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Guizhou is a relatively poor and undeveloped province. It also has a small economy compared to the other coastal provinces, which are much more affluent. Its nominal GDP for 2004 was 159.2 billion yuan (19.75 billion USD). Its per capita GDP of 3568 RMB (470 USD) ranks last in all of the PRC Guizhou's natural industry includes timber and forestry. Other important industries in the province include energy (electricity generation) and mining, especially in coal, limestone, arsenic, gypsum, and oil shale. year.

Guizhou enjoys ample precipitation and has a complete water system. Rivers flow through its steep terrain, resulting in drastic fall of the waters which gives rise to a hydro-power generating resource of 18.74 million kw, putting the province at sixth place in the country. For each square kilometer, hydro-power resources amount to 106,000 kw, which is the third largest total in the nation. The province is also rich in gas stored in coal reserves. With a reserve of 241.9 billion tons of coal, Guizhou has been known as the "home of coal" in south China. Guizhou's total output of coal was 110 million tons in 2005, a 12 percent growth from the previous year. The combination of abundant water and coal reserves allows for the development of water and coal energy at the same time, which makes Guizhou an important province for the People's Republic of China, despite its struggling economy.

As one of the great reserves of minerals in China, Guizhou boasts more than 110 kinds of minerals. The province is particularly strong in its reserves of phosphorus, mercury, aluminum, manganese, antimony, gold, barite, raw materials for cement and bricks, as well as dolomite, sandstone and limestone. Its phosphorus reserve accounts to 44 percent of the national total while the mercury reserve, after long years of tapping, still makes up 38 percent of the total amount in the country. The newly discovered gold reserve of 150 tons offers the country another gold production base.

While Guizhou has plentiful reserves of raw materials, it has been faced with several problems which have set back its economic development and prevented it from reaching the higher economic status of the other coastal provinces of China. Its uneven topography, landlocked situation, difficult traffic access, and the late development of its economy, combined with the big size of the population, (especially the large proportion of poor within the population) all serve as important constraining factors to the social and economic development of the province.