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 19.9 percent in 2021. Guyana’s economy is projected to grow by 47.9 percent in 2022 according to the Ministry of Finance, making it one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
Guyana’s is poised for strong economic growth over the next decade as its offshore oil and gas production quickly ramps up to over 1 million barrels per day (bpd), an unprecedented development pace for a country that just discovered commercially viable hydrocarbon resources in 2015. ExxonMobil, the majority shareholder in the consortium (which also includes Hess and the China National Offshore Oil Company) developing Guyana’s offshore oil and gas deposits, increased its estimate for commercially viable oil deposits in Guyana to over 10 billion barrels in October 2021. Industry experts expect Guyana’s total recoverable oil deposits to increase as exploration activities expand to other offshore blocks, which remain unexplored. To manage the windfall from oil and gas production, the Government of Guyana (GoG) amended its sovereign wealth fund legislation in December 2021, thereby opening its coffers for the government to spend most of the fund’s initial balance on needed infrastructure and energy developments and invest in the country’s healthcare and education systems.
Guyana is quickly transforming into a regional destination for international investment. Foreign direct investment (FDI) into Guyana increased from $1.8 billion in 2020 to $4.3 billion in 2021, mainly due to investments in its oil and gas sector. In an effort to diversify the economy away from oil and gas, the GoG is offering incentives for investment in the agriculture, business support services, health, information technology manufacturing and energy sectors, especially in outlying regions, through the Guyana Office for Investment (GOINVEST). At the same time, processes including the government tender process are slow and often opaque, with some tenders expiring and being re-issued after a year passes without decision and no pro-active communication to U.S. bidders.
The GoG lifted most of its COVID-19 domestic restrictions on February 14, 2022, thanks to a significant drop in COVID cases. Proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 PCR, or approved antigen, test taken with 72 of travel are still required to enter Guyana. The Ministry of Health (MoH) reports that more than 60 percent of Guyana’s adult population is fully vaccinated, as are 44 percent of children ages 12 – 17. While the GoG remains wary of future variants, the government has indicated a strong resistance to resuming containment and mitigation efforts like mask mandates, nationwide curfews, and strict quarantine requirements.
Climate change presents a clear and present danger to Guyana, especially in its low-lying coastal regions where 90 percent of the population lives. According to the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2021 report, Guyana’s capital, Georgetown, is forecasted to be under water by 2030 due to rising sea levels. To assist the country’s transition to a more climate resilient economy, the GoG is revising its Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), which seeks to create financial incentives for maintaining the country’s intact forests covering 87 percent of the landmass, watersheds, and unique biodiversity. The strategy is expected to be tabled in parliament in mid-2022 for approval and adoption.
The GoG’s 2022 priorities include significant infrastructure investments, energy developments, improving healthcare services, diversifying and expanding agriculture sector, boosting sea and flood defenses, supporting emerging and value-added industries, and improving the business climate. Key challenges to Guyana’s development include high crime rates, some of the highest cost of electricity in the region, lengthy delays for permits, and access to land. Despite commitments from the GoG to ease regulatory hurdles and improve the business climate, Guyana’s Ease of Doing Business ranking continues to hover at 134 out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s 2020 report.
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. 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 passed the Local Content Act (LCA) on December 31, 2021, which establishes baseline requirements for foreign and local firms operating in the country’s oil and gas sector to hire Guyanese and source local materials. The legislation lists local quotas for 40 business services and material inputs, which must come from Guyanese businesses. The targets range from near total local sourcing (90 to 100 percent) for services like ground transportation of personnel, local accounting and legal services, and pest control services to lower levels (between 5 to 25 percent) for more technical items like dredging services, engineering and machining, borehole testing, environmental services and studies, and aviation support services. The GoG plans to expand this initial list of services and materials as local capacity increases, in which case foreign firms may have to enter into partnerships with local firms to comply with the LCA. Some local firms involved in joint ventures or subcontract relationships with foreign companies have expressed concerns about unclear requirements or the suggestion of new or revised tenders by the Local Content Secretariat, which could delay their operations and create conditions for undue influence and rent seeking behavior.
