Guyana is the size of Idaho and is situated on the northern coast of South America, east of Venezuela, west of Suriname, and north of Brazil. A tropical forest covers more than 80% of the country.
The Warrou people were the indigenous inhabitants of Guyana. The Dutch, English, and French established colonies in what is now known as Guyana, but by the early 17th century the majority of the settlements were Dutch. During the Napoleonic wars Britain took over the Dutch colonies of Berbice, Demerara, and Essequibo, which became British Guiana in 1831.
Slavery was outlawed in 1834, and the great need for plantation workers led to a large wave of immigration, primarily of East Indians. Today, about half of the population is of East Indian descent and about 36% are of African descent.
In 1889, Venezuela voiced its claim to a large swath of Guyanese territory, but ten years later an international tribunal ruled the land belonged to British Guiana.
President: Bharrat Jagdeo (1999)
Prime Minister: Samuel Hinds (1999)
Land area: 76,004 sq mi (196,850 sq km); total area: 83,000 sq mi (214,970 sq km)
Population (2010 est.): 748,486 (growth rate: –0.5%); birth rate: 17.6/1000; infant mortality rate: 37.9/1000; life expectancy: 66.7; density per sq km: 3
Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Georgetown, 227,700
Monetary unit: Guyanese dollar
Languages: English (official), Amerindian dialects, Creole, Hindi, Urdu
Ethnicity/race: East Indian 50%; black 36%; Amerindian 7%; white, Chinese, and mixed 7%
Religions: Christian 50%, Hindu 35%, Islam 10%, other 5%
National Holiday: Republic Day, February 23
Literacy rate: 99% (2003 est.)
Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2009 est.): $2.84 billion; per capita $3,800. Real growth rate: –1.7%. Inflation: 5.2%. Unemployment: 11% (2000) (understated). Arable land: 2%. Labor force: 418,000 (2001 est.); agriculture n.a., industry n.a., services n.a. Agriculture: sugarcane, rice, wheat, vegetable oils; beef, pork, poultry, dairy products; fish, shrimp. Industries: bauxite, sugar, rice milling, timber, textiles, gold mining. Natural resources: bauxite, gold, diamonds, hardwood timber, shrimp, fish. Exports: $652 million (2009 est.): sugar, gold, bauxite/alumina, rice, shrimp, molasses, rum, timber. Imports: $1.06 billion (2009 est.): manufactures, machinery, petroleum, food. Major trading partners: Canada, U.S., Netherlands, UK, Portugal, Belgium, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba (2006).
Member of Commonwealth of Nations
Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 110,100 (2005); mobile cellular: 281,400 (2005). Radio broadcast stations: AM 3, FM 3, shortwave 1 (1998). Television broadcast stations: 3 (one public station; two private stations which relay U.S. satellite services) (1997). Internet hosts: 3,000 (2007). Internet users: 160,000 (2005).
Transportation: Railways: total: 187 km (all dedicated to ore transport) (2001 est.). Highways: total: 7,970 km; paved: 590 km; unpaved: 7,380 km (1999 est.). Waterways: 1,077 km; note: Berbice, Demerara, and Essequibo rivers are navigable by oceangoing vessels for 150 km, 100 km, and 80 km respectively (2004) . Ports and harbors: Georgetown. Airports: 93 (2007).
International disputes: 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 UNCLOS arbitration to resolve the long-standing dispute with Suriname over the axis of the territorial sea boundary in potentially oil-rich waters.