The Co-operative Republic of Guyana is a small, sparsely populated South American country with abundant natural resources. The country is endowed with fertile agricultural lands, valuable mineral resources including bauxite and gold, extensive tropical forests that cover 80 percent of the country, and recently discovered large offshore oil and gas reserves. Guyanese society is ethnically and religiously diverse, encompassing Indo-Guyanese, Afro-Guyanese, Mixed-Guyanese, indigenous Amerindian, and others. Guyana has a low population density, with 90 percent of its approximately 779,004 inhabitants living on the narrow coastal plain, which represents 10 percent of the country’s area. Coastal flooding, exacerbated by climate change, is a serious risk, as much of Guyana’s population and economic activity, including the capital, Georgetown, and most of its agriculture, are concentrated in low-lying areas along the Atlantic coast.
Guyana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita has historically been among the lowest in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region, though that is rapidly changing on account of oil production. Extraordinary economic growth of 20-40 percent over the last two years brought GDP per capita to over $9,300 in 2021, from about $6,600 in 2019. Real GDP is estimated to have increased by 19.9 percent in 2021, owing primarily to an expansion of oil production, which averaged about 107,500 barrels per day. With an economy that is heavily dependent upon natural resources, agriculture, and remittances, Guyana is vulnerable to commodity price fluctuations, adverse weather conditions, and economic conditions in migrant destination countries.
Economic diversification beyond natural resources and agriculture remains a challenge, with sugar, gold, bauxite, shrimp, timber, and rice representing over 80 percent of the country’s exports in 2014. The export composition is changing, although it remains dependent on natural resources, with almost 40 percent of exports in 2020 being related to the oil and gas sector.
Poverty in Guyana, measured using the upper-middle income poverty line (US$5.50 per day in 2011 PPP) has dropped from close to 61 percent in 2006 to around 48 percent in 20191, but was still among the highest in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region.2
Although the education sector in Guyana has made remarkable progress in the last 15 years in terms of access, learning outcomes remain low across all levels. Guyana achieved 88 percent and 92 percent enrollment at the Nursery and Primary levels, respectively (2018). However, according to the Human Capital Index, a child born in Guyana today will only be 50 percent as productive when she grows up as she could be if she enjoyed complete education and full health. This is lower than the average for the LAC region and upper middle-income countries. The low human capital score is in part driven by low educational and health outcomes. Although the average Guyanese student is expected to complete 12.2 years of schooling, this is equivalent to only 6.8 years of learning when expressed in terms of Learning-Adjusted Years of Schooling (LAYS). This has been compounded by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent simulations indicate that, from the baseline of 6.8, Guyana risks losing 1.6 LAYS following a 13-month school closure as a result of the pandemic. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has linked Guyana’s skills shortage to its poor school enrollment and education performance rates relative to regional standards.
Health outcomes remain below the average for LAC and upper middle-income countries. In 2019, the infant mortality rate was 24.4 per 1,000 live births (compared to a LAC average of 13.9 per 1,000 live births) and the under 5 mortality rate was 29.3 per 1,000 live births (compared to a LAC average of 16.3). Moreover, Guyana has the third highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS among countries in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), ranks in the top five LAC countries with the highest tuberculosis incidence, and still faces serious malaria challenges. Furthermore, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have become the major burden of morbidity and mortality for the population, accounting for a total of 70 percent of causes of deaths in 2017.
Guyana is at high risk of climate induced hazards, including increases in heavy rainfall and related occurrences of flooding, sea-level rise and storm surges, especially in coastal areas. Simultaneously, Guyana’s contribution to climate change is expected to increase due to the oil and gas discovery, which could ultimately hinder growth and development efforts in the country if left unchecked. Guyana’s coastal plain strip lies below the mean high-tide mark and has historically suffered flooding from both Atlantic storm surges and heavy rains. Research shows that the impact of rising sea levels and intensified storm surges in Guyana would be among the greatest in the world, exposing 100 percent of the country’s coastal agriculture and 66.4 percent of coastal urban areas to flooding and coastal erosion, with potential GDP losses projected to exceed 46.4 percent. In response, the Guyana Low Carbon Development Strategy 2030 outlines substantial measures to support green resilient growth, including increased protection for the standing forests and investments in renewable energy sources such as hydropower and solar energy.
The COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted Guyana’s population and caused disruptions to the economy, highlighting the need to strengthen the health system’s preparedness to handle public health emergencies. As of October 3, 2022, there have been 71,351 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (9.2 percent of the population) and 1,281 deaths (164.4 per 100,000 people). As of September 16, 2022, 48.3 percent of the population is fully vaccinated and over 63 percent of the adult population has received at least one dose of the vaccine. Despite a substantial expansion of total GDP caused by the start of oil production, pandemic-induced disruptions in the economy led to a decline in non-oil GDP of 6.2 percent in 2020, and poverty is estimated to have increased. In 2020, 71.6 percent of Guyanese households had experienced income loss compared to January 2020 levels — with the most severe impact typically found in low-income households. Non-oil GDP partially recovered with 4.6 percent growth in 2021, though it remains below pre-pandemic levels. Negative impacts of the pandemic on household income, food insecurity and children’s education persisted in 2021 with about half of households (49 percent) reportedly experiencing lower total household income compared to the period before the pandemic.
Guyana's economy is expanding at an extraordinary rate, fueled primarily by the expansion of oil output and is expected to remain one of the world's fastest-growing economies in the medium term. Oil production, and consequently real GDP, is expected to jump in 2022 with real GDP expected to more than double by 2023, pushing per capita income to over US$20,000 at the current nominal exchange rate. Increasing oil and gas revenues will allow financing of significant budget outlays to address development needs and tackle poverty. Significant risks remain, including the management of oil wealth, the quality of spending, and Dutch disease effects. Poverty reduction will depend on the performance of the non-oil economy through job creation, including those linked to public investment projects and local content for the oil sector, as well as the redistribution of resource revenues.
The World Bank Group’s (WBG) engagement in Guyana is guided by a Country Engagement Note (CEN), which was discussed by the Board of Executive Directors in March 2016.
The CEN focuses on selective areas in which the WBG is already engaged and positioned to provide support: (i) enhancing resilience and building disaster risk management capacities; (ii) setting up the foundations for high-quality education; and (iii) laying the ground for private sector development. Since then, the WBG’s portfolio has evolved from US$36 million to US$157.92 million in 2022.
A 2023 – 2026 Country Partnership Framework (CPF) for Guyana is being developed and will be the first full WBG framework in Guyana since 2012. The CPF is guided by the Government of Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy 2030. It is designed to support Guyana’s efforts to create more and better jobs, improve human capital, and enhance climate and environmental resilience.
WORLD BANK GROUP PROGRAM
The current World Bank portfolio in Guyana amounts to US$157.92 million across 7 projects in the areas of education, flood risk management, energy and extractives and health. Education ($87.53 million) and disaster risk management ($37.89 million) are the largest sector of investment project financing. These projects contribute to Guyana’s efforts to enhance resilience to natural disasters, improve the quality of education and skills, and support private sector development initiatives, particularly by focusing on improving the business environment and financial sector development, all identified as priorities through broad-based consultations.
Human development has been a long-term focus in the Bank’s support to Guyana, with a previous project focusing on early childhood services that helped raise literacy and numeracy rates among young learners, as well as a school feeding project that helped increase enrollment.
The Bank has four ongoing projects in the education sector with the aim of building Guyana’s future skilled workforce. The Education Sector Improvement Project aims to improve teaching practices and student achievement in mathematics at the primary level and strengthen the University of Guyana’s Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) teaching capacity while improving the learning environment. The Secondary Education Improvement Project supports the strengthening of the capacity of mathematics teachers at the secondary level, the improvement of general secondary school enrollment, and the construction of a school. In 2021 the Guyana Education Sector Program Project was approved with the aims of improving learning in nursery schools, increasing technology use in primary schools, and improving the functionality of the national education management information system. The Guyana Strengthening Human Capital through Education Project was approved in June 2022 with the focus of expanding access to quality education at the secondary level, as well as improving technical and vocational training (TVET) to meet the needs of the labor market.
