Most manufacturing in Guyana involved the processing of agricultural products (sugar, rice, coconuts, and timber) and minerals (bauxite, gold, and diamonds). The production of alumina from bauxite was suspended in 1982. Guyana produced small quantities of textiles, ceramics, and pharmaceuticals in stateowned factories. Among those industries, the pharmaceutical industry showed the most potential for growth, having attracted investments from Beecham, a British firm, and from Tecno Bago, an Argentine firm. Manufacturers in Guyana also produced wooden furniture, cigarettes, and paints, and other products.
The government was attempting to sell off many of the smaller manufacturing companies as part of the Economic Recovery Program. One of the first state-owned manufacturers to be partially privatized was Demerara Distillers Limited, which produced rum and other alcoholic beverages. The company was relatively successful under state ownership, having become the world's largest producer of rum after Bacardi and the leading supplier of bulk rum (sold under various brand names) to Britain, according to the Financial Times. The government owned the majority of the company until 1988, when Demerara Distillers issued 12 million new shares and diluted government ownership to about 47 percent. The government did not appear ready to completely relinquish its hold on the rum producer, however, because it blocked the company's 1990 effort to issue more shares.
Expansion of the manufacturing sector, like expansion in other sectors, depended on increased foreign investment. Many observers noted that with such investment, Guyana could become a supplier of manufactured products to other countries in the Caribbean region. The Commonwealth Advisory Group, affiliated with the Donor Support Group that arranged the refinancing of the debt arrears in 1989, had reported in 1989 that Guyana had the potential for "vibrant and profitable" manufacturing of garments, shoes, leather goods, sawn timber, furniture and other wood products, processed agricultural products, paints, pharmaceuticals, and refrigerators. Preconditions for that sort of development, according to the group, included an easing of the foreign exchange constraint (achieved by 1990); improved infrastructure (telecommunications and transport); a simpler, less burdensome tax system; injections of foreign capital and technical skills; attractive wages for skilled workers; and stable government policy in support of private manufacturing.
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