GDP (2004 est.): U.S. $1.885 million.
Annual growth rate real GDP (2004 est.): 4.2%.
Per capita GDP (2004 est.): $4,300.
Natural resources: Bauxite,gold,oil,iron ore,other minerals; forests; hydroelectric potential; fish and shrimp.
Agriculture:Products--rice,bananas,timber,and citrus fruits.
Trade (2001):Exports--$479 million (U.S.$): alumina,wood and wood products,rice,bananas,fish,and shrimp.Major markets--U.S. (about 25%),Norway,Netherlands,and other European countries.Imports--$501 million: capital equipment,petroleum,iron and steel products,agricultural products,and consumer goods.Major suppliers--U.S. (about 40%),Netherlands,EU (about 30%),and Caribbean (CARICOM) countries (20%).
Most Surinamers live in the narrow,northern
coastal plain. The population is one of the most ethnically varied in
the world. Each ethnic group preserves its own culture and many
institutions,including political parties,tend to follow ethnic lines.
Informal relationships vary: the upper classes of all ethnic
backgrounds mix freely; outside of the elite,social relations tend to
remain within ethnic groupings. All groups may be found in the schools
Arawak and Carib tribes lived in the region
before Columbus sighted the coast in 1498. Spain officially claimed the
area in 1593,but Portuguese and Spanish explorers of the time gave the
area little attention. Dutch settlement began in 1616 at the mouths of
several rivers between present-day Georgetown,Guyana,and Cayenne,French Guiana.
Suriname became a Dutch colony in 1667. The new colony,Dutch
Guiana,did not thrive. Historians cite several reasons for this,including Holland preoccupation with its more extensive (and
profitable) East Indian territories,violent conflict between whites
and native tribes,and frequent uprisings by the imported slave
population,which was often treated with extraordinary cruelty. Barely,if at all,assimilated into European society,many of the slaves fled
to the interior,where they maintained a West African culture and
established the five major Bush Negro tribes in existence today--the
Plantations steadily declined in importance as labor costs
rose. Rice,bananas,and citrus fruits replaced the traditional crops
of sugar,coffee,and cocoa. Exports of gold rose beginning in 1900.
The Dutch Government gave little financial support to the colony.
Suriname economy was transformed in the years following World War I,when an American firm (ALCOA) began exploiting bauxite deposits in East
Suriname. Bauxite processing and then alumina production began in 1916.
During World War II,more than 75% of U.S. bauxite imports came from
In 1951,Suriname began to acquire a growing measure of
autonomy from the Netherlands. Suriname became an autonomous part of
the Kingdom of the Netherlands on December 15,1954,and gained
independence on November 25,1975.
Most of Suriname political parties took shape during the
autonomy period and were overwhelmingly based on ethnicity. For
example,the National Party of Suriname found its support among the
Creoles,the Progressive Reform Party members came from the Hindustani
population,and the Indonesian Peasant Party was Javanese. Other
smaller parties found support by appealing to voters on an ideological
or pro-independence platform; the Partij Nationalistische Republiek
(PNR) was among the most important. Its members pressed most strongly
for independence and for the introduction of leftist political and
economic measures. Many former PNR members would go on to play a key
role following the coup of February 1980.
Suriname was a working parliamentary democracy in the years
immediately following independence. Henk Arron became the first Prime
Minister and was re-elected in 1977. On February 25,1980,16
noncommissioned officers overthrew the elected government. The
military-dominated government then suspended the constitution,dissolved the legislature,and formed a regime that ruled by decree.
Although a civilian filled the post of president,a military man,Desi
Bouterse,actually ruled the country.
Throughout 1982,pressure grew for a return to civilian rule.
In response,the military ordered drastic action. Early in December
1982,military authorities arrested and killed 15 prominent opposition
leaders,including journalists,lawyers,and trade union leaders.
Following the murders,the United States and the Netherlands
suspended economic and military cooperation with the Bouterse regime,which increasingly began to follow an erratic but generally
leftist-oriented political course. Economic decline rapidly set in
after the suspension of economic aid from the Netherlands. The regime
restricted the press and limited the rights of its citizens.
Continuing economic decline brought pressure for change.
During the 1984-87 period,the Bouterse regime tried to end the crisis
by appointing a succession of nominally civilian-led cabinets. Many
figures in the government came from the traditional political parties
that had been shoved aside during the coup. The military eventually
agreed to free elections in 1987,a new constitution,and a civilian
Another pressure for change had erupted in July 1986,when a
Bush Negro (aka Maroon) insurgency,led by former soldier Ronnie
Brunswijk,began attacking economic targets in the country interior. In
response,the army ravaged villages and killed suspected Brunswijk
supporters. Thousands of Bush Negroes fled to nearby French Guiana. In
an effort to end the bloodshed,the Surinamese Government negotiated a
peace treaty,called the Kourou Accord,with Brunswijk in 1989.
However,Bouterse and other military leaders blocked the accord
On December 24,1990,military officers forced the
resignations of the civilian President and Vice President elected in
1987. Military-selected replacements were hastily approved by the
National Assembly on December 29. Faced with mounting pressure from the
U.S.,other nations,the Organization of American States (OAS),and
other international organizations,the government held new elections on
May 25,1991. The New Front (NF) Coalition,comprised of the Creole
National Party of Suriname (NPS),the Hindustani Progressive Reform
Party (VHP),the Javanese Indonesian Peasant Party (KTPI),and the
Surinamese Workers Party (SPA) were able to win a majority in the
National Assembly. On September 6,1991,NPS candidate Ronald Venetiaan
was elected President,and the VHP Jules Ajodhia became Vice President
of the New Front Coalition government.
The Venetiaan government was able to effect a settlement to
Suriname domestic insurgency through the August 1992 Peace Accord with
Bush Negro and Amerindian rebels. In April 1993,Desi Bouterse left his
position as commander of the armed forces and was replaced by Arthy
Gorre,a military officer committed to bringing the armed forces under
civilian government control. Economic reforms instituted by the
Venetiaan government eventually helped curb inflation,unify the
official and unofficial exchange rates,and improve the government
economic situation by re-establishing relations with the Dutch,thereby
opening the way for a major influx of Dutch financial assistance.
Despite these successes,the governing coalition lost support and
failed to retain control of the government in the subsequent round of
national elections. The rival National Democratic Party (NDP),founded
in the early 1990s by Desi Bouterse,benefited from the New Front
government loss of popularity. The NDP won more National Assembly seats
(16 of 51) than any other party in the May 1996 national elections and
in September 1996,joined with the KTPI,dissenters from the VHP,and
several smaller parties to elect NDP vice chairman Jules Wijdenbosch
president of a NDP-led coalition government. Divisions and subsequent
reshufflings of coalition members in the fall of 1997 and early 1998
weakened the coalition mandate and slowed legislative action.
In May 1999,after mass demonstrations protesting poor
economic conditions,the government was forced to call early elections.
The elections in May 2000 returned Ronald Venetiaan and his coalition
to the presidency. The NF ran its campaign on a platform to fix the
faltering Surinamese economy. But while the Venetiaan administration
has made progress in stabilizing the economy,tensions within the
coalition and the impatience of the populace have impeded progress.
Relations with the Dutch have been complicated by Dutch
prosecution of Desi Bouterse in absentia on drug charges,and legal
maneuvering by Dutch prosecutors trying to bring charges relating to
the December 1982 murders. (A Dutch appellate court in 2000 found
Bouterse guilty of one drug-related charge; the decision was upheld on
appeal.) A key component of the relationship is the 600 million Dutch
guilders (Nf.) remaining from Nf. 2.5 billion promised for development
at independence. The disposition of the funds was a matter of much
discussion during recent Dutch cabinet-level visits intended to lay the
groundwork to restart the flow of guilders,which the Dutch stanched in
response to irresponsible spending by the Wijdenbosch administration.
