Guyana, once the poorest or second poorest country in South America, and one of the poorest in the world, is making full circle turnout to becoming the richest in South America, and possibly the world. But this did not happen overnight. In 2015, Exxon Mobil announced humongous oil discoveries off the coasts of Guyana. Four years later, in 2019, Guyana, under the then David Granger Administration, exported its “first oil.” And nearly 9 years after the oil discovery, Guyana now boasts the highest GDP per capita, by far, in South America. And it is expected to climb further over the next ten years.
When you add Guyana’s oil wealth to its existing gold, diamond, timber, bauxite, tourism, and agricultural resources, you’ve got a country that has the potential to be the richest in the world. But there’s one thing lacking: the human resource. And this is not to say that Guyanese are not smart or industrious. They are! The problem I’m talking about here is the brain drain which happened in the 1960s and 70s right after Guyana gained independence from Britain. Right after independence, there were racial clashes between Guyana’s two major ethnic groups and economic turmoil causing hundreds of thousands to flee persecution or economic woes.
Thankfully, over 50 years later, Guyanese have evolved into a more harmonious group, but we still have a far way to go. And the good thing is, now that Guyana is rising to the top of the world’s richest countries list, many Guyanese from the diaspora are returning home to rebuild their homeland, bringing much needed expertise and experience with them.
Guyana recorded its highest number of visitors ever in 2023. A now re-discovered and appealing tourist destination, Guyana recorded a whooping 319,056 foreign visitors last year, which is equal to about 40% of the country’s entire population! And it’s expected to get better! The Guyana government is injecting huge amounts of cash into developing Guyana’s tourism products and supporting tourism businesses all across the country.
For the first time in history, Guyana has started to engage in large scale soya bean and corn farming. By the end of 2025, an estimated 30,000 acres of corn and soya is expected to be under cultivation.
The new Demerara Harbour Bridge is expected to be completed this year. The road to Lethem, Region 9 is under construction. Plans for a bridge to neighboring Suriname are underway and massive new roadways are being developed all across the country.
Everything I’ve mentioned in this article is just scratching the surface of Guyana’s rising economy, the country with more than 12 billion barrels of sweet light crude, the second highest oil reserves per capita in the world.
Guyana has the potential to become the richest country in the world if the Guyanese people put their heads and hearts together and work to that end.
Can we do it? Yes we can!
This article was reproduced in the Guyana, South America Weekly Newsletter for Week Ending February 3rd, 2024.