Agriculture allows Guyana to be self-sufficient in sugar, rice, vegetables, fruit, meat and poultry, as well as to make major export earnings from the first two. Although 80% of the land area is covered by forest, timber has only very recently assumed any economic significance (subject to internationally backed restrictions on logging).
Bauxite mining is the main industry, and responsible for one-third of export earnings. The mining sector also produces gold and diamonds, almost all of which are exported. Gold production has increased sharply since the opening of a new mining complex in 1992. Imported oil meets most of the country's energy requirements, although Guyana and Surinam have begun joint exploration projects.
Since 1997, many formerly state-owned assets and industries have been sold, and deregulation measures introduced, as part of that programme. A major obstacle to Guyana's future economic progress is a shortage of trained personnel, especially in the fields of management and technical expertise; the emigration rate remains high, and only serves to compound this long-term problem.
Guyana suffered widespread flooding in January and February 2005. The economy contracted by 3% that year, while inflation stood at 6.9%.
Guyana is a founder member of the regional trading bloc CARICOM.