of employees is applied equally to domestic and foreign investment projects. This percentage, however, will likely change once the GoG enacts its new local content policy, likely in the second quarter of 2021. Although no explicit government policy exits regarding performance requirements, some are written into contracts with foreign investors and could include the requirement of a performance bond. Some contracts require a certain minimum level of investment. Investors are not required to source locally, nor must they export a certain percentage of output. Foreign exchange is not rationed in proportion to exports, nor are there any requirements for national ownership or technology transfer. There are no requirements for foreign IT providers to provide source code. There are no measures to prevent or restrict companies from transmitting customer or business data. The government agencies involved for local data storage include the National Data Management Authority and the Office of the Prime Minister.
5. Protection of Property Rights
Property rights are enforced but it is often time consuming to determine the rightful owner of a particular plot of land. Ownership of property can be unclear even among government entities and potential investors are encouraged to have a local lawyer review any potential property purchase before executing the deal.
Guyana has a dual registry system of property rights with distinct requirements, processes, and enforcement mechanisms. The two types of registry systems are deeds (regulated by the Deeds and Commercial Registry) and title (regulated by the Land Registry) registries that operate in separate jurisdictions, which in theory helps avoid the problem of double entry and dual registration. Companies often complain about Guyana’s property rights being overly bureaucratic and complex, with opaque regulations that overlap and compete. Some report that this affects the proper allocation, enforcement, and effectiveness of property rights, as well as the efficiency of property-based markets, such as real estate and financial markets (especially primary ones, such as mortgage markets). As previously stated, the judicial system is generally perceived to be slow and ineffective in enforcing legal contracts. The GoG is the country’s largest landowner. Property can be reverted to squatters who have squatted for over 10 years, but in most instances the GoG repossesses the land.
Intellectual Property Rights
Upon independence in 1966, Guyana adopted British law on intellectual property rights (IPR). Guyana’s relevant laws governing intellectual property rights (IPR) are the 1956 Copyright Act and the 1973 Trademark Act and Patents and Design Act. Local contacts report that numerous attempts to pass comprehensive reforms to this legislation have been unsuccessful. However, piecemeal modernization amendments contained in the 2005 Geographic Indication Act, the 2006 Competition and Fair Trading Act, the 2000 Business Names Registration Act, and the 1999 Deeds Registry Authority Act have offered additional protection to local products and companies.
No modern legislation exists to protect the foreign-registered rights of investors. However, investors are encouraged to seek a lawyer to register and/or make an application for intellectual property. In the case of trademarks, registration is done through writing to the registrar, which once accepted after advertisement in the official gazette, the registrar inserts the particulars and issues a registration bearing the seal of the patent office. Guyana joined the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and acceded to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works and the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property in 1994. Guyana has not ratified a bilateral IPR agreement with the United States. The previous government drafted IPR legislation, which has yet to be taken up in Parliament.
Many businesses report that the registration time for a patent or trademark may take in excess of six months. However, there is a lack of effective enforcement to protect intellectual property rights. Patent and trademark infringement are common, as is evident among local television broadcasts of pirated and rebroadcasted TV satellite signals. Guyana has seen seizures of counterfeited food items by the Guyana Foods and Drugs Analyst Department (GFDD). However, the GFDD is severely short staffed and unable to police all commerce effectively. Local news media sources report that piracy of foreign academic textbooks is common. Guyana’s laws have not been amended to fully conform to the requirements of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement.
Guyana is not listed in the U.S. Trade Representative’s 2021 Special 301 Report or its 2020 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy.
6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
Guyana has its own stock market, which is supervised by the Guyana Association of Securities Companies and Intermediaries (GASCI). Dividends earned from the local stock exchange are tax free. Guyana’s local stock market performed well in 2020 with a 15 percent increase in its market capitalization. Credit is available on market terms. The Central Bank respects IMF Article VIII with regard to payments and transfers for international transactions.
Money and Banking System
Guyana relies heavily on cash payments for most financial transactions, but credit cards and mobile payment options are increasingly common. The GoG’s monetary policy remains accommodative, aimed at achieving price stability and controlling liquidity within the economy. The financial sector is regulated by the Bank of Guyana (BOG), the country’s central bank. The BOG is empowered under the 1995 Financial Institutions Act and the Bank of Guyana Act to regulate the financial sector. Under these regulations a bank operating in Guyana must maintain high levels of liquidity and a strong deposit and asset base.
