Suriname

Introduction 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 New Front coalition - returned to power in 1991 and has ruled since; the coalition expanded to eight parties in 2005.
History

European exploration of the area began in the 16th century by Dutch, French, Spanish and English explorers. In the 17th century, plantation colonies were established by the Dutch and English along the many rivers in the fertile Guyana plains. The earliest documented colony in Guiana was by an Englishman named Marshall called Marshall's Creek, along the Suriname River. At the Treaty of Breda, in 1667, the Dutch decided to keep the nascent plantation colony of Suriname conquered from the English, while leaving the small trading post of New Amsterdam in North America, now New York City, in the hands of the English.

The Dutch planters relied heavily on African slaves to cultivate the coffee, cocoa, sugar cane and cotton plantations along the rivers. Treatment of the slaves by their owners was notoriously bad, and many slaves escaped the plantations. With the help of the native South Americans living in the adjoining rain forests, these runaway slaves established a new and unique culture that was highly successful in its own right. Known collectively in English as the Maroons, and in Dutch as "Bosnegers," (literally meaning "Bush negroes"), they actually established several independent tribes, among them the Saramaka, the Paramaka, the Ndyuka or Aukan, the Kwinti, the Aluku or Boni and the Matawai.

The Maroons would often raid the plantations to recruit new members, acquire women, weapons, food and supplies. These attacks were often deadly for the planters and their families, and after several unsuccessful campaigns against the Maroons, the European authorities signed several peace treaties with them in the 19th century, granting the Maroons sovereign status and trade rights.

Slavery was abolished by the Netherlands in Suriname in 1863, but the slaves in Suriname were not fully released until 1873, after a mandatory 10 year transition period during which time they were required to work on the plantations for minimal pay and without state sanctioned torture. As soon as they became truly free, the slaves largely abandoned the plantations where they had suffered for several generations, in favor of the city, Paramaribo. As a plantation colony, Suriname was still heavily dependent on manual labor, and to make up for the shortfall, the Dutch brought in contract laborers from the Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia) and India (through an arrangement with the British). In addition, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, small numbers of mostly men were brought in from China and the Middle East. Although Suriname's population remains relatively small, because of this history it is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse in the world.

In 1954, the Dutch placed Suriname under a system of limited self-government, with the Netherlands retaining control of defense and foreign affairs. In 1973, the local government, led by the NPK (a largely Creole, meaning ethnically African or mixed African-European, party) started negotiations with the Dutch government leading towards full independence, which was granted on 25 November 1975. The severance package was very substantial, and a large part of Suriname's economy for the first decade following independence was fueled by foreign aid provided by the Dutch government.

The first President of the country was Johan Ferrier, the former governor, with Henck Arron (leader of the Suriname National Party) as Prime Minister. Nearly one third of the population of Suriname at that time emigrated to the Netherlands in the years leading up to independence, as many people feared that the new country would fare worse under independence than it did as an overseas colony of the Netherlands. Suriname's diaspora therefore includes more than a quarter of one million people of Suriname origin living in the Netherlands today, including several recent members of the Dutch national football (soccer) team.

On February 25, 1980, a military coup sidelined the democratic government, and with it began a period of economic and social hardship for the country. On 8 December 1982, the military, then under the leadership of Desi Bouterse, rounded up several prominent citizens who were accused of plotting against the government. They were allegedly tortured and certainly killed during the night, and the Netherlands quickly suspended all foreign aid to Suriname after this event. (As of August 2008, Desi Bouterse is currently standing trial in Suriname for his role in these killings.)

Elections were held in 1987 and a new constitution was adopted, which among other things allowed the dictator to remain in charge of the army. Dissatisfied with the government, Bouterse summarily dismissed them in 1990, by telephone. This event became popularly known as "the telephone coup". Bouterse's power began to wane after the 1991 elections however, and a brutal civil war between the Suriname army and the Maroons, loyal to the rebel leader Ronnie Brunswijk, further weakened his position during the 1990s.

