General facts

General Information

The Republic of Suriname, with its capital Paramaribo, is probably best known for being one of the greenest nations on earth, with more than 90% of its surface covered by dense tropical rainforest. Suriname with its extensive natural resources and impressive biodiversity lies in the northeast of South America and is part of the Guiana's. The country covers an area of 163,270 square kilometers.

Language

Dutch is the official language, but English is widely spoken and understood. Sranan Tongo is the lingua franca. Most of the population also speak their ethnic language such as Sarnami, Javanese, Chinese (Hakka and Mandarin), different Maroon and Indigenous languages.

Population

The history of Suriname accounts for the country's highly diversified ethnic population, with a very diverse ethnic heritage, consisting of native indigenous people (Amerindians) and Maroons (descendants of African slaves) who are still living traditionally in the hinterland, mixed Afro Surinamese (Creoles), descendants of immigrants from India, China, Indonesia, Europe.

At the same time traditional ways of life of the ethnic groups have remained the same. In recent decades an increasing number of immigrants from China (known as new Chinese) and Brazil have also settled in Suriname.

Religion

Suriname has many religions and religious tolerance knows no bounds. Christianity is the most practiced religion, Hinduism, Islam and other traditional religions are also being practiced.

Economy

The Government has a considerable share in the service sector as major employer. The majority of the active population is in fact employed by the government or parastatal companies. People are furthermore working in sectors such as trade, mining, agriculture or industry. The revenues from the mining sector are largely contributing to the Surinamese economy. In this regard export earnings from bauxite, crude oil, gold and derivatives can be mentioned.

Economic activities among local private companies are particularly focused on trade and services and less on industry. Some important trading partners of Suriname are the United States of America, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, China, Japan, France, Norway, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Currency

The national monetary unit is the Surinamese Dollar (SRD). However US Dollars and Euro’s are widely used and accepted.

Fact Sheet of Suriname

 Official Name  Republic of Suriname
 Head of State  H.E. Chandrikapersad Santokhi
 Vice-President  H.E. Ronnie Brunswijk
 Minister of Foreign Affairs  H.E. Albert Ramdin
 Area  163.270 Sq. Kms
 Capital City  Paramaribo
 Population  554.000 (est. 2014)
 Official language  Dutch
 Literacy  95%
 National Day  25 November
 Climate  Tropical
 Financial year  1 January – 31 December
 Real GDP (2012 E)   5.65
 Form of Government  Constitutional Democracy, President is both Head of State and Head of Government
 Cabinet  Cabinet of Ministers appointed by President
 Legislative Branch   Unicameral National Assembly (51 seats). Members are elected by popular vote to serve five-years terms
 Ethnic Groups  Hindustanis (27.4 %), Creoles (17.7 %), Javanese (14.6%), Maroons (15.3 %), Mixed (12.5%), Others (6.4%)
 Religions  Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Other
 Official rate of exchange   US$ = SRD 21
21 Principal Exports   Alumina, Bauxite, Gold, Crude Oil, Rice, Shrimp, Fish, Lumber.
 Principal Imports  Consumer goods, capital goods, raw-material, oil & gas
 Forestry/Agriculture  Timber, Rice, Banana, Citrus Fruits, Tropical vegetables, Fisheries, Shrimps
 Industry/Products  Alumina, Brewing Rum/Beer,
 Major Trading Partners  The Netherlands, USA, China, Japan, Brazil, Indonesia, Trinidad & Tobago, Canada, Guyana

Business Environment

Suriname's economy offers many attractions for foreign investors. The Government has been active in promoting investment opportunities as a crucial component of a broad strategy of sustainable economic development. In addition to the traditional mining sectors that have been the targets of most foreign direct investments flows till date, the Government is also targeting areas like agriculture, infrastructure, tourism and technology to gain share in Suriname's revenue base.

The business climate in Suriname can be described as professional and formal. Workdays begin and end early in Suriname. General business hours are 7.30-8.00 a.m. – 4.30 p.m. weekdays. Government offices are open from 7.00 a.m. till 3.00 p.m. Opening hours of banks are generally Monday through Friday from 8.00 a.m. - 2.00 p.m.

Professional services to support business activities are offered by a wide variety of renowned international and local companies. Aside from locally registered professional services companies, Suriname also hosts companies from abroad. Professional services located in Suriname include:

Audit, tax and legal services
Financial services
Insurance services
Consulting, advisory and research services

Some of the audit and tax firms in Suriname correspond with international audit firms, such as Deloitte and Price Waterhouse Coopers. Others are locally present such as KPMG and BDO. Besides the international audit firms there are also several Surinamese audit firms.