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, except for some oil and gas services which are now legally protected under the LCA. 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 oil and gas, aviation, forestry, banking, mining, and tourism are heavily regulated and require special licensing and may have limits on foreign ownership. The process to obtain licenses can be time consuming and may in some instances require ministerial approval.
The LCA significantly increased the ownership criteria for a company operating in, or servicing the oil sector, to be considered Guyanese as: Guyanese nationals having at least 51 percent voting rights, holding at least 75 percent of executive and senior management positions within the company, and at least 90 percent non-managerial staff positions. As of April 2022, these limits on foreign control and ownership only apply to the initial schedule of local companies outlined in the 2021 LCA.
The GoG also 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.
The GoG maintains an investment screening mechanism through GOINVEST. Under this mechanism, investment agreements are prepared by GOINVEST, followed by a review by the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), and approval by the Minister of Finance ultimately approves the investment agreement, pending approval by the GRA. Industry specific investments can be subject to approval by the relevant ministries, like the recently established Local Content Secretariat within the Ministry of Natural Resources, which now approves all oil and gas related business operations.
Other Investment Policy Reviews
Government policy focuses on attracting inward FDI. The GoG applies national treatment to all economic activities, except for certain oil and gas and mining operations. The World Trade Organization (WTO) published its most recent trade policy review of Guyana on March 2, 2022, in which it encouraged the GoG to invest in infrastructure and human capital development and reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. The most recent report reiterated prior recommendations for the GoG to increase transparency in government procurement and modernize of the government’s treatment of intellectual property rights.
President Irfaan Ali’s administration has emphasized its desire to diversify Guyana’s economy and expand business ties with the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and others. The GoG created a Diaspora Affairs Unit within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation to encourage business ties with the Guyanese diaspora, especially the U.S. based diaspora. All companies operating in Guyana must physically register with the Registrar of Companies, there is no online platform. 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 immediately apply for a tax identification number (TIN) from the GRA. 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 oil and gas, 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.
GOINVEST 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. GOINVEST supports Guyanese investors and exporters looking to operate overseas. In 2021, Guyana repealed and replaced its existing sovereign wealth fund legislation, the Natural Resource Fund Act. The passage of the revised NRF, along with the appointment of a board of directors, paves the way for the GoG to invest a portion of its oil revenues and royalties in global markets.
2. Bilateral Investment 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, and implementation began in June 2017.
3. Legal Regime
Transparency of the Regulatory System
Legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are consistent with international norms. Guyana is a commonwealth nation and embraces the International Financial Reporting Standard (IFRS), under which all publicly traded companies are legally required to publish their annual reports. Guyana is a democratic country, whose constitution mandates the separation of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. In practice, however, many GoG processes are opaque and consistently cause confusion for investors and exporters. Regulations are developed through stakeholder consultations followed by parliamentary debate and eventual passage in Guyana’s National Assembly (parliament). While the GoG does not require companies to disclose environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards, it actively encourages ESG through investment policies and the LCDS. Guyana’s laws are publicly available on the Ministry of Legal Affairs website. Publicly listed companies’ finances and debt obligations are relatively transparent, but Guyana’s accounting and auditing firms are severely limited in their capacity to conduct thorough audits that comply with international best practices. Oversight mechanisms for public finances include the national assembly and the Auditor General Office.
As captured in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report, the GoG’s bureaucratic procedures are cumbersome, often involve multiple ministries that often have overlapping regulatory responsibilities. 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 perceived by many – especially new investors or bidders – as opaque and slow.
Ministry of Legal Affairs: https://mola.gov.gy/laws-of-guyana
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 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the reducing 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 combines 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.” Most recently the 2021 Local Content Act mandates certain levels of Guyanese participation (in the form of workforce, company ownership, and sourcing of materials) in the oil and gas sector. Companies should direct their inquiries about regulations on FDI to GOINVEST.
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. Guyana’s local content legislation was passed on December 30, 2022. The legislation ringfences 40 business lines for Guyanese businesses within the oil and gas industry.
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 seek 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. Adequate legislation exists 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.
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.