The Guyana Petroleum Resources Governance and Management Project aims to support the country to develop better legal and institutional frameworks. It will also boost the capacity of key institutions to manage the oil and gas sector to maximize economic and social benefits for Guyana. The project provides a range of technical, advisory, and capacity measures to improve governance and transparency as well as prudent management of the oil and gas sector and its revenues. It includes strengthening institutions, laws, and regulations - including on health, safety, and environmental protection - and promoting strong checks and balances in the process. It will also support the country’s Environmental Protection Agency in overseeing petroleum sector activities to minimize environmental, social, and climate-related risks.
An ongoing Flood Risk Management Project aims to reduce the risk of flooding in the low-lying areas of East Demerara, with the primary focus on upgrading critical sections of the East Demerara Water Conservancy, strengthening institutions relevant to flood risk reduction, and supporting flood modeling – namely, hydraulic and hydrological flood modeling. In November 2020 additional financing was approved for the project, with the focus being on improving Guyana's climate resilience, protecting economic activity, and reducing the impact of natural disasters.
Since 2020, the Bank has approved an operation to support the health sector’s response to the pandemic. The Guyana COVID-19 Emergency Response Project aims to strengthen laboratory capacity, support screening and surveillance, improve contact tracing, and equip healthcare facilities for more effective treatment and care of COVID-19 patients. Additional financing to the value of US$6 million was approved in June 2021 to support affordable and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and ensure effective vaccine deployment in Guyana.
- Strengthened the capacity of 600 mathematics teachers nationwide through training and the provision of expert feedback, and provided 250 Secondary Schools with Mathematics Teaching Kits
- Expanded the General Secondary School Facilities by increasing the number of additional student places by 2,800; and constructing and furnishing one General Secondary School
- Strengthened the institutional capacity of Secondary Schools by training 100 Mathematics Teachers in technology
- Improved teaching practices and student achievement in primary-level mathematics at selected schools
- Strengthened the teaching capacity and improve the learning environment of the UG FHS by training 70 faculty members
- Improved the institutional capacity of primary schools by developing a new curriculum framework and revising core subjects’ curricula.
- Strengthened the health sector’s preparedness to respond to COVID-19 by:
- Designating 1 laboratory with COVID-19 diagnostic equipment, test kits, and reagents as per the Ministry of Health’s guidelines
- Providing 30 fully equipped ICU beds for more effective treatment and care of patients
- Delivering a risk communication campaign for COVID-19, which targeted vulnerable groups, including those who speak local languages
- Supported affordable and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, and screening, surveillance, and improved contact tracing
- Enhanced the legal and institution framework for the petroleum sector in Guyana
- Boosted the capacity of key institutions to manage the oil and gas sector to maximize economic and social benefits for Guyana, within which, technical, advisory and capacity measures were provided to improve transparency, governance and management of the oil and gas sector and its associated revenues
- Built capacity in the Environmental Protection Agency to oversee petroleum sector activities to minimize environmental, social, and climate-related risks.
Disaster Risk Management
- More than 90,000 people will benefit from reduced flood risk or protected from flooding
- More than 47,639 water users will be provided with new/improved irrigation and drainage services
- Increased drainage capacity by more than 8 cubic meters per second at 3 pump stations (Lusignan, Buxton, Hope/Enmore)
- Rehabilitated 4km of the northeast dam along the East Demerara Water Conservancy to protect against breaches.
1 2019 is the most recent available data.
2 Guyana was recategorized as upper-middle income in 2015, and as such a poverty line of US$5.50 per day in 2011 PPP, appropriate for countries at this income classification is used to monitor poverty. Countries used in the regional comparison include: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. They were chosen based on availability of comparable poverty data, as published by the LAC Equity Lab, and ranged from lower-middle income to high income countries.
Last Updated: Nov 02, 2022