Money and Banking

The national monetary unit is the Surinamese dollar, which is divided in cents. However US Dollars (US$) and Euros (€) are widely accepted. The Central Bank regulates and supervises Suriname's financial system. In addition to the Central Bank, several commercial banks, and one development bank offer a wide range of financial services. All the banks are located in Paramaribo, some have branches in various districts. Companies and individuals can have foreign accounts and foreign currency deposits, while financial institutions are allowed to give foreign currency loans. The exchange rate is published by the Central bank daily and is applied throughout the banking system.

Foreign companies have access to foreign exchange. Permission is required from the Foreign Exchange Commission (Deviezencommissie) to transfer any funds associated with a business or investments out of Suriname. This Commission is responsible for the execution of the foreign exchange policy, administrative tasks and granting permits related to foreign exchange.
The Government stimulates foreign investments and therefore in 2008 changed its law to allow banking institutions to open accounts for non-resident, and conduct transactions on behalf of non-residents in all foreign currencies at an official exchange rate determined by the Central Bank. In addition, the new law allows repatriation of dividends, interest, income, capital and royalties without limitations or restriction. So permission from the Commission is just an administrative procedure, but nonetheless required.

No limits exist on the amount of funds flowing into or out of Surinamese accounts. However, whenever the incoming or outgoing amount exceeds US$5000 or €5000 a source of origin must be declared (Anti Money Laundering Act). Detailed information can be obtained at the Foreign Exchange Commission or the Central Bank


Insurance

Several insurance companies are operating in Suriname. The sector is governed by the Bank Act of 1956, amended in 2005 and the Banking and Credit Institution Supervision Act of 1968. These companies are considered credit institutions and as such are subject to supervision from the Central Bank. They offer a wide range of services including all the common business related insurances. Almost all insurance companies are locally owned.


Other

There are a number of different advisory companies in Suriname. Many of them are small companies or one-man businesses offering IT consulting, marketing, research, training, public and business consulting. Besides the local offering, various consulting services are also offered by international consulting companies.

The media is very active in Suriname. The several daily newspapers, especially De Ware Tijd is very popular among business people. Journalist and other professional member of the media have organized themselves in an association the Surinaamse Vereniging voor Journalisten (SVJ).

Telecommunication infrastructure and fixed-line services are state-owned, whereas mobile telecom has been deregulated. The telecom infrastructure is comparable to the rest of Latin-America, and fairly competitive. Mobile coverage exist virtually throughout Suriname. Internet rates are relatively high compared to the neighboring countries, but expected to decrease over time.

 

Economic Development

 

Suriname is highly dependent on three commodities: gold, oil, and alumina. Tourism, agriculture and construction are the fastest growing sector of the economy, but they remain tiny compared to the commodities industry.

In recent years, the mining sector has become even more diversified since the discovery and exploitation of petroleum deposits and more intensive mining of gold reserves. Exploitation of the former commodity started in 1982 by Staatsolie Maatschappy N.V., and its production has increased steadily.

Despite the dominant role of the mining sectors in the economy, agricultural activities, usually backed by government policy, has been increasingly significant in their employment and production values. The key crops under cultivation are paddy rice and bananas, helped by mechanized production methods.

From about 2004, gold has become the largest foreign exchange earner in Suriname. Although its production process has not been organized as is found in bauxite and oil sectors, the production of gold has gradually emerged as an important part in the Suriname economy.

After mining, the second biggest sector in Suriname is agriculture, with rice and banana being the two main agriculture export commodities.

Suriname's recent experience with macroeconomic stabilization also presents a positive example for the Caribbean region of how meaningful and comprehensive adjustment is possible, provided that it is well designed, properly sequenced, and implemented by the government with commitment and resolve.

According to the IMF's most recent assessment of Suriname's economy, economic activity remains strong, and inflation pressures have abated considerably. Suriname is estimated to have grown by 4 percent in 2012, buoyed by the oil and gold sectors, as well as public investment.


Structural reforms

With stability now in place, the authorities are turning their attention to structural reforms that will allow Suriname to be more resilient and grow in a sustainable way. To this end, revenue diversification measures, such as the implementation of a value-added tax, will help broaden the tax base and stabilize revenues. The authorities also continue to keep a watchful eye on public finances. Spending should be kept in check, while providing sufficient space to invest in infrastructure and human capital with the view to better integrate and diversify the economy.