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 GOINVEST. The GoG utilizes investment incentives to advance its broader policy goals, such as boosting research and development, or spurring growth in a particular region. Guyana offers fiscal incentives for clean energy investments including value added tax (VAT) and import duty exemptions for renewable energy equipment, one off corporate tax holidays of two years, and a capital expenditure write off within two years. The GoG offers co-investing options for outlying regions.
Information on investment incentives in Guyana can be found on the following websites:
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 requiring foreign investors 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. The GoG formalized this requirement in the oil and gas sector through with the passage of the LCA in 2021. While there are no concrete plans to expand the LCA model to other industries at this time, the GoG has expressed interest in protecting other industries from foreign competition.
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. Foreign IT providers are not required to turn over source code and/or provide access to encryption.
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. However, the percentage of land in Guyana that lacks a clear land title is unknown and the lack of a digital registry with which to easily verify title further complicates the transfer of property rights. 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. Frustration arises when investors who have been leased land do not proceed with planned investments, so an ability to secure financing and move forward with projects is key.
Intellectual Property Rights
Upon independence in 1966, Guyana adopted British law on intellectual property rights (IPR). Guyana’s relevant laws governing 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. In the past year, there was no new IP laws enacted.
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 and Paris Conventions in 1994. Guyana has not ratified a bilateral intellectual property rights agreement with the United States. The previous government drafted intellectual property rights 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. 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/.
Guyana is not mentioned in the United States Trade Representative’s 2021 Special 301 Report, nor is it named in its 2020 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy.
6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
The GoG is indifferent to foreign portfolio investment. Guyana has its own stock market, which is supervised by the Guyana Association of Securities Companies and Intermediaries (GASCI). GASCI is a self- regulated organization. Dividends earned from the local stock exchange are tax free. Guyana’s stock market outpaced GDP growth in 2021 with a 46.1 percent increase in its market capitalization. Despite growing interest in the local stock market, however, Guyana has not seen a new company listed for over a decade. Foreign investors can access credit on the local market if they satisfy local banking requirements. Credit is allocated based on risk profile and creditworthiness. Credit is available on market terms. The private sector has access to credit instruments though limited on the local market. 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 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. Approval from the BOG is required before operating in Guyana.
The BoG regularly performs stress tests to determine the vulnerability of licensed depository financial institutions (LDFIs). Guyanese LDFI’s ratio of reserves against non-performing loans increased by 1.9 percentage points to 37.2 percent as of mid-year 2021. Guyana’s banking system remains adequate with capital adequacy ratios (CAR) well above the prudential benchmark of 8 percent. Guyana’s banking stability index improved from 0.15 to 0.38 at the end of June 2021, reflecting improved performances in asset quality, profitability, and liquidity indicators. Non–bank financial institutions’ total assets, which includes depository and non-depository licenses and unlicensed financial institutions, grew by 8 percent.
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. The GoG recognizes a need to improve access to finance for both the private sector and private citizens, with the current financial institutions seen as slow, overly cautious, and full of bureaucratic red tape.
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 2021. Guyana employs a de jure float exchange rate. Total Foreign exchange transactions grew by 22.6 percent from rising activities at banks and non-bank cambios as of June 2021 when compared with June 2020.
No limits exist on inflows or repatriation of funds. However, regulations require that all persons entering and exiting Guyana declare all currency more than $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 Fund
Guyana established a sovereign wealth fund, the Natural Resource Fund (NRF), in 2019, with the passage of the 2019 Natural Resources Act. While the NRF broadly conformed to the Santiago principles, President Irfaan Ali’s administration vowed to repeal and replace the 2019 NRF with a version that decentralized control over the fund and established a simpler withdrawal schedule. In December 2021, the Ali administration used its veto proof majority in parliament to unilaterally repeal and replace the existing law with the NRF 2021. While the revised law includes some improvements, like the creation of a board of directors and more intuitive withdraw schedule, it still affords the President broad reaching powers to appoint all the NRF’s key leadership positions, provides few limits on the investment or usage of the fund, and while a former member of the opposition was proposed for the board, the current opposition’s nominees were not accepted by the government. This prompted more concerns about transparent management of the fund moving forward. As of January 2022, the NRF holds $607.5 million, which under the revised law the GoG will be able to withdraw in its entirety in the coming year to meet 2022 budget allocations.
