French Guiana has been a department of France since 1946. A prefect represents the French president with the help of a 19-member general council and a 31-member regional council. The members of the councils are elected by the population every six years. The president of the general council is also the head of the government. French Guiana has representatives in both chambers of the French parliament. For the current political situation, see the history section.
Fishing and forestry are the main means of livelihood. Hardwood, large shrimp, stuffed butterflies and rum (made from sugar cane) are the main exports. The exploitation of tropical hardwood from the interior has only recently started and is modest in size. The same applies to mining (gold, bauxite, clay, vermilion). Mining and forestry suffer from poor infrastructure and a shortage of skilled labour.
There is a small industrial sector of sawmills, potteries and rum distilling. Not unimportant for the income of French Guiana is the presence of the space centre in Kourou. The European Space Agency is stationed here.
The gross national product of French Guiana is one of the largest in South America. However, the wealth is disproportionately distributed. Unemployment is particularly high among young people.
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