Guyana's economy experienced deterioration from the late 1970s until the mid-1990s, when improved agriculture and mining, supported by international organizations, began a period of moderate growth. As of 2000, the gross domestic product (GDP) was growing at around 2% per year, and the per capita income was estimated at US $3,500. While serving as senior minister of finance, Jagdeo spearheaded Guyana's campaign for debt relief. He played a major role in improving the economy. By 1996, Guyana had posted its fifth straight year of economic growth of 5% or higher. This was due to increases in gold and bauxite mining and sugar production.
As minister of finance, Jagdeo was given the task of coordinating efforts to craft a National Development Strategy. He was able to bring together more than 200 local professionals and hundreds from across the nation to plan Guyana's future development. His ability to do this demonstrated his leadership capacity, and the success of his efforts on the economic front continues to be acknowledged. He was also able to reduce the country's debt by US $700 million and has successfully negotiated grants and loans totaling US $300 million.
As president, Jagdeo continues to face the overwhelming challenge of steering Guyana further away from economic turmoil and financial devastation. As of late 2002, tension along racial lines was hampering economic development. Over the years, Jagdeo has been described as a "go-getter," a hands-on minister who opposes corruption and advocates clean and honest governance. As the former president, Janet Jagan, stated, "there is more hope for a bright future with Bharrat Jagdeo at the helm." However, observers note that the political divide that falls along racial lines affects economic opportunities. When Indo-Guyanese are in power, Indo-Guyanese employment strengthens at the expense of Afro-Guyanese employment. If the political tables turn, the opposite situation will likely prevail.