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The Cooperative Republic of Guyana is located in the northeast of South America. The country has three neighboring countries: Venezuela to the west, Brazil to the southwest and south, and Suriname to the east. Guyana borders the Atlantic Ocean to the north. With a country surface of 214 969 km² the country has about two thirds of the size of Germany.
The geographical surface structure can be divided into two regions: the highlands, which run parallel to the borders with Brazil and Venezuela almost up to the coast and occupy more than two thirds of the country, and the coastal lowlands, which are 15 to 70 km wide and extend along the 435 km long Atlantic coast. In the south and southwest, the north-eastern roof of the mountain range is up to 1,300 m high, in the immediate vicinity of the border rises the Roraima, the highest mountain in Guyana (2,810 m). Further north the country changes into hilly country. Parts of the coastal areas were polded with dams by the former Dutch colonial rulers and therefore lie below sea level.
The longest river in Guyana is the Essequibo, which rises at the Brazilian border and flows into the Atlantic Ocean after about 1,000 km near the capital Georgetown. Further water-rich rivers are the Corantijn (border river to Suriname) as well as Berbice, Dermerara, Mazaruni and Cuyuni seen from east to west, which all flow into the Atlantic.
According to the 1980 constitution, Guyana is a presidential republic with a multi-party system. A president elected for five years (Donald Ramotar, since December 2011) heads the state as head of state and highest holder of executive power. He is elected by the leading party and appoints the ministers. The head of government has been Samuel Hinds since 1997.
The legislature consists of only one chamber, the National Assembly, which has 65 deputies. 40 are elected every five years by universal suffrage under proportional representation, 25 by the provinces. The most important parties in the country are the Progressive People’s Party (PPP) and the Socialist National People’s Congress (PNC). Guyana is divided into ten regions and its legal system is based on English and Dutch criminal law.
Guyana is one of the most underdeveloped countries in the world, despite the country’s rich natural resources. Large parts of the population live below the poverty line. Critical factors are the weather dependency of the agricultural sector (risk of drought), political unrest, the poorly developed infrastructure and the lack of skilled labour for the industrial sector. However, the economy is developing positively: the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita has risen since 2010 from almost 3,000 to almost 4,000 US dollars per year.
Sugar is the most important agricultural export. But rice, coconut palms and tropical fruit are also cultivated. The Guyanese timber industry is comparatively underdeveloped, with fishing becoming more important.
In the highly fragmented hilly north of the country, there are bauxite deposits that are exploited and account for a significant share of the country’s total industrial export value. Another important export commodity is gold. The main imports are machinery, vehicles, fuels, food and consumer goods from the USA, Trinidad and Tobago, Great Britain and Cuba.
The country’s most important seaports are Georgetown and New Amsterdam, while the international airport is near Georgetown. The currency is the Guyana dollar.