Suriname's democracy gained some strength after the turbulent 1990s, and its economy became more diversified and less dependent on Dutch financial assistance. Bauxite (Aluminum ore) mining continues to be a strong revenue source, but the discovery and exploitation of oil and gold has added substantially to Suriname's economic independence. Agriculture, especially of rice and bananas, remains a strong component of the economy, and ecotourism is providing new economic opportunities. More than 80% of Suriname's land-mass consists of unspoiled rain forest, and with the establishment of the Central Suriname Nature Reserve in 1998, Suriname signaled its commitment to conservation of this precious resource. The Central Suriname Nature Reserve became a World Heritage Site in 2000.

Geography Location: Northern South America, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between French Guiana and Guyana
Geographic coordinates: 4 00 N, 56 00 W
Map references: South America
Area: total: 163,270 sq km
land: 161,470 sq km
water: 1,800 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly larger than Georgia
Land boundaries: total: 1,703 km
border countries: Brazil 593 km, French Guiana 510 km, Guyana 600 km
Coastline: 386 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
Climate: tropical; moderated by trade winds
Terrain: mostly rolling hills; narrow coastal plain with swamps
Elevation extremes: lowest point: unnamed location in the coastal plain -2 m
highest point: Juliana Top 1,230 m
Natural resources: timber, hydropower, fish, kaolin, shrimp, bauxite, gold, and small amounts of nickel, copper, platinum, iron ore
Land use: arable land: 0.36%
permanent crops: 0.06%
other: 99.58% (2005)
Irrigated land: 510 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 122 cu km (2003)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 0.67 cu km/yr (4%/3%/93%)
per capita: 1,489 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: NA
Environment - current issues: deforestation as timber is cut for export; pollution of inland waterways by small-scale mining activities
Environment - international agreements: party to: 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, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note: smallest independent country on South American continent; mostly tropical rain forest; great diversity of flora and fauna that, for the most part, is increasingly threatened by new development; relatively small population, mostly along the coast
Politics

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 five-year term.

The president, who is elected for a five-year term by a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly or, failing that, by a majority of the People's Assembly, heads the executive branch. 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. As head of government, the president appoints a 16-minister cabinet. There is no constitutional provision for removal or replacement of the president unless he resigns.

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. In April 2005, the regional Caribbean Court of Justice, based in Trinidad, was inaugurated. As the final court of appeal, it was intended to replace the London-based Privy Council.

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 United States-type state, but is appointed and removed by the president.

People Population: 475,996 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 27.5% (male 66,695/female 64,356)
15-64 years: 66.2% (male 156,961/female 158,234)
65 years and over: 6.3% (male 12,868/female 16,882) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 27.5 years
male: 27.1 years
female: 27.9 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.099% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 17.02 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 5.51 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.52 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.76 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 19.45 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 22.96 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 15.71 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 73.48 years
male: 70.76 years
female: 76.39 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.01 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 1.7% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 5,200 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: fewer than 500 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne disease: dengue fever, Mayaro virus, and malaria
water contact disease: leptospirosis (2008)
Nationality: noun: Surinamer(s)
adjective: Surinamese
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%
Religions: Hindu 27.4%, Protestant 25.2% (predominantly Moravian), Roman Catholic 22.8%, Muslim 19.6%, indigenous beliefs 5%
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: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 89.6%
male: 92%
female: 87.2% (2004 census)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 12 years
male: 11 years
female: 13 years (2002)
Education expenditures: NA
Government Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Suriname
conventional short form: Suriname
local long form: Republiek Suriname
local short form: Suriname
former: Netherlands Guiana, Dutch Guiana
Government type: constitutional democracy
Capital: name: Paramaribo
geographic coordinates: 5 50 N, 55 10 W
time difference: UTC-3 (2 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions: 10 districts (distrikten, singular - distrikt); Brokopondo, Commewijne, Coronie, Marowijne, Nickerie, Para, Paramaribo, Saramacca, Sipaliwini, Wanica
Independence: 25 November 1975 (from the Netherlands)
National holiday: Independence Day, 25 November (1975)
Constitution: ratified 30 September 1987; effective 30 October 1987
Legal system: based on Dutch legal system incorporating French penal theory; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Runaldo Ronald VENETIAAN (since 12 August 2000); Vice President Ramdien SARDJOE (since 3 August 2005); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Runaldo Ronald VENETIAAN (since 12 August 2000); Vice President Ram SARDJOE (since 3 August 2005)
cabinet: Cabinet of Ministers appointed by the president
elections: president and vice president elected by the National Assembly or, if no presidential or vice presidential candidate receives a two-thirds constitutional majority in the National Assembly after two votes, by a simple majority in the larger United People's Assembly (893 representatives from the national, local, and regional councils), for five-year terms (no term limits); election last held on 25 May 2005 (next to be held in 2010)
election results: Runaldo Ronald VENETIAAN reelected president; percent of vote - Runaldo Ronald VENETIAAN 62.9%, Rabin PARMESSAR 35.4%, other 1.7%; note - after two votes in the parliament failed to secure a two-thirds majority for a candidate, the vote then went to a special session of the United People's Assembly on 3 August 2005
Legislative branch: unicameral National Assembly or Nationale Assemblee (51 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held on 25 May 2005 (next to be held in 2010)
election results: percent of vote by party - NF 39.7%, NDP 22.2%, VVV 13.8%, A-Com 7.2%, A-1 5.9%, other 11.2%; seats by party - NF 23, NDP 15, VVV 5, A-Com 5, A-1 3
Judicial branch: Cantonal Courts and a Court of Justice as an appellate court (justices are nominated for life)
Political parties and leaders: Alternative-1 or A-1 (a coalition of Amazone Party of Suriname or APS [Kenneth VAN GENDEREN], Democrats of the 21st Century or D-21 [Soewarto MOESTADJA], Nieuw Suriname or NS [Radjen Nanan PANDAY], Political Wing of the FAL or PVF [Jiwan SITAL], Trefpunt 2000 or T-2000 [Arti JESSURUN]); General Interior Development Party or ABOP [Ronnie BRUNSWIJK]; National Democratic Party or NDP [Desire BOUTERSE]; New Front for Democracy and Development or NF (a coalition that includes A-Combination or A-Com, Democratic Alternative 1991 or DA-91, an independent, business-oriented party [Winston JESSURUN], National Party Suriname or NPS [Ronald VENETIAAN], United Reform Party or VHP [Ramdien SARDJOE], Pertjaja Luhur or PL [Salam Paul SOMOHARDJO], Surinamese Labor Party or SPA [Siegfried GILDS]); Party for Democracy and Development in Unity or DOE [Marten SCHALKWIJK]; People's Alliance for Progress or VVV (a coalition of Democratic National Platform 2000 or DNP-2000 [Jules WIJDENBOSCH], Grassroots Party for Renewal and Democracy or BVD [Tjan GOBARDHAN], Party for National Unity and Solidarity of the Highest Order or KTPI [Willy SOEMITA], Party for Progression, Justice, and Perseverance or PPRS [Renee KAIMAN], Pendawalima or PL [Raymond SAPOEN]); Progressive Laborers and Farmers Union or PALU [Jim HOK]; Progressive Political Party or PPP [Surinder MUNGRA]; Seeka [Paul ABENA]; Union of Progressive Surinamers or UPS [Sheoradj PANDAY]
Political pressure groups and leaders: Association of Indigenous Village Chiefs [Ricardo PANE]; Association of Saramaccan Authorities or Maroon [Head Captain WASE]; Women's Parliament Forum or PVF [Iris GILLIAD]
International organization participation: ACP, Caricom, FAO, G-77, IADB, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDB, IFAD, IFRCS, IHO (suspended), ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IPU, ISO (subscriber), ITU, ITUC, LAES, MIGA, NAM, OAS, OIC, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, UN, UNASUR, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Jacques Ruben Constantijn KROSS
chancery: Suite 460, 4301 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 244-7488
FAX: [1] (202) 244-5878
consulate(s) general: Miami
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Lisa Bobbie SCHREIBER HUGHES
embassy: Dr. Sophie Redmondstraat 129, Paramaribo
mailing address: US Department of State, PO Box 1821, Paramaribo
telephone: [597] 472-900
FAX: [597] 410-025
Flag description: five horizontal bands of green (top, double width), white, red (quadruple width), white, and green (double width); there is a large, yellow, five-pointed star centered in the red band
Landmarks

The Jules Wijdenboschbrug is a bridge over the river Suriname between Paramaribo and Meerzorg in the Commewijne district. The bridge was built during the tenure of President Jules Albert Wijdenbosch (1996-2000) and was completed in 2000. The bridge is 52 metres high, and 1504 metres long. It connects Paramaribo with Commewijne, a connection which previously could only be made by ferry. The purpose of the bridge was to facilitate and promote the development of the eastern part of Suriname. The bridge consists of two lanes and is not accessible to pedestrians.

The Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul is 114 years old. Before it became a cathedral it was a theatre and was owned by La Parra. The theatre was built in 1809 and burned down in 1820. The construction of the Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral started on 13 January 1883.

Measurements
161 feet long (51 meters)
48 feet high in the main hall (17 meters)
54 feet wide (18 meters)
162 feet high in the tower up until the bronze cross (53 meters)
This makes the cathedral the biggest and tallest wooden structure on the western hemisphere. The cathedral has space for 340 people and was initially built for free slaves and contract labourers.

Pipe Organ
The pipe organ was constructed in Germany and initially contained 1550 pipes. Many of the pipes have been stolen over the years, leaving the organ with a value of 400 euros. After renovation it is expected to have a value of around 10 million euros.

Suriname is the one of the few countries in the world where you can find a Synagogue next to a Mosque (another place is Sofia, Bulgaria). The two buildings are located next to each other in the centre of Paramaribo and have been known to share a parking facility during their respective religious rites, should they happen to coincide with one another.