In the middle of 2020, licensed depository financial institutions’ (LDFIs’) capital levels continued to be high, while non-performing loans (NPLs) increased marginally during the first half of 2020. The capital adequacy ratio (CAR) remained well above the prudential benchmark of 8.0 percent at 30.7 percent. The stock of NPLs deteriorated to 10.6 percent of total loans. Stress testing was performed by the Central bank with preliminary results indicating that the banking industry’s and individual institutions’ shock absorptive capacities remained adequate under the various scenarios for foreign currency and liquidity. However, vulnerabilities were observed in the investment and credit portfolios. Guyana’s Banking Stability index strengthened from -0.22 in March 2020 to 0.15 in June 2020 attributed to improvement in liquidity. The commercial banking sector grew by 7.2 percent from March 2019 to March 2020. Foreign banks seeking to open operations in Guyana are encouraged to engage with the Bank of Guyana and GO-INVEST.
Guyana has six commercial banks. Foreign banks can provide domestic services or enter the market with a license from the BoG. There are no restrictions on a foreigner’s ability to establish a bank account.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
The Guyanese Dollar (GYD) is fully convertible and transferable, and generally stable in its value against the U.S. dollar. The Guyana dollar weighted mid-rate, relevant for official transactions, remained constant at GYD 208.50 as at half year 2020. Guyana employs a de jure float exchange rate.
No limits exist on inflows or repatriation of funds. However, regulations require that all persons entering and exiting Guyana declare all currency in excess of $10,000 to customs authorities at the port of entry. It is common practice for foreign investors to use subsidiaries outside of Guyana to handle earnings generated by exports.
There is no limit on the acquisition of foreign currency, although the government limits the amount that several state-owned firms may keep for their own purchases. Regulations on foreign currency denominated bank accounts in Guyana allow funds to be wired in and out of the country electronically without having to go through cumbersome exchange procedures. Foreign companies operating in Guyana have not reported experiencing government-induced difficulties in repatriating earnings in recent years.
Sovereign Wealth Funds
Guyana established a sovereign wealth fund, the Natural Resource Fund (NRF), in 2019, which is governed by the 2019 Natural Resources Act in accordance with the Santiago Principles. In December 2019, the Ministry of Finance and Bank of Guyana signed an operational agreement for the NRF . However, the Ali administration, noting the NRF’s passage under a previous government, has committed to repeal and replace the act to further insulate the NRF from potential political intervention. Until the NRF is amended the GoG does not expect to access the funds which has are held in the New York Federal Reserve Bank. As at March 10, 2021, the SWF held a balance of approximately $268 million.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
Guyana has ten state-owned enterprises (SOEs) including: National Industrial and Commercial Investments Ltd. (NICIL), Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO), MARDS Rice Complex Ltd., National Insurance Scheme (NIS), Guyana Power and Light (GPL), Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), Guyana National Newspapers Ltd. (GNNL), Guyana National Shipping Corporation (GNSC) and Guyana National Printers Ltd. (GNPL).
The private sector competes with SOEs for market share, credit, and business opportunities. It is common for SOEs in Guyana to experience political interventions, driven by boards of directors filled with political appointees. Procurement on behalf of SOEs may be passed through the National Procurement and Tender Administration or handled directly by the SOE.
The Public Corporation Act requires public corporations to publish an annual report no later than six months after the end of the calendar year. These reports must be audited by an independent auditor.
In the 1990s, Guyana underwent significant privatization with the divestment of many sectors. In 1993, the Privatisation Policy Framework Paper known as the “Privatisation White Paper” was tabled in Parliament and led to the creation of the Privatisation Unit (PU). Its function was to co-ordinate the implementation of the GoG’s privatization program and was tasked with:
- Combining the functions of the Public Corporations Secretariat (PCS) and the National Industrial & Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL);
- Preparing for the program strategy and annual program targets for privatization or liquidation Cabinet’s approval;
- Implementing the privatization of SOEs and assets selected for inclusion in the program;
- Participating in negotiations for the privatization of SOEs;
- Reviewing offers and making recommendations to Cabinet on the terms and conditions for the sale of SOEs;
- Preparing financial and administrative audits of SOEs not selected for privatization;
- Developing a strategy to build public understanding and support for privatization;
- Ensuring that transparency of the privatization program is strictly respected and followed;
- Monitoring operations of privatized entities in accordance with the terms and conditions of each respective contract;
- Preparing for Cabinet, broad guidelines on operating policies for privatization, develop action plans for implementation, conduct a public relations campaign and help to build national consensus in support of government’s program.
Foreign investors have equal access to privatization opportunities. However, there are many reports that the process is opaque and favors politically connected local businesses. Currently, the GoG is interested in privatizing at least a portion of GUYSUCO.
U.S. firms are generally given equal access to these projects through a public bidding process. However, many bidders continue to complain about the criteria and question their unsuccessful attempt at securing a contract. In cases where international financial institution (IFI) funding has been involved in the project, such allegations have been credibly addressed. In cases where the project relied solely on GoG funds, redress has been more problematic to achieve.
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.
Department of State
- Country Reports on Human Rights Practices;
- Trafficking in Persons Report;
- Guidance on Implementing the “UN Guiding Principles” for Transactions Linked to Foreign Government End-Users for Products or Services with Surveillance Capabilities and;
- North Korea Sanctions & Enforcement Actions Advisory
Department of Labor
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:
10. Political and Security Environment
Guyana has a high crime rate, and violence associated with drug and gold smuggling is on the rise. The country peacefully transitioned to a new government on August 2, 2020 after a 20 month-long extra-constitutional and electoral crisis, which saw few instances of politically-incited violence. The GoG has committed to electoral reform in the wake of the 2020 electoral crisis in order to avoid electoral impasses in the future.
The security environment in the country continues to be a concern for many businesses. Businesses considering investing in Guyana are strongly encouraged to develop adequate security systems.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
Guyana’s labor market is tightening due to high investments in sectors driven by the oil and gas industry. In 2020, the total population aged 15 and above residing in Guyana was 602,795. In the first quarter of 2020, the labor force participation rate was 50.4 percent. Unemployment stood at 12.8 percent in the first quarter of 2020. A concerning trend is an increase in youth unemployment, jumping from 29.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019 to 30.2 percent in first quarter of 2020. Guyana has witnessed an influx of Venezuelan migrants which predominantly work in mining areas and in the restaurant industry. Chinese firms continue to invest heavily in Guyana with many companies importing Chinese workers for most of their operations. The Ali administration has committed to implement local content legislation which may include a requirement for hiring a fixed percentage of nationals. Guyana has a national insurance scheme, but social safety net programs do not exist for the general population. Strikes are common in the sugar industry and may vary with the public sector during collective bargaining sessions.
Local legislation governing labor in Guyana includes the National Insurance Act, Guyana Labour Act, Occupation Health and Safety Act, and the Termination of Severance and Pay Act. Guyana’s Human Development Index for 2020 increased to 0.67 from 0.682. Guyana’s literacy rate is estimated at 90%. There is an ongoing push for information and communications technology curriculum in Guyana’s schools to develop a talent pool for this industry.
Guyana has one of the highest emigration rates in the world for nationals with a university degree of 89 percent. A significant number of businesses report having challenges with staff recruitment and retention. These issues are linked to a small pool of semi-skilled and skilled workers. Companies entering Guyana should consider training and capacity building opportunities for their employees.
The 1997 Trade Union Recognition Act requires businesses operating in Guyana to recognize and collectively bargain with the trade union selected by a majority of its workers. The government, on occasion, has unilaterally imposed wage increases. Guyana adheres to the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention, protecting worker rights. The private sector has a minimum monthly wage of approximately $210.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
|Host Country Statistical source*||USG or international statistical source||USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other|
|Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD)||2019||$5.1||2019||Billion||www.worldbank.org/en/country|
|Foreign Direct Investment||Host Country Statistical source*||USG or international statistical source||USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other|
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)||2020||179.5||178||Millions||BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/|
|Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions)||2020||$8.3||20xx||Millions||BEA data available at
|Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP||20xx||$Amt||20xx||xx%||UNCTAD data available at
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.
14. Contact for More Information
Political and Economic Counselor
Economic and Commercial Officer
Economic and Commercial Specialist