The parties are at odds over the control of the funds,and needed aid
has not flowed to the country.
In August 2001,the Dutch provided a triple-A state guarantee
to enable the Surinamese Government to receive a 10-year loan from the
Dutch Development Bank (NTO) for the amount of Euro 137.7 million (U.S.
$125 million). The loan has an interest rate of 5.18% per year and was
used to consolidate floating government debts. U.S. $32 million of the
loan was used to pay off foreign loans,which had been taken under
unfavorable conditions by the Wijdenbosch government. The remaining 93
million of the loan was used to pay off debts at the Central Bank of
Suriname. This enabled the Central Bank to strengthen its foreign
currency position according to the IMF standards to the equivalency of
3 months of imports.
In the national election held on May 25,2005,the ruling NF
coalition suffered a significant setback due to widespread
dissatisfaction with the state of the economy and a public perception
that the NF had produce few tangible gains for the country. The NF won
just 23 seats,falling short of a simple majority in the National
Assembly,and immediately entered into negotiations with the
Maroon-based Combination and the Coalition to form a working majority.
Desi Bouterse NDP party better than doubled its representation in the
National Assembly,winning 15 seats. Bouterse,who had placed himself
as the NDP declared presidential candidate,withdrew from the race days
before the National Assembly convened to vote for the next president
and tapped his running mate,Rabin Parmessar,to run as the NDP
candidate. In the National Assembly,the NF challenged Parmessar
Surinamese citizenship,displaying copies of a Dutch passport issued to
Parmessar in 2004. After two votes,no candidate received the required
two-thirds majority,pushing the final decision in August 2005 to a
special session of the United People Assembly,where President
Venetiaan was reelected with a significant majority of votes from the
local,district,and national assembly members gathered. His
running mate,Ramdien Sardjoe,was elected as vice president.
The Republic of Suriname is a
constitutional democracy based on the 1987 constitution. The
legislative branch of government consists of a 51-member unicameral
National Assembly,simultaneously and popularly elected for a 5-year
The executive branch is headed by the president,who is
elected by a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly or,failing
that,by a majority of the People Assembly for a 5-year term. If at
least two-thirds of the National Assembly cannot agree to vote for one
presidential candidate,a People Assembly is formed from all National
Assembly delegates and regional and municipal representatives who were
elected by popular vote in the most recent national election. A vice
president,normally elected at the same time as the president,needs a
simple majority in the National Assembly or People Assembly to be
elected for a 5-year term. As head of government,the president
appoints a cabinet of ministers. There is no constitutional provision
for removal or replacement of the president unless he resigns.
A 15-member State Advisory Council advises the president in
the conduct of policy. Eleven of the 15 council seats are allotted by
proportional representation of all political parties represented in the
National Assembly. The president chairs the council,and two seats are
allotted to representatives of labor,and two are allotted to
The judiciary is headed by the Court of Justice (Supreme
Court). This court supervises the magistrate courts. Members are
appointed for life by the president in consultation with the National
Assembly,the State Advisory Council,and the National Order of Private
The country is divided into 10 administrative districts,each
headed by a district commissioner appointed by the president. The
commissioner is similar to the governor of a U.S. State but serves at
the president pleasure.
Principal Government Officials
President--Renaldo Ronald Venetiaan
Vice President--Ramdien Sardjoe
Foreign Minister--Lygia Kraag-Keteldijk
Ambassador to U.S.--Henry Lothar Illes
Ambassador to UN--Ewald Limon
Ambassador to OAS--Henry Lothar Illes
Suriname maintains anembassy
in the United States at 4301 Connecticut Ave,NW,Suite 460,Washington,DC 20008 (tel. 202-244-7488; fax 202-244-5878). There also
is a Suriname consulate general at 7235 NW 19th St.,Suite A,Miami,FL
33136 (tel. 305-593-2163).
Surinamese armed forces consist of
the national army under the control of the Minister of Defense and a
smaller civil police force,which is responsible to the Minister of
Justice and Police. The national armed forces comprise some 2,200
personnel,the majority of whom are deployed as light infantry security
forces. A small air force,navy,and military police also exist. The
Netherlands has provided limited military assistance to the Surinamese
armed forces since the election of a democratic government in 1991. In
recent years,the U.S. has provided training to military officers and
policymakers to promote a better understanding of the role of the
military in a civilian government. Also,since the mid-1990s,the
People Republic of China has been donating military equipment and
logistical material to the Surinamese Armed Forces.
The backbone of Suriname economy is the
export of alumina and small amounts of aluminum produced from bauxite
mined in the country. In 1999,the aluminum smelter was closed.
However,alumina exports accounted for 72% of Suriname estimated export
earnings of $496.6 million in 2001. Suriname bauxite deposits have been
among the world richest.
In 1984,SURALCO,a subsidiary of the Aluminum Company of
America (ALCOA),formed a joint venture with the Royal Dutch
Shell-owned Billiton Company,which did not process the bauxite it
mined in Suriname. Under this agreement,both companies share risks and
Inexpensive power costs are Suriname big advantage in the
energy-intensive alumina and aluminum business. In the 1960s,ALCOA
built a $150-million dam for the production of hydroelectric energy at
Afobaka (south of Brokopondo),which created a 1,560-sq. km. (600-sq.
mi.) lake,one of the largest artificial lakes in the world.
The major mining sites at Moengo and Lelydorp are maturing,and it is now estimated that their reserves will be depleted by 2006.
Other proven reserves exist in the east,west,and north of the country
sufficient to last until 2045. However,distance and topography make
their immediate development costly. In October 2002,Alcoa and BHP
Billiton signed a letter of intent as the basis for new joint ventures
between the two companies,in which Alcoa will take part for 55% in all
bauxite mining activities in West Suriname. The government and the
companies are looking into cost-effective ways to develop the new
mines. The preeminence of bauxite and ALCOA continued presence in
Suriname are key elements in the U.S.-Suriname economic relationship.
A member of CARICOM,Suriname also exports rice,shrimp,timber,bananas,fruits,and vegetables. Gold mining is unregulated by
the government,and this important part of the informal economy
(estimated at as much as 100% of GDP) must be brought into the realm of
tax and environmental authorities. Suriname has attracted the attention
of international companies in gold exploration and exploitation as well
as those interested in extensive development of a tropical hardwoods
industry and possible diamond mining. However,proposals for
exploitation of the country tropical forests and undeveloped regions of
the interior traditionally inhabited by indigenous and Maroon
communities have raised the concerns of environmentalists and human
rights activists both in Suriname and abroad. Oil is a promising
sector; current output is 12,000 barrels a day,and regional geology
suggests additional potential. Staatsolie,the state-owned oil company,is actively seeking international joint venture partners.
At independence,Suriname signed an agreement with the
Netherlands providing for about $1.5 billion in development assistance
grants and loans over a 10- to 15-year period. Dutch assistance
allocated to Suriname thus amounted to about $100 million per year,but
was discontinued during periods of military rule. After the return to a
democratically elected government in 1991,Dutch aid resumed. The Dutch
relationship continues to be an important factor in the economy,with
the Dutch insisting that Suriname undertake economic reforms and
produce specific plans acceptable to the Dutch for projects on which
aid funds could be spent. In 2000,however,the Dutch revised the
structure of their aid package and signaled to the Surinamese
authorities their decision to disburse aid by sectoral priorities as
opposed to individual projects. Although the present government is not
in favor of this approach,it has identified sectors and is now working
on sectoral analyses to present to the Dutch.
From 1991 to 1992,Suriname economic situation
showed some improvement,and measures taken in 1993 led to economic
stabilization,a relatively stable exchange rate,low inflation,sustainable fiscal policies,and growth,However,Suriname economic
situation has deteriorated since 1996,due in large part to loose
fiscal policies of the Wijdenbosch government,which,in the
face of lower Dutch development aid,financed its deficit through
credit extended by the Central Bank. As a consequence,the parallel
market for foreign exchange soared so that by the end of 1998,the
premium of the parallel market rate over the official rate was 85%.
Since more than 90% of import transactions took place at the parallel
rate,inflation took off,with 12-month inflation growing from 0.5% at
the end of 1996 to 23% at the end of 1998 and 113% at the end of 1999.
The government also instituted a regime of stringent economic controls
over prices,the exchange rate,imports,and exports in an effort to
contain the adverse effects of its economic policies. The cumulative
impact of soaring inflation,an unstable exchange rate,and falling
real incomes led to a political crisis.
Suriname elected a new government in May 2000,but until it was
replaced,the Wijdenbosch government continued its loose fiscal and
monetary policies. By the time it left office,the exchange rate in the
parallel market had depreciated further,over 10% of GDP had been
borrowed to finance the fiscal deficit,and there was a significant
monetary overhang in the country. The new government dealt with these
problems by devaluing the official exchange rate by 88%,eliminating
all other exchange rates except the parallel market rate set by the
banks and cambios,raising tariffs on water and electricity,and
eliminating the subsidy on gasoline. The new administration also
rationalized the extensive list of price controls to 12 basic food
items. More important,the government ceased all financing from the
Central Bank. It is attempting to broaden its economic base,establish
better contacts with other nations and international financial
institutions,and reduce its dependence on Dutch assistance. However,to date the government has yet to implement an investment law or to
begin privatization of any of the 110 parastatal,nor has it given much
indication that it has developed a comprehensive plan to grow the
State-owned banana producer Surland closed its doors on April
5,2002,after its inability to meet payroll expenses for the second
month in a row; it is still unclear if Surland will survive its current
crisis. Moreover,in January 2002,the current government renegotiated
civil servant wages (a significant part of the work force and a
significant portion of government expenditure),agreeing to raises as
high as 100%. Pending implementation of these wage increases and
concerned that the government may be unable to meet these increased
expenses,the local currency weakened from Sf 2200 in January 2002 to
nearly Sf 2500 in April 2002. On March 26,2003,the Central Bank of
Suriname (CBvS) adjusted the exchange rate of the U.S. dollar. This
action resulted in further devaluation of the Surinamese guilder. In
2004,the administration introduced a new currency,the Surinamese
dollar (SRD),to replace the guilder. The government has kept the SRD
exchange rate relatively stable since its inception,at around 2.7 SRD
per U.S. dollar. However,uncertainty surrounding the May 25,2005
election has put pressure on the currency.
Since gaining independence,Suriname has become a member of the United Nations,the OAS,and the
Non-Aligned Movement. Suriname is a member of the Caribbean Community
and Common Market and the Association of Caribbean States; it is
associated with the European Union through the Lome Convention.
Suriname participates in the Amazonian Pact,a grouping of the
countries of the Amazon Basin that focuses on protection of the Amazon
region natural resources from environmental degradation. Reflecting its
status as a major bauxite producer,Suriname is also a member of the
International Bauxite Association. The country also belongs to the
Economic Commission for Latin America,the Inter-American Development
Bank,the International Finance Corporation,the World Bank,and the
International Monetary Fund. Suriname became a member of the Islamic
Development Bank in 1998,under the Wijdenbosch government.
Bilateral agreements with several countries of the region,covering diverse areas of cooperation,have underscored the government
interest in strengthening regional ties. The return to Suriname from
French Guiana of about 8,000 refugees of the 1986-91 civil war between
the military and domestic insurgents has improved relations with French
authorities. Longstanding border disputes with Guyana and French Guiana
remain unresolved. Negotiations with the Government of Guyana brokered
by the Jamaican Prime Minister in 2000 did not produce an agreement,but the countries agreed to restart talks after Guyanese national
elections in 2001. In January 2002,the presidents of Suriname and
Guyana met in Suriname and agreed to resume negotiations,establishing
the Suriname-Guyana border commission. An earlier dispute with Brazil
ended amicably after formal demarcation of the border.
In May 1997,then-President Wijdenbosch joined President
Clinton and 14 other Caribbean leaders during the first-ever
U.S.-regional summit in Bridgetown,Barbados. The summit strengthened
the basis for regional cooperation on justice and counternarcotics
issues,finance and development,and trade.
Since the reestablishment
of a democratic,elected government in 1991,the United States has
maintained positive and mutually beneficial relations with Suriname
based on the principles of democracy,respect for human rights,rule of
law,and civilian authority over the military. To strengthen civil
society and bolster democratic institutions,the U.S. has provided
training regarding appropriate roles for the military in civil society
to some of Suriname military officers and decision makers.
Narcotics trafficking organizations appear to be channeling
increasing quantities of cocaine through Suriname for repackaging and
transport to Europe and the United States; and of XTC for transport to
the United States. To assist Suriname in the fight against drugs and
associated criminal activity,the U.S. has helped train Surinamese
anti-drug squad personnel. The U.S.Peace Corps
in Suriname works with the Ministry of Regional Development and rural
communities to encourage community development in Suriname interior.
Suriname is densely forested and has thus far suffered little
from deforestation,but increased interest in large-scale commercial
logging and mining in Suriname interior have raised environmental
concerns. The U.S. Forest Service,the Smithsonian,and numerous
non-governmental environmental organizations have promoted technical
cooperation with Suriname government to prevent destruction of the
country tropical rain forest,one of the most diverse ecosystems in the
world. U.S. experts have worked closely with local natural resource
officials to encourage sustainable development of the interior and
alternatives such as ecotourism. Suriname tourism sector remains a
minor part of the economy,and tourist infrastructure is limited (in
2000,some 56,843 foreign tourists visited Suriname). On December 1,2000,UNESCO designated the 1.6-million hectare Central Suriname Nature
Reserve a World Heritage site.
Suriname efforts in recent years to liberalize economic policy
created new possibilities for U.S. exports and investments. The U.S.
remains one of Suriname principal trading partners,largely due to
ALCOA longstanding investment in Suriname bauxite mining and processing
industry. More than one-half of world exports to Suriname originate in
the United States. Several U.S. corporations are active in Suriname,largely in the mining,consumer goods,and service sectors. Principal
U.S. exports to Suriname include chemicals,aircraft,vehicles,machine
parts,meat,and wheat. U.S. consumer products are increasingly
available through Suriname many trading companies. Opportunities for
U.S. exporters,service companies,and engineering firms will probably
expand over the next decade.
Suriname is looking to U.S. and other foreign investors to
assist in the commercial development of its vast natural resources and
to help finance infrastructure improvements. Enactment of a new
investment code and intellectual property rights protection
legislation,which would strengthen Suriname attractiveness to
investors,has been discussed,and recently some progress has been
made. The investment law was approved by the National Assembly and is
currently being revised by the Ministry of Finance.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--Marsha E. Barnes
Deputy Chief of Mission--Mary Beth Leonard
Defense Attache--Lorenzo Harris
Political/Economic Office--Thomas Walsh
Management Officer--David Lamontagne
Consular Officer--Natalia Ioffe
Peace Corps Country Director--Charles Childers
in Paramaribo is located at Dr. Sophie Redmondstraat 129,P.O. Box
1821,Paramaribo,Suriname (tel. 597-472900,597-476459; fax: 597-
Other Contact Information
U.S. Department of Commerce
International Trade Administration
Office of Latin America and the Caribbean
14th and Constitution,NW
Caribbean/Latin American Action
1818 N Street,NW Suite 310