Economy Economy - overview: The economy is dominated by the mining industry, with exports of alumina, gold, and oil accounting for about 85% of exports and 25% of government revenues, making the economy highly vulnerable to mineral price volatility. The short-term economic outlook depends on the government's ability to control inflation and on the development of projects in the bauxite and gold mining sectors. Suriname has received aid for these projects from Netherlands, Belgium, and the European Development Fund. Suriname's economic prospects for the medium term will depend on continued commitment to responsible monetary and fiscal policies and to the introduction of structural reforms to liberalize markets and promote competition. In 2000, the government of Ronald VENETIAAN, returned to office and inherited an economy with inflation of over 100% and a growing fiscal deficit. He quickly implemented an austerity program, raised taxes, attempted to control spending, and tamed inflation. These economic policies are likely to remain in effect during VENETIAAN's third term. Prospects for local onshore oil production are good as a drilling program is underway. Offshore oil drilling was given a boost in 2004 when the State Oil Company (Staatsolie) signed exploration agreements with Repsol, Maersk, and Occidental. Bidding on these new offshore blocks was completed in July 2006.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $3.846 billion (2007 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $2.404 billion (2007 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 5.1% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP): $8,700 (2007 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 10.8%
industry: 24.4%
services: 64.8% (2005 est.)
Labor force: 156,700 (2004)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 8%
industry: 14%
services: 78% (2004)
Unemployment rate: 9.5% (2004)
Population below poverty line: 70% (2002 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Budget: revenues: $392.6 million
expenditures: $425.9 million (2004)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 6.4% (2007 est.)
Commercial bank prime lending rate: 13.77% (31 December 2007)
Stock of money: $416.6 million (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money: $824.4 million (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit: $651 million (31 December 2007)
Agriculture - products: paddy rice, bananas, palm kernels, coconuts, plantains, peanuts; beef, chickens; shrimp; forest products
Industries: bauxite and gold mining, alumina production; oil, lumbering, food processing, fishing
Industrial production growth rate: 6.5% (1994 est.)
Electricity - production: 1.53 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - consumption: 1.423 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2005)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2005)
Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 25.2%
hydro: 74.8%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Oil - production: 9,461 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - consumption: 12,000 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - exports: 3,151 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - imports: 6,032 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - proved reserves: 111 million bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas - production: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - exports: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - imports: 0 cu m (2005)
Natural gas - proved reserves: 0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Current account balance: $24 million (2007 est.)
Exports: $1.391 billion f.o.b. (2006 est.)
Exports - commodities: alumina, gold, crude oil, lumber, shrimp and fish, rice, bananas
Exports - partners: Canada 26.6%, Norway 20.1%, Belgium 9.2%, US 8.8%, UAE 7.9%, France 7.1% (2007)
Imports: $1.297 billion f.o.b. (2006 est.)
Imports - commodities: capital equipment, petroleum, foodstuffs, cotton, consumer goods
Imports - partners: US 27.2%, Netherlands 17.4%, Trinidad and Tobago 14.4%, China 6%, Japan 5.1% (2007)
Economic aid - recipient: $43.97 million (2005)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $263.3 million (2006)
Debt - external: $504.3 million (2005 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $NA
Currency (code): Surinam dollar (SRD)
Currency code: SRG
Exchange rates: Surinam dollars (SRD) per US dollar - 2.745 (2007), 2.745 (2006), 2.7317 (2005), 2.7336 (2004), 2.6013 (2003)
note: in January 2004, the government replaced the guilder with the Surinamese dollar, tied to a US dollar-dominated currency basket
Communications Telephones - main lines in use: 81,500 (2006)
Telephones - mobile cellular: 320,000 (2006)
Telephone system: general assessment: international facilities are good
domestic: combined fixed-line and mobile-cellular teledensity about 90 telephones per 100 persons; microwave radio relay network
international: country code - 597; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 4, FM 13, shortwave 1 (1998)
Radios: 300,000 (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 3 (plus 7 repeaters) (2000)
Televisions: 63,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .sr
Internet hosts: 33 (2008)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 2 (2000)
Internet users: 44,000 (2007)
Transportation Airports: 50 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 5
over 3,047 m: 1
under 914 m: 4 (2007)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 45
914 to 1,523 m: 5
under 914 m: 40 (2007)
Pipelines: oil 50 km (2007)
Roadways: total: 4,304 km
paved: 1,130 km
unpaved: 3,174 km (2003)
Waterways: 1,200 km (most navigable by ships with drafts up to 7 m) (2005)
Merchant marine: total: 1
by type: cargo 1 (2008)
Ports and terminals: Paramaribo, Wageningen
Military Military branches: National Army (Nationaal Leger, NL; includes Naval Wing, Air Wing) (2007)
Military service age and obligation: 18 years of age (est.); recruitment is voluntary, with personnel drawn almost exclusively from the Creole community (2007)
Manpower available for military service: males age 16-49: 130,534
females age 16-49: 130,243 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 16-49: 105,770
females age 16-49: 109,666 (2008 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually: male: 4,329
female: 4,350 (2008 est.)
Military expenditures: 0.6% of GDP (2006 est.)
Transnational Issues Disputes - international: area claimed by French Guiana between Riviere Litani and Riviere Marouini (both headwaters of the Lawa); Suriname claims a triangle of land between the New and Kutari/Koetari rivers in a historic dispute over the headwaters of the Courantyne; Guyana seeks United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) arbitration to resolve the long-standing dispute with Suriname over the axis of the territorial sea boundary in potentially oil-rich waters
Illicit drugs: growing transshipment point for South American drugs destined for Europe via the Netherlands and Brazil; transshipment point for arms-for-drugs dealing