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 Privatization Policy Framework Paper known as the “Privatisation White Paper” was tabled in Parliament and led to the creation of the Privatization 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. However, there is increasing awareness of expectations for responsible business conduct. Guyana does not have a policy to encourage RBC. 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 and in the mining sector. The GoG enforces human rights laws but many report a lack of capacity to adequately enforce human and labor rights law
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.
Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy 2030 (LCDS) is an executive branch led policy framework/roadmap for the country to maintain 99.5 percent of its largely intact forests, incentivize biodiversity conservation, invest in climate resilient infrastructure, and keep carbon emissions at 2019 levels while quintupling economic growth over the next 20 years. The impetus to establish the LCDS came from the GoG’s 2009 agreement with Norway to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+), which earned Guyana $250 million over ten years for reducing its annual deforestation rate from 0.12 to 0.05 percent. The latest version of the LCDS consists of four core objectives: accessing market-based mechanisms for Guyana’s forest carbon sequestration services, stimulate future growth through clean energy and sustainable economic activities, protect against climate change, and align with global climate goals. The LCDS contemplates active participation by the private sector but does not offer specific policies to incentivize their compliance. However, the GoG offers tax incentives and green loans for companies transitioning to clean energy sources. A market for tradeable permits, tax credits and pollution standards have yet to be developed and Guyana’s procurement policy does not include environmental and green growth considerations.
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. Notably, the Integrity Commission Board expired in February 2021, with no appointments made as of March 2022. 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. 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. Guyana’s Integrity Commission was re-constituted in February 2018 after a 12-year hiatus, but only collects reports of asset declarations and lacks any ability to investigate suspected irregularities, complaints, or issues. The Integrity Commission can only flag asst declarations for investigation by other authorities.
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 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), Guyana ranked 87 out of 180 countries for perceptions of corruption, falling 4 spots in comparison to 2020.
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:
Resources to Report Corruption
Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc.
157 Waterloo Street
Second Floor Private Sector Commission Building
+592 231 9586 email@example.com
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 to avoid future electoral impasses.
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 the oil and gas sector. In 2017, the total population aged 15 and above residing in Guyana was 550,831. In the first quarter of 2021, the labor force participation rate was 51.1 percent. Unemployment stood at 15.1 percent in the first quarter of 2021. A concerning trend is an increase in youth unemployment, jumping from 30.2 percent in the first quarter 2020 to 31.4 percent in first quarter 2021. Guyana has witnessed an influx of Venezuelan migrants which predominantly work in mining areas and in the restaurant industry. The Ali implementation of LCA adds pressure on an already tight labor market by offering legal protections and incentives for Guyanese companies to service the oil and gas sector, further fueling the flight of labor and investment to the industry. 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. Guyana has a significant informal economy, accounting for a range of 30 and 50 percent of the job market, this is in part attributable to many Guyanese pursuing self-employment in unregulated jobs. In April 2022, GoG leadership suggested there was a labor shortage and they planned to draft a new migration policy.
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 the industry.
Guyana has one of the highest emigration rates, 89 percent, in the world for nationals with a university degree. A significant number of businesses report 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 public sector has a minimum monthly wage of approximately $350 while the private sector minimum wage is slightly lower at $300.
12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), and Other Investment Insurance or Development Finance Programs
United States International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) replaced the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) in January 2020 as the development finance institution of the United States federal government. The DFC is responsible for providing and facilitating the financing of private development projects in lower- and middle-income countries.
A U.S. government delegation led by the DFC visited Guyana to discuss investment opportunities in Guyana in October 2020. The United States Embassy in Georgetown can assist qualified businesses to contact the DFC and other U.S. financing institutions. There are currently no active DFC projects in Guyana despite businesses applying for financing.
The Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) offers insurance and financing to support U.S. firms exporting to Guyana. EXIM will consider financing projects in which the total term of the financing is one to twelve months or one to seven years.
13. Foreign Direct Investment Statistics
Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source*
USG or international statistical source
USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD)