Guyana: Risk Assessment
Country Risk Rating
Business Climate Rating
- Attractive prospects for investors in mining, hydroelectric power, and agriculture
- Abundant offshore oil and gas reserves, to be developed from 2020 onwards
- Member of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM)
- Reliance on natural resources (gold, bauxite, sugar, rice, wood, and, above all, oil from 2020 onwards)
- Shortcomings in transport, education, and health infrastructure
- Low-skilled local labor force and large-scale emigration of educated workers
- Sensitive to climatic events (region severely affected by hurricanes)
- Reliance on international creditors
- High crime rate linked to drug trafficking amid a background of poverty and corruption (ranked 85/198 by Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index in 2019)
The ongoing development of the oil sector will continue to drive growth
Guyana registered its first COVID-19 case on 11 March 2020, forcing the then ruling authorities to implement containment and mitigation measures. In June 2020, a six-phase re-opening of the economy was initiated. Despite the large health emergency caused by COVID-19, Guyana was probably the only country in Latin America to expand last year. In fact, the ongoing expansion of the local energy sector paved the way for robust performance in 2020, despite the collapse in oil prices and delays in the production chronogram. Since the American company Exxon-Mobil discovered an offshore oil field off the coast of Guyana in 2015, explorations have revealed higher quantities of oil (surpassing 8 billion barrels). Consequently, oil production was initiated in December 2019 and the country registered its first oil shipment in February 2020. However, the agricultural sector contracted, reflecting lower output in forestry, fishing, and livestock, while sugar and rice experienced growth. Regarding the mining and quarrying sector, the output of gold increased while that of bauxite and diamond decreased. In 2021, GDP will continue to outperform the regional average thanks to the progress of local energy activity. Moreover, this windfall will also prompt positive spillover effects on gross fixed investments, household consumption, and government expenditures (allowing for more social services). Regarding the external contribution, while the recovering global economy and rising oil production will foster exports, imports are also expected to increase due to the higher purchases of capital goods. Downside risks are related to the global evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic, the behavior of oil prices, and possible threats to social stability. The latter risk concerns the historical frictions between the Indo and the Afro-Guyanese.
Large twin deficits will shrink in 2021 thanks to oil
The current account deficit narrowed in 2020, mainly on the back of a trade balance surplus (higher oil exports and lower imports). Meanwhile, FDI increased marginally and could cover the current account deficit. Besides, foreign exchange reserves amounted to USD 573 million as of Q2 2020 (equivalent to only 1.7 months of import). In 2021, the current account should continue to benefit from a stronger trade balance and remittances (11% of GDP in 2019), in line with a gradual recovery of the U.S. job market. Finally, FDI in the local oil sector is expected to remain robust in the upcoming years. Regarding the fiscal account, the new government revamped a stronger policy response to the COVID-19 shock. In September 2020, it presented its emergency budget, including funds to combat the health crisis, as well as revitalizing productive and infrastructure sectors. Higher tax revenues and royalties coming from the oil sector should help to curb the fiscal deficit in 2021, despite the accommodative policy.
The political environment is set to improve following the resolution of the presidential election’s stalemate
President Irfaan Ali from the center-left People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP) took office in August 2020. He succeeded David Granger, who headed a multi-ethnic coalition led by two parties, the APNU, and the AFC. He took oath after five months of legal challenges regarding the integrity of the election. Nonetheless, the Guyana Elections Commission ruled in favor of the PPP. This grueling dispute further aggravated the historical political frictions between the two major parties (the PPP and the dominant party in the APNU+AFC coalition - the People´s National Congress or PNC). While the Indo-Guyanese community broadly supports the PPP, the Afro-Guyanese population favors either APNU or AFC. Mr. Ali’s party has 33 parliamentary seats, which gives it a majority in the 65-seat National Assembly (the APNU+AFC coalition having 31 seats). Mr. Ali advocates in favor of cutting taxes and taking measures to foster job creation. Moreover, he is also expected to focus on agriculture projects, as well as increasing investments in public infrastructure and social services that have historically been weak. Moreover, the PPP has also eased its critics on the APNU 2016 deal with ExxonMobil (considered disproportionally favorable for the company). Coincidentally, in September 2020, the government received the visit of the U.S. Secretary of State, marking a shift in the PPP’s historical oppositional approach towards the U.S. On this occasion, the U.S. representative praised Guyana´s participation in the Lima Group (an initiative to facilitate the power transition in Venezuela). Additionally, agreements that aim to provide U.S. private sector investment to build Guyana’s physical infrastructure and the energy sector’s economy were signed.