Guyana Table of Contents

The structure of Guyana's export-oriented economy in the 1980s was much the same as it had been since colonial times. Sugar, bauxite, and rice were the most important products. In fiscal year (FY) 1989, agriculture accounted for 30 percent of Guyana's official GDP, mining for 10 percent, manufacturing and construction for 15 percent, services for 22 percent, government for 18 percent, and other activities for about 5 percent. The existence of a large unofficial parallel market in Guyana made it difficult to obtain reliable data on overall economic activity. But according to some estimates, as much as one-half of Guyana's actual economic activity occurred in the parallel market.

The most important agricultural concern was the sugar industry, operated by the state-owned Guyana Sugar Corporation (Guysuco). Sugar production declined significantly during the 1980s. The magnitude of the decline became apparent in 1988, when Guyana imported sugar for the first time in the twentieth century. The second most important agricultural product was rice. In contrast to sugar, rice was produced mostly on privately owned farms, and most rice was consumed domestically. Rice production fluctuated widely during the 1980s. Droughts, floods, and plant disease often interfered with crops, especially in 1988, when Guyana imported rice as well as sugar. Guyana also produced livestock for domestic consumption and exported fishery products. Forest resources remained largely unexploited.

Bauxite production was the most important part of the mining sector. The major bauxite mines, operated by the Guyana Mining Enterprise Limited (Guymine), were in the Linden area and on the Berbice River at Kwakwani. Bauxite production declined to 1.3 million tons in 1988 compared with the 1966 level of 3 million tons. Guyana also mined gold and diamonds, but the exact value of all of these goods was not known because smugglers commonly absconded with these valuable minerals.

Processing of sugar, bauxite, rice, and other primary products accounted for three-quarters of Guyana's manufacturing activity. Guyanese industry produced some consumer goods, but the country lacked heavy manufacturers. The service component of GDP included transport, communications, financial activities, trade, and distribution. Official statistics did not include many services, which the parallel market provided.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress