Originally a Dutch colony in the 17th century, by 1815 Guyana had become a British possession. The abolition of slavery led to black settlement of urban areas and the importation of indentured servants from India to work the sugar plantations. This ethnocultural divide has persisted and has led to turbulent politics. Guyana achieved independence from the UK in 1966, and since then it has been ruled mostly by socialist-oriented governments. In 1992, Cheddi JAGAN was elected president in what is considered the country’s first free and fair election since independence. After his death five years later, his wife, Janet JAGAN, became president but resigned in 1999 due to poor health. Her successor, Bharrat JAGDEO, was reelected in 2001 and again in 2006.


Location: Northern South America, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Suriname and Venezuela
Geographic coordinates: 5 00 N, 59 00 W
Population: 741,908 (July 2012 est.)

note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected

Age structure: 0-14 years: 31.9% (male 120,981/female 116,654)

15-64 years: 63.3% (male 235,566/female 235,717)

65 years and over: 4.8% (male 14,801/female 21,049) (2011 est.)

Country name: conventional long form: Cooperative Republic of Guyana

conventional short form: Guyana

former: British Guiana

Government type: republic
Capital: name: Georgetown

geographic coordinates: 6 48 N, 58 10 W

time difference: UTC-4 (1 hour ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)

Telephones – main lines in use: 149,900 (2009)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 555,400 (2005)
Airports: 98 (2012)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 11

1,524 to 2,437 m: 2

914 to 1,523 m: 1

under 914 m: 8 (2012)

Military branches: Guyana Defence Force: Army (includes Coast Guard, Air Corps) (2009)
Military service age and obligation: 18 years of age for voluntary military service; no conscription (2008)


The Guyanese economy exhibited moderate economic growth in 2001-07, based on expansion in the agricultural and mining sectors, a more favourable atmosphere for business initiatives, a more realistic exchange rate, fairly low inflation, and the continued support of international organizations. Economic recovery since the 2005 flood-related contraction has been buoyed by increases in remittances and foreign direct investment. Chronic problems include a shortage of skilled labour and a deficient infrastructure. The government is juggling a sizable external debt against the urgent need for expanded public investment. In March 2007, the Inter-American Development Bank, Guyana’s principal donor, canceled Guyana’s nearly $470 million debt, equivalent to nearly 48% of GDP.

Transnational Issues:

All of the area west of the Essequibo River is claimed by Venezuela preventing any discussion of a maritime boundary; Guyana has expressed its intention to join Barbados in asserting claims before UNCLOS that Trinidad and Tobago’s maritime boundary with Venezuela extends into their waters; Suriname claims a triangle of land between the New and Kutari/Koetari rivers in a historic dispute over the headwaters of the Courantyne; Guyana seeks arbitration under provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to resolve the long-standing dispute with Suriname over the axis of the territorial sea boundary in potentially oil-rich waters