Suriname is a nation of five hundred and sixty thousand people located in the north of the South American continent between Guyana to the west and French Guiana to the east, and bordering Brazil to the south. Its northern coast front the Atlantic Ocean.
Suriname is the smallest independent country on South American continent.
|Regional setting of Suriname.|
It mostly tropical rain forest with great diversity of flora and fauna that, for the most part, is increasingly threatened by new development; relatively small population, mostly along the coast.
Suriname's major environmental issues include:
- deforestation as timber is cut for export;and,
- pollution of inland waterways by small-scale mining activities.
First explored by the Spaniards in the 16th century and then settled by the English in the mid-17th century, Suriname became a Dutch colony in 1667. With the abolition of slavery in 1863, workers were brought in from India and Java.
Independence from the Netherlands was granted in 1975.
Five years later the civilian government was replaced by a military regime that soon declared a socialist republic. It continued to exert control through a succession of nominally civilian administrations until 1987, when international pressure finally forced a democratic election.
In 1990, the military overthrew the civilian leadership, but a democratically elected government - a four-party coalition - returned to power in 1991. The coalition expanded to eight parties in 2005 and ruled until August 2010, when voters returned former military leader Desire Bouterse and his opposition coalition to power.
Location: Northern South America, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between French Guiana and Guyana
Geographic Coordinates: 4 00 N, 56 00 W
Area: 163,270 km2 (161,470 km2 land and 1,800 km2 water)
Coastline: 386 km
Maritime Claims: Territorial sea to 12 nautical miles and an exclusive economic zone to 200 nautical miles
Terrain: Mostly rolling hills; narrow coastal plain with swamps. The highest point is Juliana Top (1,230 meters)
Climate: Tropical; moderated by trade winds.
Topography of Suriname. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Satellite view of Suriname. Source: NASA
Biodiversity and Ecology
1. Amazon-Orinoco-Southern Caribbean mangroves/ Guianan mangroves
2. Guianan Freshwater swamp forests/ Paramaribo swamp forests
5. Guianan Highlands moist forests
The Central Suriname Nature Reserve (CSNR) is a World Heritage Site located in central Suriname, 200 kilometers (km) south west of Paramaribo, in the District of Sipaliwini. Suriname is part of the Guayana Shield a two billion-year-old Pre-Cambrian formation that stretches over eastern Venezuela, Guayana, Suriname and northern Brazil. The reserve constitutes a major and representative proportion of this physical feature. Lying between the Amazonian and Orinoco river basins, it is a complex massif of hard, predominantly proterozoic rock-formations, with low mineral content.
Source: World Wildlife Fund
People and Society
Population: 560,157 (July 2012 est.)
Most Surinamers live in the narrow, northern coastal plain. For its size, the population is one of the most ethnically diverse 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 schools and the workplace.
Ethnic groups: Hindustani (also known locally as "East Indians"; their ancestors emigrated from northern India in the latter part of the 19th century) 37%, Creole (mixed white and black) 31%, Javanese 15%, "Maroons" (their African ancestors were brought to the country in the 17th and 18th centuries as slaves and escaped to the interior) 10%, Amerindian 2%, Chinese 2%, white 1%, other 2%
Age Structure: Median Age:28.7 years (July 2011 est.)
0-14 years: 26.4% (male 66,440/female 63,469)
15-64 years: 67.3% (male 164,739/female 166,139)
65 years and over: 6.3% (male 13,300/female 17,902) (2011 est.)
Population Growth Rate: 1.222% (2012 est.)
Birthrate: 17.44 births/1,000 population (2012 est.)
Death Rate: 6.17 deaths/1,000 population (July 2012 est.)
Net Migration Rate: 0.96 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2012 est.)
Life Expectancy at Birth: 71.12 years
male: 68.78 years
female: 73.58 years (2012 est.)
Total Fertility Rate: 2.08 children born/woman (2012 est.)
Languages: Dutch (official), English (widely spoken), Sranang Tongo (Surinamese, sometimes called Taki-Taki, is native language of Creoles and much of the younger population and is lingua franca among others), Caribbean Hindustani (a dialect of Hindi), Javanese.
Literacy: 89.6% (2004 census)
Urbanization: 69% of total population (2010) growing at a 1.5% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
Arawak and Carib tribes lived in the region before Columbus sighted the coast in 1498. Spain officially claimed the area in 1593, but Spanish and Portuguese 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's 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. Many of the slaves fled to the interior, where they maintained a West African culture and established the six major Maroon tribes in existence today: the NDjuka, Saramaccaner, Matuwari, Paramaccaner, Kwinti, and Aluku.
Plantations steadily declined in importance as labor costs rose. Rice, bananas, and citrus fruits replaced the traditional crops of sugar, coffee, and cocoa. Gold exports began to increase in 1900. The Dutch Government gave little financial support to the colony. Suriname's 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 Suriname.
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, with Dutch consent, on November 25, 1975.
Most of Suriname's 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's 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 parliamentary democracy in the years immediately following independence. Henck Arron became the first Prime Minister and was re-elected in 1977. On February 25, 1980, 16 noncommissioned officers overthrew the elected government, which many accused of inefficiency and mismanagement. The military-dominated government then suspended the constitution on August 13, 1980, dissolved the legislature, and formed a regime that ruled by decree. Although a civilian filled the post of president, military officer Desire Bouterse ruled the country in practice.
Throughout 1982, pressure grew for a return to civilian rule. On December 8, 1982, military authorities cracked down, arresting and killing 15 prominent opposition leaders, including journalists, lawyers, university lecturers, military officers, and a trade union leader.
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 often leftist-oriented political course. The regime restricted the press and limited the rights of its citizens. The economy declined rapidly after the suspension of economic aid from the Netherlands.
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 pushed aside during the coup. The military eventually agreed to free elections in 1987, a new constitution, and a civilian government.
Pressure for change also erupted in July 1986, when a Maroon insurgency, led by former soldier Ronnie Brunswijk, began attacking economic targets in the country's interior. Brunswijk and his supporters formed the Jungle Commando and were later joined by the Amer-Indian Tucajana group. In response, the army ravaged villages and killed suspected Brunswijk supporters. One of these villages was Moiwana, of which 50 villagers, mostly women and children, were killed. (In 2007 the Moiwana Human Rights Organization successfully requested the OAS and International Organization for Human Rights to order the Surinamese Government to compensate the relatives of the victims and to rebuild the village). Thousands of Maroons fled to nearby French Guiana. In an effort to end the bloodshed, the Surinamese Government negotiated a peace treaty in 1989 with Brunswijk, called the Kourou Accord. However, Bouterse and other military leaders blocked the accord's implementation.
On December 24, 1990, military officers forced the civilian president and vice president to resign, through a so-called “telephone coup.”. Military-selected replacements were hastily approved by the National Assembly on December 29 with 77-year old Johan Kraag appointed as president and Jules Wijdenbosch as vice president from December 29, 1990 – September 1991. Faced with mounting pressure from the U.S., the nations of the Organization of American States (OAS), and others, the government held new elections on May 25, 1991. The New Front (NF) Coalition, were able to win a majority in the National Assembly. On September 6, 1991, Ronald Venetiaan was elected President, and Jules Ajodhia became Vice President.
The Venetiaan government was able to implement a settlement to Suriname's domestic insurgency through the August 1992 Peace Accord with the Maroon-based Jungle Commando and the Amerindian Tucajana rebels. In April 1993, Desire 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's economic situation by re-establishing relations with the Dutch, 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 by Desire Bouterse, benefited from the New Front government's loss of popularity. NDP vice chairman Jules Wijdenbosch became president of an NDP-led coalition government and Pertaap Radhakishun became the Vice-President. Divisions and subsequent reshufflings of coalition members in the fall of 1997 and early 1998 weakened the coalition's 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 New Front coalition to the presidency. The NF based its campaign on a platform of fixing the faltering Surinamese economy.
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 the public perception that the NF had produced few tangible gains. Desire Bouterse's NDP more than doubled its representation in the National Assembly. Bouterse, the NDP's 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's candidate. In the National Assembly, the NF challenged Parmessar's Surinamese citizenship, displaying copies of a Dutch passport issued to Parmessar in 2004. Parmessar was eventually allowed to stand for election, and parliament later confirmed his Surinamese citizenship. 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's Assembly, where President Venetiaan was reelected to a third term with a significant majority of votes from the local, district, and national assembly members. His running mate, Ramdien Sardjoe, was elected as vice president. While the Venetiaan administration had made progress in stabilizing the economy, tensions within the coalition continued to impede progress and stymied legislative action.
Long-anticipated legal proceedings against those accused of participating in the December 1982 murders began in November 2007 with the issuance of summonses to 25 defendants, including opposition leader Desire Bouterse. The court martial tribunal convened on November 30, 2007, with a series of preliminary motions. The actual trial with judges hearing witness testimonies started on July 4, 2008. Trial proceedings have continued since then, and the case is ongoing.
The Venetiaan government lost power in the elections of May 25, 2010, when the opposition’s Mega Combination (MC), led by Desire Bouterse, won a majority in the National Assembly. The MC formed a majority coalition with several political parties to bring their total to 36 seats in the National Assembly and elected Jennifer Geerlings-Simons as Speaker of the Assembly, and Ruth Wijdenbosch as vice-speaker. Desire Bouterse was elected President of Suriname and Robert Ameerali as Vice President with all 36 coalition votes cast in their favor.
This was the first time in Suriname’s history that both a president and Vice President were elected with a large majority in the National Assembly. The new President and Vice President were sworn in on August 12, 2010.
Government Type: constitutional democracy
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 term.
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's 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's 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's Assembly to be elected for a 5-year term. As head of government, the president appoints a cabinet of ministers, currently numbered at 17 and apportioned among the various political parties represented in the ruling coalition. There is no constitutional provision for removal or replacement of the president unless he resigns or passes away while in function.
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; two seats are allotted to representatives of labor, and two are allotted to employers' organizations.
Capital: Paramaribo - population 259,000 (2009)
Satellite views of Paramaribo. Source: NASA
Administrative divisions: The country is divided into 10 administrative districts, each headed by a district commissioner appointed by the president. The commissioner is somewhat similar to the governor of a U.S. state but serves at the president's pleasure.
10 districts (distrikten, singular - distrikt);
Independence Date: 25 November 1975 (from the Netherlands)
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Legal System: Suriname accepts compulsory International Court of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction; and accepts International criminal court (ICCt) jurisdiction. 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 Attorneys.
International Environmental Agreements
Suriname is party to international agreements on Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, and Whaling.
From a hydrographic point of view Suriname is not part of the Regional Amazon System because its territory is not part of the Amazon Basin. However, Suriname belongs to the Amazon Cooperation Treaty (ACT) because of vegetation, more specifically the tropical rain forest ecosystem in and around the Amazon Basin. Estuarine fisheries constitute a significant economic activity from a national point of view, although direct involvement of Suranimese citizens in the fisheries operations can be considered negligible. Annual average rainfall in Suriname is 2,200 mm or 355 km3/year in the country's territory. It is considered that evapotranspiration and evaporation losses represent 49% of this precipitation. Suriname's major rivers flow northward into the Atlantic.
Total Renewable Water Resources: 122 cu km (2003)
Freshwater Withdrawal: 0.67 cu km/yr (4% domestic, 3% industrial, 93% agricultural)
Per Capita Freshwater Withdrawal: 1,489 cu m/yr (2000)
Irrigated Land: 510 sq km (2008)
Natural Resources: timber, hydropower, fish, kaolin, shrimp, bauxite, gold, and small amounts of nickel, copper, platinum, iron ore
arable land: 0.36%
permanent crops: 0.06%
other: 99.58% (2005)
Suriname's economy has been dominated by the exports of gold and oil, and to a lesser extent, alumina. Other export products include bananas, rice, and lumber. On the heels of rising world prices for fuel and record prices for gold, these sectors have booked significant successes in 2010. The bauxite sector continued to struggle as world demand for aluminum remained weak. According to the Economic Council for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) Suriname’s economy grew by 3 percent in 2010, less than the Latin American average of 6 percent, but significantly better than the Caribbean average of .5 percent. ECLAC predicts that Suriname’s economy will continue to grow in 2011, but at a lesser percentage of 1.2 percent. Suriname’s bauxite deposits have been among the world's richest. After a long standing relationship with Australian owned BHPBilliton, Alcoa subsidiary Suralco became the 100 percent owner of all activities in the bauxite sector on August 1, 2009 after BHPBilliton departed Suriname. In the wake of the world economic crisis this sector has continued to struggle and alumina has lost the importance it once had for the Surinamese economy. In order to survive this world crisis Suralco was forced to postpone all non-essential maintenance, stop all capital investments, and lower production. Another reason cited for reducing production was the expected depletion of reserves in the mines, Kaaimangrasie and Klaverblad, from which the company was operating. Since then, the company has commenced preparations to prepare its concession in the Nassau area in Southeastern Suriname for mining. This new mine is expected to be ready for production in 2013. Additionally the company also launched a bauxite exploration division in 2010 to research possible bauxite residue in areas already mined. This residue is expected to be of a lesser quality, but will, with additional processes, provide sufficient bauxite to keep the refinery operational. The takeover of BHPBilliton assets also left Suralco managing 60,000 hectares of land, of which part is in use by the government. In 2010 the company embarked on a Land Management Program aimed at rehabilitating land no longer being used for mining purposes, and in the case of government-owned land, returning it to its owner. In January 2011 the Government of Suriname officially announced that it was interested in resuming negotiations with Suralco for 40 years worth of bauxite reserves in Western Suriname in the Bakhuys area.
In the formal gold sector, the Government of Suriname (GoS) has announced that it plans to sign an agreement with Surgold, the joint venture company between Alcoa subsidiary Suralco and Newmont Mining Corporation, later this year. The agreement will allow for the mining of gold in the Merian area in Southeastern Suriname in the Nassau Concession, as well as the building of a second gold refinery. This agreement has been under negotiation since 2008. The proven reserves in this area are 3 million troy ounces. At the country’s first gold refinery, Rosebel Gold Mine (owned by Canadian mining giant Iamgold), production for the first nine months of 2010 was 276,000 troy ounces at an average production cost of US$ 499 per troy ounce. The company invested approx. US$ 49 million in exploration. Per December 2009 the proven reserves at Rosebel were 2.6 million troy ounces, while the probable reserves were 2.2 million troy ounces. The Rosebel Gold Mine continues to be the most profitable mine in the Iamgold portfolio, with the highest production levels at the lowest production costs.
In January 2011 the GoS embarked on an ambitious plan to order the informal gold sector. Once considered small-scale this untaxed and unregulated sector is currently estimated at US$ 1 billion annually. Thousands of Brazilians, mostly illegal, and local maroons find employment in this sector. Chinese shop owners have also set up businesses, also unregulated, near the mining sites. The GoS has set up different commissions that will deal with organizing and registering miners, developing legislation to regulate the sector, and to work on making this sector not only sustainable, but also environmentally safe. In the first instance the miners, owners of equipment, concession holders and all others with activities in the sector were asked to register with a special registration office set up by the GoS. In its first week of operations 3,500 persons registered with this office and its 2 satellite sites. To further simplify the registration process, the government intends to open another 5 satellite sites. The government also intends to establish special one-stop centers in the interior for miners to conduct all their activities with the government. In a follow up process the government will also work on the status of the miners. Miners who do not have a permit to be in the country will be allowed to get their paperwork in order to stay.
2010 was a very successful year for Suriname’s oil sector. State-owned State Oil Company Suriname (Staatsolie) reported a gross income of US$ 568 million, which was up by 32 percent compared to 2009 and just US$ 8 million shy from the company’s record earnings of 2008. This was primarily due to increased production and favorable world market prices. Gross profits of US$ 285 million were an increase of 57 percent compared 2009. Tax and dividend payments to the government in 2010 totaled US$ 186 million. Staatsolie produced 5.8 million barrels at an average price of US$ 72 per barrel. Staatsolie is in the midst of implementing its US$ 1 billion expansion project. Of this amount 75 percent will come direct from internal investments. The company took out a US$ 235 million loan from international banks. A national bond issuance brought in US$ 55 million.
Suriname has attracted the attention of international companies interested in extensive development of a tropical hardwoods industry and possible diamond mining. However, proposals for exploitation of the country's 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 in Suriname and abroad.
Although Suriname’s energy supply situation has improved, the country continues to have a shortage in affordable energy to support any major expansion of its economy. The bauxite refinery at Paranam depends primarily on diesel generated energy to support its refining operations. According to Surgold, any refinery built in southeastern Suriname will also have to be powered by diesel generated energy. The doubling of the capacity of the power generating plant of Staatsolie has helped in easing the demand for power in Paramaribo. Actualization of the Tapa-Jai project should further help ease demand issues.
Tourism figures for 2008 through 2010 have remained stagnant. The majority of tourists visiting Suriname continue to come from the Netherlands, with some “weekend tourists” from French Guiana. The number of tourists visiting Suriname from other Caribbean countries is on the rise. Tourist organizations have identified the lengthy visa process for Suriname as one of the obstacles to tourism growth, as well as logistics and infrastructure. The lack of organization within the sector has also been identified as playing an important role. In 2009 Suriname was named as one of the top ten destinations in the world for New Year’s Eve celebrations. Additionally the country was also named a top destination spot by Lonely Planet magazine. Suriname’s Ministry of Transport, Communication and Tourism actively takes part in different tourism fairs around the world, primarily Europe, in an effort to promote Suriname. Different private tourism companies are also making efforts to promote Suriname as a tourism destination.
GDP: (Purchasing Power Parity): $5.1 billion (2011 est.)
GDP: (Official Exchnage Rate): $3.9 billion (2011 est.)
GDP- per capita (PPP): $9,500 (2011 est.)
GDP- composition by sector:
services: 64.8% (2005 est.)
Industries: Bauxite and gold mining, alumina production; oil, lumbering, food processing, fishing
Currency: Surinamese dollars (SRD)