Guyana is a country located on South America’s North Atlantic coast, bordering Venezuela, Suriname, and Brazil. It remains one of the better performing economies in the region, with growth in 2018 at 3.4 percent. Guyana’s mid-term prospects are very positive with oil production expected to begin in early 2020.
The Government of Guyana (GoG) actively encourages foreign direct investment (FDI). According to the Bank of Guyana’s Mid-Year Report for 2018, Guyana’s FDI increased by USD 13 million to USD 109.1 million, up from USD 96.1 million in 2017. Increasing FDI in Guyana is bolstered by expansion in oil and gas exploration. Guyana offers potential investors, both foreign and domestic alike, a broad spectrum of investment choices, such as mining, sugar, rice, lumber, petroleum, aquaculture, agro-processing, fresh fruits and vegetables, light manufacturing, and value-added forestry products. Additionally, there are opportunities to invest in service sectors, such as tourism, renewable energy, call centers, and information technology services. Many products receive duty-free or reduced-duty treatment in destination markets. The GoG continues to promote inbound FDI, but with limited success outside of the extractive industries sector.
In March 2015, ExxonMobil began exploratory drilling off Guyana’s coast, investing nearly USD 2 billion into the project. ExxonMobil has since reported significant findings of offshore petroleum that, as of April 2019, are estimated at over 5.5 billion barrels of oil-equivalent, with exploration continuing for the foreseeable future. This venture would generate billions in revenue for the country and could potentially transform its social, political, and economic landscape.
Perceptions of corruption persist in Guyana. Transparency International (TI), in its 2018 report on the subject, scored Guyana 93 out of 180 ranked economies, a fall from Guyana’s rank at 91 in 2017. Corruption, GoG inaction in addressing the high crime level, and inadequate infrastructure remain barriers to attracting foreign investment.
Guyana continues to benefit from official development assistance from multiple donors with projects focused on health care, education, economic development, climate change adaptation, disaster mitigation, and citizen security.
Guyana successfully exited the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) International Cooperation Review Group in October 2016, having addressed all the deficiencies identified in the group’s Core and Key Recommendations. Subsequently, Guyana was removed from FATF’s watch list. The GoG passed three sets of amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Terrorist Financing (AML/CTF) legislation. The amendments were directly based on recommendations from the Americas Regional Review Group (ARRG). The government has also focused on fighting crime, particularly financial crime.
Political gridlock and infighting have historically hampered the country’s development efforts, but the GoG is moving forward on a number of priority projects. The GoG’s Green State Development Strategy (GSDS), launched in 2016, remains a GoG priority. Analysts expect small hydro-electric and renewable energy projects to receive GoG consideration, in line with the GoG’s efforts to pursue a green economy, help lower Guyana’s electricity costs, and reduce dependency on imports of hydrocarbons. If successful, these projects could go a long way in promoting greater investment because high electricity costs are one of the largest impediments to significant value-added investment.
Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
|TI Corruption Perceptions Index||2018||93 of 180||http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview|
|World Bank’s Doing Business Report||2019||134 of 190||http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings|
|Global Innovation Index||N/A||N/A||https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator|
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)||N/A||N/A||http://www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/|
|World Bank GNI per capita||2017||USD 4,500||http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD|
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Toward Foreign Direct Investment
There are no significant laws and practices that discriminate against foreign investors. Foreign direct investment (FDI) into Guyana is actively encouraged and seen by the GoG as critical to Guyana’s economic development. Numerous incentives are offered to investors. The GoG supports a traditional investment facilitation agency, the Guyana Office for Investment (GO-Invest). GO-Invest focuses primarily on agriculture and agro-processing, tourism, manufacturing, information and communication technology (ICT), seafood and aquaculture, and wood processing. Potential investors should note that GO-Invest is the first point of contact to obtain necessary permits and tax concessions. GO-Invest has been targeted by Guyana’s Ministry of Business for capacity-building assistance to help improve its operations in support of interested investors.
Over the past decade, the GoG enacted new laws or amended existing ones to encourage FDI with mixed levels of success. The current administration has been criticized by civil society for Guyana’s challenges in attracting new FDI, even though this has been a long-term trend. In response, the GoG has signaled its intention to intensify activities aimed at attracting FDI through its various embassies and missions abroad.
In 2016, the GoG launched its framework for Guyana’s Green State Development Strategy (GSDS), a template for greening the economy by transitioning Guyana towards renewable, clean, and cheaper sources of energy. The GSDS also includes a comprehensive Coastal Zone Management Plan to protect human habitation, coastal economic sectors, and coastal ecosystems. Finally, the GSDS encourages ‘green’ enterprises and jobs, and an educational curriculum that incentivizes ‘green’ (or STEM-focused) education in schools. The Ministry of the Presidency and Ministry of Natural Resources are two of the key agencies in this initiative.
Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
Guyana’s constitution specifically protects the rights of foreigners to own property or land in Guyana. Private entities may freely acquire and dispose of interests in business enterprises, although some newly privatized entities have limits on the number of shares that may be acquired by any one individual or entity (domestic or foreign). Similarly, the articles of association of some firms prohibit the issuance of more than a certain number of share transfers to any one individual or company in an effort to prevent attempts to gain control of such companies in the secondary market.
Foreign and domestic firms possess the right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity. Enterprises in mining, telecommunications, forestry, banking, and tourism sectors require operating licenses. Obtaining necessary licenses can be a time-consuming task. According to GO-Invest’s (Guyana’s investment facilitation agency) “Investor’s Roadmap,” the estimated processing time to obtain the approvals to lease state or government-owned lands is about one year. Some investors report much longer processing times.
Restrictions on foreign ownership of property exist in the mining sector for small-and-medium-scale mining concessions. Foreign investors interested in participating in the industry at those levels may enter into joint venture arrangements with Guyanese nationals, under which the two parties agree to jointly develop a mining property. However, these arrangements are strictly governed by private contracts, and there is no oversight of them by the sector’s regulatory agency, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission. This type of relationship carries a high level of risk. The U.S. Embassy strongly encourages investors to exercise proper due diligence when exploring their options.
Other Investment Policy Reviews
Gross domestic product (GDP) over the last several years has been robust compared to several countries in the region. However, according to Bank of Guyana figures, real GDP grew at 3.4 percent in 2018, a lower rate than the expected 3.8 percent for the year. Guyana was still one of the better-performing countries in the Caribbean. Guyana’s per capita GDP reached approximately USD 4,181 in 2018, up from around USD 2,360 in 2009. The annual inflation rate for 2018 was 2 percent.
Government policy is to encourage inward FDI. National treatment is applied to all economic activities, except for certain mining operations. During the review period, the GoG took actions to improve the business environment, such as lowering corporate income tax rates. Incentives for FDI include 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 subject to a flat fee of GYD 60,000 (roughly USD 300), and a company incorporated abroad is subject to a fee of GYD 80,000 (USD 400) if its capitalization is below GYD 1 million (USD 4,950); GYD 150,000 (USD 742) if its capitalization is between GYD 1 million (USD 4,950) and GYD 3 million (USD 14,851); and, GYD 300,000 (USD 1,485) if it is greater than GYD 3 million (USD 14,851). Businesses in the sectors requiring specific licenses, such as mining, telecommunications, forestry, and banking must obtain operation licenses from the relevant competent authorities before commencing operations.
GO-Invest also advises the GoG on the formulation and implementation of national investment policies and provides facilitation services to domestic and 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. The Investment Act specifies that there should be no discrimination between private foreign and domestic 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.
Guyana launched its “Micro-and-Small-Enterprise Development and Building Alternative Livelihoods for Vulnerable Groups” (MSED) project on October 14, 2013. The MSED project provides interest subsidies (up to 5 percent) and credit guarantee (equivalent to 40 percent) of a loan for micro and small enterprises. Under the MSED project, the maximum amount of loan facilitation available to each borrower is USD 150,000. Additionally, small grant funds (USD 1,500) were offered to small businesses in 17 sectors deemed as “low carbon sectors.” The low carbon sectors are identified in the Guyana Low Carbon Development Strategy and include fruits and vegetables agriculture, aquaculture, business processing and outsourcing services, and ecotourism.
The GoG is focused on attracting inward investment into Guyana. GO-Invest is also the agency that supports Guyanese investors and exporters looking to operate overseas. There are no particular restrictions keeping domestic Guyanese investors from investing abroad.
2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties
Guyana does not have a bilateral investment treaty with the United States. Guyana has bilateral investment treaties with the United Kingdom, Germany, Cuba, China, Switzerland, South Korea, and Indonesia. Double taxation treaties are in force with Canada (1987), the United Kingdom (1992), and CARICOM (1995). The United States and the GoG signed the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) in October 2016, implementation began in June 2017.
3. Legal Regime
Transparency of the Regulatory System
In April 2006, Guyana’s Parliament passed the Competition and Fair Trading Act, which serves as a partial fix for the country’s lack of comprehensive anti-trust legislation. The Competition Act targets offenses such as price fixing, conspiracy, bid-rigging, misleading advertisements, anti-competitiveness, abuse of dominant position, and resale price maintenance. A Competition Commission with authority to review anti-competitive business practices exists, but remains understaffed.
Historical factors, Guyana’s small population, and its limited economic base have led many sectors to be dominated by one or two firms. Bureaucratic procedures appear cumbersome and often require the involvement of multiple ministries. Investors often receive conflicting messages from various officials, causing difficulty in determining where the authority for decision-making lies. In the absence of adequate legislation, much decision-making remains centralized. An extraordinary number of issues continue to be resolved in Cabinet, a process that is commonly perceived as not transparent nor fast. Attempts to reform Guyana’s many bureaucratic procedures have not succeeded in reducing red tape.
Guyana’s budget and information on debt obligations are widely and easily accessible to the general public, including online at (https://finance.gov.gy/?cat=8 , https://www.bankofguyana.org.gy/bog/economic-financial-framework/publications/annual-reports ). Draft pieces of legislation are available in the Parliament Library and on the National Assembly website (http://parliament.gov.gy/ ) for public review.
International Regulatory Considerations
Guyana is a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and seeks to harmonize its regulatory systems with the rest of the members.
Forest Stewardship Council, Verification and Legal Origin, REDD+, and EU-FLEGT are some of the norms incorporated in the regulations.
Guyana has been a World Trade Organization (WTO) member since 1995 and adheres to Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMs) guidelines.
Legal System and Judicial Independence
Guyana’s legal system, like most Commonwealth countries, follows the English Common Law system. However, vestiges of the Roman-Dutch legal system still remain, especially in the areas of land tenure. In early 2005, legislative amendments were made to allow Guyana’s accession to the Caribbean Court of Justice as its final Court of Appeal.
Guyana’s Supreme Court of Judicature hears both criminal and civil matters. Therefore, the Supreme Court in its civil jurisdiction has the standing to hear intellectual property claims. Though the Constitution of Guyana provides for the independence of the judiciary, in practice the executive has some influence over the judicial branch of the government. The hearing of civil matters is a slow process and many perceive it to be unfair. Judgments of other courts within the Commonwealth are considered judicial precedents if Guyanese laws are silent.
According to some reports, 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. In order to redress this obstacle to investment, the GoG, with support from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), established a Commercial Court in June 2006. Given Guyana’s growth potential, there is need for expansion and strengthened capacity in the near future.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
Sufficient legislation exists in Guyana to support foreign investment in the country, but implementation of relevant legislation continues to be inadequate. The objectives of the Investment Act of 2004 are 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.
There are no known examples of executive interference in the court system that has adversely affected foreign investors. The judicial system is generally perceived to be slow and ineffective in enforcing legal contracts. The 2018 World Bank’s Doing Business Report states that it takes 581 days to enforce a contract in Guyana. Given Guyana’s growth potential, there is need for expansion and strengthened capacity in the near future.
Competition and Anti-Trust Laws
The Competition Commission created by the Competition and Fair Trading Act of 2006 falls under the Ministry of Business. The Act seeks to promote, maintain, and encourage competition; to prohibit the prevention, restriction, or distortion of competition and the abuse of dominant positions in trade; and, to promote the welfare and interests of consumers and to establish a Competition Commission for connected matters.
The Commission is responsible for reviewing all commercial activities, identifying those that adversely affect the economic interest of consumers; investigating businesses, which do not comply with the Act; and, conducting inquires in connection with any matter falling within the provisions of the Act.
Expropriation and Compensation
The government can expropriate property in the public interest under the Acquisition of Land for Public Purposes Act 2001.
Prior to 1989, there was a history of expropriations.
As mentioned under the Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment section, there is sufficient legislation in Guyana to promote and protect foreign investment. However, implementation of the legal framework remains inadequate, and the judicial system is slow and ineffective in enforcing legal contracts. There have been no recent cases of expropriation. All companies should conduct due diligence and seek appropriate legal counsel for any potential questions prior to doing business in Guyana.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
Guyana is a member state 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 went into force in December of 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 any 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 are two ongoing investment disputes involving U.S. interests in Guyana.
U.S. company Atlantic Tele-Networks owns 80 percent of Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GTT). The current government would like to end GTT’s monopoly on international data transmissions and open the sector up to more competition. GTT’s main competitor, DigiCel, is sending data to a satellite facility in Suriname, allegedly illegally bypassing GTT’s international data link. Despite GTT’s protests to the government, Digicel has continued to operate, apparently in violation of the monopoly agreement. GTT is also accused of owing $44 million in back taxes, which could be used to negotiate out the monopoly. All three issues are linked, and negotiations between the government and GTT are proceeding.
U.S. company Caribbean Telecommunications Ltd. has filed a lawsuit against Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GTT), alleging that GTT engaged in unfair trade practices in order to cancel the company’s license to provide cellular services in Guyana.
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
International arbitration decisions are enforceable under the Arbitration Act of British Guiana of 1931, as amended in 1998. The Act is fashioned from the Geneva Convention for the Execution of Foreign Arbitral Awards of 1927. Enforcement of foreign awards is done by way of judicial decisions or action, and must be in line with the policies and laws of Guyana.
According to the World Bank’s Doing Business report, resolving disputes in Guyana takes 581 days, and 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.
A Commercial Court has been set up to expedite commercial disputes, but this court only has one judge presiding and companies have reported that it remains currently overwhelmed by a backlog of cases.
To distinguish itself from the previous administration, which some report it ignored several commercial judgments against Guyana by the Caribbean Court of Justice, the current administration has proactively agreed to respect court decisions.
The 1998 Guyana Insolvency Act provides for the facilitation of insolvency proceedings. According to data collected by Doing Business, resolving insolvency in Guyana takes three years on average and costs 28.5 percent 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 stands at 162 in the ranking of 190 economies on the Ease of Resolving Insolvency.
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.
4. Industrial Policies
Guyana offers potential investors, foreign and domestic alike, a broad spectrum of investment choices outlined in the Go-Invest Investment Guide, including mining, sugar, rice, timber, aquaculture, agro processing, fresh fruits and vegetables, light manufacturing, and value-added forest products, tourism, and information technology-enabled services. Many products receive duty-free or reduced-duty treatment in destination markets.
Guyana enjoys considerable, established, commercially viable mineral reserves, principally in gold, diamonds, and bauxite. Smaller deposits of manganese, copper, rare earths elements, and uranium also exist. There have been recent discoveries of lithium, but commercial viability, however, has not been definitively determined.
Guyana has been a World Trade Organization (WTO) member since 1995 and adheres to TRIMS guidelines.
The Status of Aliens Act allows a non-resident of Guyana to acquire and dispose of assets and movable and immovable property in the same manner as a citizen of Guyana. The GoG treats domestic and foreign investors alike with regard to investment incentives. Guyana offers incentives based on specific criteria, such as location of an investment or investment in specific government-targeted sectors.
The 2003 Fiscal Enactments Act allows the Minister of Finance to grant exemptions from Corporate Tax to an investor for a period of five years, if the activity demonstrably creates new employment in certain regions of the country (primarily hinterland regions). In the case of new economic activity, the minister may grant a tax holiday of up to 10 years if the activity falls under the following categories: non-traditional agro processing (excluding sugar refining, rice milling, and chicken farming); tourist hotels or eco-tourist hotels; information and communications technology (excluding retailing and distributing); petroleum exploration, extraction, or refining; and, mineral exploration, extraction, or refining. The Minister of Finance maintains final discretion over which investors receive corporate tax exemptions.
The Income Tax Act of 1998 provides for accelerated depreciation of plant and equipment pending approval of the Minister of Finance on a case specific basis. The GoG previously utilized the Act to provide export tax allowances for manufacturing or processing of non-traditional products exported to countries outside of the Caribbean Community and tax allowances for research and development.
The Minister of Finance maintains authority to approve exemptions and waivers from customs duty, excise tax, and value added tax on plant, equipment, machinery, and spare parts. Though not required, the government expects investors to submit business proposals to GO-Invest that outline the proposed project, the value of the investment, and employment to be generated from the investment in order to be considered for such incentives. GO-Invest reviews proposals and makes recommendations to the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) in accordance with the Customs Duties Order of 2003. The GRA determines whether imports comply with regulation and whether those materials are eligible for tax relief. GRA makes the final recommendation to the Minister of Finance whether to grant exemptions and waivers from customs duty, excise tax, and value added tax.
The GoG has removed several of the fiscal concessions that were previously granted to businesses and many have claimed that this will have a negative impact on growth. In addition, the value added tax is now applied to certain activities that were previously exempted.
Similarly, the policy provides for a tax allowance for non-traditional exports to non-CARICOM countries. Traditional products include rice, sugar, bauxite, gold, diamonds, timber, petroleum, lumber, shrimp, molasses, and rum. The allowance ranges between 25 to 75 percent, and at least 10 percent of sales must be exported to qualify.
In certain circumstances, Guyana also offers duty-free imports and tax holidays to investors on request. A key factor in the determination of duty-free status and value added tax waiver is value addition. The authorities note that blanket approvals are not given. Instead each import consignment is reviewed individually. When granted, the GRA lowers or waives the duty and value added tax completely, based on the industry and item. The authorities note that tax holidays are less likely to be granted than duty-free status or a value added tax waiver.
A number of companies, both foreign and domestic, have benefited from investment incentives, such as corporate tax exemption, income tax exemption, export tax exemption on non-traditional exports, and exemption from customs duty, excise tax, and value added tax.
Research and Development
The GoG has not financed research and developments programs, but foreign firms are encouraged to initiate research and development initiatives. The GoG does not force foreign investors to use domestic content in goods or technology. However, there is a draft local content policy for Guyana’s emerging hydrocarbons sector, which is likely to be implemented in the near future. Both local and foreign investors have found it useful to purchase from local sources, as well as to import goods unavailable on the local market.
Opportunities can be found on the following websites:
- Guyana Office for Investment: http://goinvest.gov.gy/investment/investment-guide/
- The National Procurement & Tender Administration (NPTA): http://www.npta.gov.gy/
- National Industrial & Commercial Investment Limited: http://www.privatisation.gov.gy/
Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation
Guyana currently does not maintain any duty-free zones, although the Government of Guyana announced the possibility of establishing such zones in the Lethem area, on the border with Brazil.
Guyana became the 53rd WTO member and first South American nation to ratify the new Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). The WTO Secretariat received the country’s instrument of acceptance on November 30, 2015.
Performance and Data Localization Requirements
There are no data localization requirements. Foreign investors are not required to establish or maintain a certain amount of data storage within the country.
A requirement to hire locally at least 80 percent of employees is applied equally to domestic and foreign investment projects. Although no explicit government policy regarding performance requirements exists, 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. As mentioned previously, a draft local content policy for Guyana’s emerging petroleum sector is currently under review. Foreign exchange is not rationed in proportion to exports, nor are there any requirements for national ownership or technology transfer.
5. Protection of Property Rights
Guyana has a dual registry system of property rights with distinct requirements, processes, and enforcement mechanisms. The two types of registry systems are deeds (Deeds and Commercial Registry) and title (Land Registry) registries that operate in separate jurisdictions, which in theory help to avoid the problem of double entry and dual registration. Overall, companies have complained of Guyana’s property rights system to be overly bureaucratic and complex, with nontransparent regulations that overlap and compete. Some report this affects the proper allocation, enforcement, and effectiveness of property rights, as well as the efficiency of all property-based markets, such as housing, land, commercial property, and financial markets (especially primary ones, such as mortgage markets). The judicial system is generally perceived to be slow and ineffective in enforcing legal contracts. The World Bank’s Doing Business report 2019 says it takes 581 days to enforce such contracts.
Mortgage transactions in the Guyanese financial system are limited, and the term, as used locally, refers solely to consumer loans dedicated to the construction of a primary residence.
There are three types of land ownership designations in Guyana: a) publicly owned lands, which account for 85 percent of land in Guyana and used to be known as state and government lands; b) Amerindian-owned land, which accounts for 14 percent of land in Guyana and is comprised of lands held in common by indigenous communities (such lands are titled to the individual community); and, c) privately owned lands, which are estimated at approximately one percent of all land in Guyana and can be transferred by either freehold or absolute grant. A freehold transfer can be made either through a transport system or through a land registration system that is based on the Torrens type registry. Absolute grants are used in cases in which agricultural land is being transferred for non-agricultural use. In such cases, the land will first be transferred to the state, becoming public land, and is then titled to an individual. Such grants require a presidential decree.
Intellectual Property Rights
Upon independence in 1966, Guyana adopted British law on intellectual property rights (IPR). Guyana’s Copyright Act is dated 1956, and its Trademark Act and Patents and Design Act are dated 1973. Some report that numerous attempts to pass comprehensive legislative updates to this legislation have been unsuccessful. Piecemeal modernization amendments contained in the Geographic Indication Act of 2005, the Competition and Fair Trading Act 2006, the Business Names Registration Act 2000, and the Deeds Registry Authority Act 1999 have offered additional protection to local products and companies. No modern legislation exists to protect the foreign-registered rights of investors. Guyana joined the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and acceded to the Berne and Paris Conventions in late 1994. Guyana has not ratified a bilateral intellectual property rights agreement with the United States. The GoG announced in October 2018 its intention to table copyright legislation. That draft bill is currently with the Attorney General’s Office.
According to many businesses, registering a patent or trademark can take six months or longer, but even with a completed registration, no effective enforcement mechanisms exist to protect intellectual property rights. Patent and trademark infringement are perceived to be common. Local television stations, including the state-owned and operated National Communication Network (NCN), pirate and rebroadcast TV satellite signals with impunity. Most music, videos, and software for sale are pirated. Companies report that book piracy is also rampant, especially foreign textbooks. Some estimates say illegally photocopied textbooks account for nearly one-third of local sales. HBO has recently accused a local firm of allegedly infringing its intellectual property rights.
Guyana’s laws have not been amended to fully conform to the requirements of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement. In 2001, the then-Ministry of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation and the Ministry of Legal Affairs drafted TRIPS legislation, but the draft has not moved forward.
For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .
Resources for Rights Holders
Alexandra King Pile
Economic and Political Counselor
Economic and Commercial Specialist
Embassy of the United States of America
100 Duke and Young Streets Kingston
Telephone: + (592) 225-4900-9 Ext. 4220 and Ext. 4213
Fax: + (592) 225-8597
6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
In Guyana, interest rates on capital loans typically range from 10 percent to 20 percent. The Minister of Finance must grant permission for a foreign investor to borrow more than USD 10,000 (GYD 2 million) from a local bank. The GoG sells Treasury Bills at auction to finance the public debt. Past attempts at private bond financing have failed, and private companies have not made any large bond offers in recent years.
Guyana adopted the Credit Reporting Act No. 9 of 2010, which guarantees consumers’ right to access their data. The first credit reporting bureau license was granted to Creditinfo, which went into effect on July 15, 2013, and was open for business to the public starting December 1, 2013. The credit-reporting bureau has been working with banks and utility companies to compile reliable credit information for use by lenders. Lack of access to capital remains a serious barrier to entrepreneurship and business expansion in the country.
The Guyana Association of Securities Companies and Intermediaries Inc. (GASCI) was formed in 2003 and operates the Guyana Stock Exchange. GASCI consists of four member firms, all of which trade on the stock exchange. The Guyana Stock Exchange trades shares in companies that are either listed on the primary list or on the secondary list. Inclusion on the primary list is a time consuming and expensive process. Thus far, only one company, Trinidad Cement Ltd., has been able to register on the primary list. However, it voluntarily delisted from the Guyana Stock Exchange effective January 18, 2016. The secondary list is composed of 16 companies, and consists of those companies that are registered with the Guyana Securities Council (GSC) and, thus, eligible to trade. As of December 2018, total market capitalization was USD 1.4 billion. Trade volume on the Guyana Stock Exchange remains very light due both to the limited number of companies and shares on offer.
The Guyana Securities Council (GSC) is the regulatory body for the securities industry. According to some reports, since its creation in 2001, it has struggled to obtain required disclosure information from listed, local firms.
Money and Banking System
The Central Bank of Guyana was established by virtue of the 1965 Bank of Guyana Ordinance. Guyana’s banking system remains underdeveloped. Inefficiencies and delays periodically plague the foreign currency market. In addition, most Guyanese banks are owned by large Guyanese companies that sell locally and export. Because Guyana has yet to develop an effective interbank trading system, some banks may be short of foreign exchange while others have currency available. Despite some businesses reporting currency shortages at times, the overall reserves of the Central Bank and commercial banks are more than sufficient for the amount of trading that occurs.
The banking system in Guyana is liquid. Local bank statements reveal that deposits continue to increase even as loans remain flat, a trend that suggests the existence of a large informal, cash-only economy. Analysts estimate that informal economic activity accounts for 50 percent or more of Guyana’s total economy. Eager to lend money, but skeptical of Guyana’s legal system, banks claim an inability to find suitable local applicants for loans at prevailing interest rates.
The six commercial banks are by far the most important financial institutions in Guyana with assets worth GYD 471 billion (USD 2.3 billion) in 2017, equivalent to 74 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Two of the six banks, Scotia Bank and the Bank of Baroda, announced in late 2018 that they intend to sell their banking operations in Guyana.
Foreign banks are able to provide domestic services or enter the market with the applicable license from the Central Bank. There are also no restrictions on a foreigner’s ability to establish a bank account. The Central Bank is currently in the process of implementing Real-Time Gross Settlement, allowing for money transactions to occur in real time. The country has lost correspondent banking relationships with Bank of America, but banks have been able to maintain and acquire other correspondent banking relationships with banks from the United States, Canada, India, and the United Kingdom.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
The Guyana dollar (GYD) is fully convertible and transferable. The Guyanese dollar is also generally stable and its value against the U.S. dollar remained relatively unchanged during the second half of 2018.
According to the 2017 Bank of Guyana Annual Report, the official, average exchange rate was USD 1 to GYD 206.5 at the end of 2017 (https://www.bankofguyana.org.gy/bog/images/research/Reports/ANNREP2017.pdf ). However, in recent years, the exchange rate has been under pressure, as evidenced by a 2017 rise in real prices reflecting a reported shortage of foreign currency by the private sector and “cambios” (or currency houses). Consequently, the GoG was forced to introduce a stipulation limiting the spread between the buying and selling rate to 3 points in January 2017. Since then, the Ministry of Finance and the Bank of Guyana have jointly noted that stabilizing the foreign exchange rate, which currently floats as high as GYD 215-220 per USD, is of utmost priority to the GoG, though both have stated that there is no shortage of dollars at the Bank of Guyana or Guyana’s reserves and retention bank accounts.
As noted above, Guyana generally has a floating exchange rate that is determined by supply and demand, which is predominantly driven by activities in Guyana’s three largest commercial banks. In 2017, the government lightly intervened in support of the Guyanese dollar with some success, such as limiting the local conversion of Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago dollars to US dollars. The government will likely continue to intervene as necessary in defense of the Guyanese dollar and its international reserves, but is also committed to a free market floating exchange rate.
No limits exist on inflows or repatriation of funds, although there are spot shortages of foreign currency. Regulations also require that all persons entering and exiting Guyana declare all currency in excess of USD 10,000 to customs authorities at the port of entry.
In practice, many large foreign investors in Guyana use subsidiaries outside of Guyana to handle earnings generated by the export of primary products, including timber, gold, and bauxite. Those companies then advance funds to their local entities to cover operating costs.
There is no limit to the acquisition of foreign currency, although the government limits the amount that a number of 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 experienced no government-induced difficulties in repatriating earnings in recent years.
Many businesses have reported that Guyana is neither an important regional nor offshore financial center. It also does not have any free trade zones. Money laundering is perceived as a serious problem and has been linked to drug trafficking (principally cocaine), illegal gold trade, firearms, corruption, and fraud, as well as to the influx of foreign currency. Guyana has a large informal economy in which cash is preferred by both buyers and sellers for most transactions, making it highly vulnerable to money laundering.
However, Guyana has strong legislation relating to money laundering and terrorist financing. Its anti-money laundering legislation covers legal persons and provides enhanced due diligence for politically exposed persons. Guyana has comprehensive know-your-customer (KYC) and suspicious transaction reporting (STR) regulations. There is also a records exchange mechanism in place with the United States and other governments. Guyana is a member of and most recently chaired the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), a FATF-style regional body.
Sovereign Wealth Fund
On February 6, 2019, President David Granger assented to the Natural Resources Fund Bill, bringing it into law. This law provides the legal framework for the establishment of the Natural Resources Fund (NRF, sovereign wealth fund) that will manage 100 percent of the imminent oil wealth for future generations, while emphasizing greater initial spending to develop the country’s lacking infrastructure.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
Private enterprises compete with state-owned enterprises (SOEs) under the same terms and conditions for market access, credit and other business operations, and licenses. Currently there are six SOEs in Guyana: Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO), Guyana Oil Company Limited, Guyana Power and Light Inc., National Communications Network, Guyana National Printers, and Georgetown Marriott Hotel. The corporate governance structure of Guyanese SOEs requires that senior management report to a chief executive officer, who reports to a board of directors, which in turn reports to a government minister. Political interventions occur in the management of SOEs because their boards of directors are filled through political appointments directed by the Office of the President.
The National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), a private limited company, acts as subscriber and manager of the government’s shares, stocks, and debentures of any company, cooperative societies, or other corporate body. It also manages government-owned real estate properties, including their acquisition, disposal, or rental. Managing the government’s shareholdings and minimizing conflict of interests are NICIL’s main functions.
During the 1990s, Guyana underwent a significant privatization process, divesting many of its holdings in the banking, telecommunications, agriculture, and manufacturing sectors. Since then, the pace of privatization has slowed. Since 2003, the government has privatized only two entities: National Bank for Industry and Commerce, which now does business as Republic Bank; and, National Edible Oil Company, acquired by a biofuels company. Furthermore, the state reduced its participation in two of Guyana’s leading bauxite mining companies: Aroaima Mining Company and Linmine Bauxite.
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 financial reports must be audited by an independent auditor.
Foreign investors generally have equal access to privatization opportunities, even though some report that the privatization process may not be wholly transparent. For some larger operations, foreign investment is openly preferred. Since 1992, the GoG has privatized 16 out of 22 state-owned enterprises (SOEs). Only Guyana Oil Company Limited, Guyana National Printers Limited, Guyana Sugar Corporation, National Communication Network (NCN), Guyana Power & Light (GPL), and Georgetown Marriott Hotel remain as SOEs. Most large-scale investments in Guyana’s infrastructure are government projects financed by international financial institutions, with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) being the government’s largest lender. U.S. firms are generally given equal access to these projects through a public bidding process. In some cases, allegations have been made that this bidding process has been less than transparent. 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. Though many businesses engage in charitable acts, the totality of these deeds does not constitute good RBC practices. Guyanese consumers generally are not aware of RBC principles and do not demand them from local businesses they patronize. The GoG has expressed the 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.
With Guyana’s major petroleum discovery, and anticipated production, Guyana joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) as a candidate country in October 2017.
Allegations of corruption remain common. According to Transparency International’s 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), Guyana is ranked 93 out of 180 countries for perceptions of corruption, dropping by 2 slots from its rank at 91 the previous year. Guyana ratified the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption (IACAC), and bribery is established as a criminal offense under Guyanese law. Although the government passed legislation in 1997 that requires public officials to disclose their assets to an Integrity Commission prior to assuming office, the Integrity Commission has never been constituted and remains inoperative. Public officials’ compliance with the legislation has, therefore, been uneven.
The Procurement Act of 2003 provides for the establishment of an oversight body, a Public Procurement Commission and the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB), which handles day-to-day operations. The Minister of Finance appoints the members of this Board. The Public Procurement Commission’s job is to ensure transparency and accountability throughout the government procurement process, including in regards to the NPTAB’s operations.
The current coalition APNU-AFC Government stated before it came into office that one of its top priorities would be the timely appointment of the PPC. On November 2, 2016, it announced the appointment of five members to the PPC. The Commissioners subsequently selected a chairperson.
