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.
Protestant 30.5% (Pentecostal 16.9%, Anglican 6.9%, Seventh-Day Adventist 5%, Methodist 1.7%), Hindu 28.4%, Roman Catholic 8.1%, Jehovah's Witnesses 1.1%, Muslim 7.2%, other Christian 17.7%, other 4.3%, none 4.3% (2002 census)
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
president elected by popular vote as leader of a party list in parliamentary elections, which must be held at least every five years (no term limits); elections last held on 28 August 2006 (next to be held by August 2011); prime minister appointed by the president
Donald RAMOTAR elected president, percent of vote 48.6%
unicameral National Assembly (65 seats; members elected by popular vote, also not more than 4 non-elected non-voting ministers and 2 non-elected non-voting parliamentary secretaries appointed by the president; members to serve five-year terms)
last held on 28 November 2011 (next to be held by November 2016)
percent of vote by party - PPP/C 48.6%, APNU 40%, AFC 10.3%, other 1.1%; seats by party - PPP/C 32, APNU 26, AFC 7
Alliance for Change or AFC [Khemraj RAMJATTAN]; Guyana Action Party or GAP [Everall FRANKLIN]; Justice for All Party [C.N. SHARMA]; A Partnership for National Unity or APNU [David GRANGER]; People's National Congress/Reform or PNC/R [Robert Herman Orlando CORBIN]; People's Progressive Party/Civic or PPP/C [Donald RAMOTAR]; Rise, Organize, and Rebuild or ROAR [Ravi DEV]; The United Force or TUF [Manzoor NADIR]; The Unity Party [Joey JAGAN]; Vision Guyana [Peter RAMSAROOP]; Working People's Alliance or WPA [Clive THOMAS]
Amerindian People's Association; Guyana Bar Association; Guyana Citizens Initiative; Guyana Human Rights Association; Guyana Public Service Union or GPSU; Private Sector Commission; Trades Union Congress
green, with a red isosceles triangle (based on the hoist side) superimposed on a long, yellow arrowhead; there is a narrow, black border between the red and yellow, and a narrow, white border between the yellow and the green; green represents forest and foliage; yellow stands for mineral resources and a bright future; white symbolizes Guyana's rivers; red signifies zeal and the sacrifice of the people; black indicates perseverance
The Guyanese economy exhibited moderate economic growth in recent years and is based largely on agriculture and extractive industries. The economy is heavily dependent upon the export of six commodities - sugar, gold, bauxite, shrimp, timber, and rice - which represent nearly 60% of the country's GDP and are highly susceptible to adverse weather conditions and fluctuations in commodity prices. Guyana's entrance into the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) in January 2006 has broadened the country's export market, primarily in the raw materials sector. Economic recovery since a 2005 flood-related contraction was buoyed by increases in remittances and foreign direct investment in the sugar and rice industries as well as the mining sector. Chronic problems include a shortage of skilled labor 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, which along with other Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) debt forgiveness brought the debt-to-GDP ratio down from 183% in 2006 to 120% in 2007. Guyana became heavily indebted as a result of the inward-looking, state-led development model pursued in the 1970s and 1980s. Growth slowed in 2009-10 as a result of the world recession. The slowdown in the domestic economy and lower import costs helped to narrow the country's current account deficit, despite generally lower earnings from exports.
government-dominated broadcast media; the National Communications Network (NCN) TV is state-owned; a few private TV stations relay satellite services; the state owns and operates 2 radio stations broadcasting on multiple frequencies capable of reaching the entire country; government limits on licensing of new private radio stations continue to constrain competition in broadcast media (2007)
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