Country Listing

Guyana Table of Contents


Regional Integration

Guyana's strongest regional ties were to the other former British colonies in the Caribbean, rather than to Spanish- or Portuguese-speaking South America. In the hope of becoming the food source and manufacturer for the Caribbean nations, in 1965 Guyana joined Antigua and Barbados in forming the Caribbean Free Trade Association, known as Carifta (see Appendix C). Membership in Carifta was expanded to thirteen countries in 1968, and in 1973 Carifta was renamed the Caribbean Community and Common Market, or (Caricom). Caricom appeared to have great potential in the 1970s. The Caricom members, along with Canada, Britain, Mexico, Colombia, and Venezuela, created the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) as a regional lending body. Another such institution was the Caribbean Investment Corporation.

Caricom's attempts at regional integration have been fraught with economic and political problems. Guyana became the largest debtor to the CDB and hindered the organization's efforts elsewhere in the region when the country had difficulty servicing its debt. When the IMF stopped providing new loans to Guyana in 1983, the CDB did the same, and Guyana was abruptly cut off from major regional assistance. Friction also developed between Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago when Guyana fell behind on its oil payments. In addition, Caricom members were politically divided over the United States invasion of Grenada in 1983.

In the early 1990s, Caricom members were seeking to reinvigorate the organization by creating a customs union. By putting in place a common external tariff, members would take the first step toward removing trade barriers amongst themselves. The proposed tariff structure was to place low rates of duty (as little as 5 percent) on imports that did not compete with goods produced within Caricom, but high rates of duty on so-called competing goods (up to 45 percent). The idea was to protect industries within Caricom countries, which had a combined population of 5.5 million people. In 1991 several members were hesitant about the proposal because it would force Caricom consumers to choose between higher priced imports (since tariffs would be added on to the final price) or a smaller selection of locally produced products. With or without the common tariff, Guyana was far from becoming a major regional supplier of manufactured goods in the early 1990s. Regional integration was less important than the prospect of renewed economic progress at home.

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The best sources of up-to-date information on Guyana's small economy are British publications: the Financial Times, South, the Economist, and surveys by the Economist Intelligence Unit. The United States Embassy in Georgetown provides annual summaries of economic activity in the Foreign Economic Trends Report and the Investment Climate Statement. Useful, but, difficult to obtain in the United States are newspapers and periodicals published in Guyana the Guyana Chronicle, Guyana Business, and the Stabroek News. Two excellent background readings on Guyana's economy are DeLisle Worrell's "The Impoverishment of Guyana," and Clive Y. Thomas's "Foreign Currency Black Markets: Lessons from Guyana." A historical perspective on labor issues is provided in William L. Cumiford's "Guyana," part of an excellent book on labor in Latin America. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography).

Data as of January 1992