Basic Information

Full Name: The Republic of Suriname
Area: 163,265 sq. km (63,037 sq. mi)
Population: 438,000 (2003 estimate)
Capital City: Paramaribo (population: 180,000)
People: Surinameese. Ethnic groups include: East Indian 37%, Creole 31%, Javanese 15%, Bush Negro 10%, Amerindians 2%, Chinese 2%
Languages: Dutch (official), English, Sranan Tongo (Creole Language), Hindustani, and Javanese
Religion(s): Hindu, Muslim, Roman Catholic, Dutch Reformed, Moravian, Jewish, Baha'i
Currency: Suriname Guilder was replaced by the Surinamese dollar in January 2004. Approximately 44.8 SRD to one UK pound (October 2004)
Major political parties: National Party of Suriname (NPS), Progressive Reform Party (VHP), Pertjaja Luhur, Suriname Workers Party (SPA)
Government: Constitutional Democracy
Head of State: His Excellency the President Runaldo
Minister of Foreign Affairs: Ludia Kraag-Keteldijk


  • Suriname is located in northern South America, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between French Guiana and Guyana.
  • The terrain varies from a narrow coastal plain with swamps to savannah to rolling hills and includes large areas of tropical rainforest. There is a great diversity of flora and fauna.
  • The climate is tropical and moderated by trade winds.


Pre - 1500:

Arawak and Carib tribes lived in the region before Columbus sighted the coast in 1498.

1500 - 1815:

Spain claimed the area in 1593, but Portuguese and Spanish explorers of the time gave the area little attention. The English established the first European settlement in 1651 and control passed between the English, French and Dutch until it finally became a Dutch colony in 1815.

1815 - 1990:

An autonomous part of the Netherlands from 1954, Suriname became fully independent in 1975. 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 25 February 1980, 16 non-commissioned 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, the 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 co-operation with the Bouterse regime, which increasingly began to follow an erratic but generally leftist 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. The military eventually agreed to free elections in 1987, a new constitution and a civilian government.

1990 - to date:

On 24 December 1990, military officers forced the resignations of the civilian President and Vice President elected in 1987. The National Assembly hastily approved military-selected replacements on 29 December. The government held new elections on 25 May 1991. NPS candidate Runaldo Venetiaan was elected President, and the VHP's Jules Ajodhia became Vice President of the New Front Coalition government. 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 reshuffling 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 Runaldo Venetiaan and his coalition to the presidency. The NF ran its campaign on a platform to fix the faltering Surinameese economy. But while the Venetiaan administration has made progress in stabilising the economy, tensions within the coalition and the impatience of the populace have impeded progress. The Dutch halted aid in response to irresponsible spending by the Wijdenbosch administration. The parties are at odds over the control of the funds, and necessary aid has not flowed to the country.



Peaceful elections took place on 25 May 2005. The incumbent New Front coalition won 23 of the 51 seats in the National Assembly but this was not enough to directly nominate a president. On 3 August the 891 member assembly of regional councils re-elected President Venetiaan with 560 votes. The opposition candidate Rabin Parmessar received 315 votes. The seats in the National Assembly by party were: NF (23), NDP (15), AC (5), VVV (5), A1 (3).


Basic Economic Facts

GDP:(in 1000 SRD) 4107318
GDP per head:SRD 7983
Annual Growth:8%
Inflation:12.7% (at September 2005)
Major Industries:bauxite and gold mining, alumina production, lumbering, food processing, fishing
Major trading partners:US, Norway, Netherlands, Norway, Trinidad and Tobago, Japan, UK, Brazil.

The economy is dominated by the bauxite industry, which accounts for more than 15% of GDP and 70% of export earnings. After assuming power in 1996, the Wijdenbosch Government ended the structural adjustment program of the previous government, claiming it was unfair to the poorer elements of society. Tax revenues fell as old taxes lapsed and the new government failed to implement new tax alternatives.

By the end of 1997, the allocation of new Dutch development funds were frozen as Surinameese Government relations with the Netherlands deteriorated. Economic growth slowed in 1998 with decline in the mining construction and utility sectors. Rampant government expenditures, poor tax collection, a bloated civil service and reduced foreign aid in 1999 contributed to the fiscal deficit, estimated at 11% of GDP. The government sought to cover this deficit through monetary expansion, which led to a dramatic increase in inflation and exchange rate depreciation. Suriname's economic prospects depend on renewed commitment to responsible monetary and fiscal policies and to the introduction of structural reforms to liberalise markets and promote competition.

Venetiaan's Government has begun an austerity program, raised taxes, and attempted to control spending. The response has been in the stable exchange rate. The Dutch Government has resumed aid, which will assist Suriname to access international development financing.

International Relations

Suriname has a long-standing territorial dispute with Guyana, which resurfaced in 1999/2000 resulting in increased tension. Suriname claims the area between New (Upper Corentyne) and Corentyne/Kutari (Koetari) rivers (all headwaters of the Corentyne). French Guiana disputes the area between Riviere Litani and Riviere Marouini (both headwaters of the Lawa). Suriname is a trans-shipment point for illicit South American drugs destined for Europe and Brazil. It is also a trans-shipment point for arms-for-drugs dealing.

Suriname's Relations with the UK

UK/Suriname relations are friendly. Our High Commissioner at Georgetown also holds the position of Ambassador to Suriname. In June 2002, the UK signed a bilateral Prisoner Transfer Agreement with Suriname.


The current environmental issues facing Suriname are deforestation, as timber is cut for export and pollution of inland waterways by small-scale mining activities. Suriname is party to the international environmental agreements on Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 94 and Wetlands.