There are widespread concerns about inefficiencies and corruption regarding the awarding of contracts, particularly with respect to concerns of collusion and non-transparency. In his annual report, the Auditor General noted continuous disregard for the procedures, rules, and the laws that govern public procurement systems.
The Criminal Law Act classifies both corruption and bribery as illegal. Offences carry a penalty of GYD 390,000 (USD 2,000) and three to seven years imprisonment.
On April 16, 2008, Guyana ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption. Guyana is neither a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) nor a signatory to OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. Guyana is a member of the Organization of American States (OAS) and ratified the Inter-American Convention against Corruption on December 11, 2000.
The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2015-2016 identified inefficient government bureaucracy as the largest obstacle to doing business in Guyana, followed by corruption. The 2017-2018 Competitiveness Report does not include Guyana. Corruption discourages potential foreign direct investments and foreign investors, and it also undermines economic development and growth.
UN Anticorruption Convention, OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery
As mentioned above, Guyana ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption in 2008. Guyana is neither a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) nor a signatory to OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.
Resources to Report Corruption
The Transparency Institute of Guyana
Reverend Father Compton Meerabux
Transparency International Guyana
79B Cowan Street, Kingston
Telephone: +(592) 231-9586
10. Political and Security Environment
Historically, political-motivated ethnic violence has occurred in Guyana. However, the occurrence of such violence has steadily decreased during the last decade. The 2015 national and regional elections were the third successive iteration in which there was no significant post-election violence. The 2015 elections period saw a few isolated incidents of unrest, but no one was seriously injured, and the Police did not resort to the use of force. Local government elections were last held in 2018, and there were no reports of violence during or after those elections. There have been no incidents of political violence since the change in government in May 2015. The next national and regional elections were set to occur in 2020. However, on December 21, 2018, a no-confidence vote in Guyana’s National Assembly may result in elections being held in 2019. Guyana’s People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Opposition has made public statements questioning the validity of agreements and contracts concluded with the current GoG after December 21, 2018, and/or after other dates calculated from December 21, 2018.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
The Bank of Guyana estimates that, in 2017, Guyana’s labor force comprised 308,000 persons. In 2017, a Labor Force Study conducted by the Guyana National Bureau of Statistics and funded by the IDB reported the unemployment rate at 12 percent. The youth unemployment rate was reported at 21.6 percent, almost twice that of the total working population.
Approximately 22 percent of workers (67,760) are unionized. Guyana currently has 18 trade unions. Thirteen of these unions fall under the umbrella of the Guyana Trade Union Congress. Four of these unions are members of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana. The Trade Union Recognition Act of 1997 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. Labor dispute mechanisms, such as arbitration, are commonplace.
Guyana has primary, secondary, and technical schools. The University of Guyana is the only public institution of higher learning in the country. There are a few other privately-owned institutions of higher learning. Given Guyana’s human resources challenges, most individual companies mount various programs to develop the capacity and skills their workers need, specific to the company’s services.
According to some report, emigration, particularly of skilled laborers, poses a serious problem to employers in Guyana. Guyana’s net emigration rate in 2014 was estimated at 9.67 percent, the seventh highest in the world. Even semi-skilled workers, such as masons, carpenters, and heavy-duty operators, are in short supply. An International Monetary Fund (IMF) study in 2005 found that 89 percent of university-educated Guyanese eventually leave the country to pursue better employment options abroad. This represents the highest percentage of “brain drain” of any country. Although more recent studies are unavailable, large private sector companies report a turnover of about 20-25 percent of their workforce annually and experience difficulty in recruiting and retaining qualified employees. Skilled workers often migrate to the United States, Canada, Europe, or other countries in the Caribbean.
12. OPIC and Other Investment Insurance Programs
The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) renewed its support for U.S. investors in Guyana in 2000, following the settlement of a long-standing dispute between an OPIC client and the GoG.
The Export-Import Bank of the United States (EX-IM) offers insurance and financing to support U.S. firms exporting to Guyana. EX-IM will consider financing projects in which the total term of the financing is one to twelve months or one to seven years.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
|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)||N/A||N/A||2016||$3,504||www.worldbank.org/en/country|
|Foreign Direct Investment||Host Country Statistical Source||USG or International Statistical Source||USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)||2014||$255.2||N/A||N/A||BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data|
|Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions)||N/A||N/A||2017||$3,185||BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data|
|Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP||N/A||N/A||2017||88.7%||UNCTAD data available at https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/World%20Investment%20Report/Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx|
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Foreign direct investment position data are not available for Guyana.
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Portfolio investment data are not available for Guyana.
14. Contact for More Information
Alexandra King Pile
Economic and Political Counselor
Economic and Commercial Specialist
Embassy of the United States of America
100 Duke and Young Streets, Kingston
Telephone: + (592) 225-4900-9 Ext. 4220 and Ext. 4213
Fax: + (592) 225-8597