SURINAMELOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT
FLORA AND FAUNA
ENERGY AND POWER
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
BALANCE OF PAYMENTS
BANKING AND SECURITIES
CUSTOMS AND DUTIES
LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS
TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION
Republic of Suriname
FLAG: A yellow star is at the center of five stripes: a broad red band in the middle, two white bands, and a green stripe at the top and bottom.
ANTHEM: The Surinaams Volkslied (National Anthem) begins "God zij met ons Suriname" ("God be with our Suriname").
MONETARY UNIT: The Suriname guilder (sf) is a paper currency of 100 cents. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, and 25 cents, and notes of 5, 10, 25, 100, and 500 guilders. sf1 = $0.00037 (or $1 = sf2700) as of 2005.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is used.
HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Revolution Day, 25 February; Labor Day, 1 May; National Union Day, 1 July; Independence Day, 25 November; Christmas, 25 December; Boxing Day, 26 December. Movable religious holidays include Holi Phagwah, Good Friday, Easter Monday, and 'Id al-Fitr.
TIME: 8:30 am = noon GMT.
Situated on the northeast coast of South America, Suriname is the smallest independent country on the continent, with a total area of 163,270 sq km (63,039 sq mi). Comparatively, the area occupied by Suriname is slightly larger than the state of Georgia. The nation has an extension of 662 km (411 mi) ne–sw and 487 km (303 mi) se–nw. Suriname is bordered on the n by the Atlantic Ocean, on the e by French Guiana, on the s by Brazil, and on the w by Guyana, with a total boundary length of 2,093 km (1,301 mi), of which 386 km (239 mi) is coastline. Suriname also claims about 15,000 sq km (5,800 sq mi) of southeastern Guyana and some 5,000 sq km (1,900 sq mi) of southwestern French Guiana.
Suriname's capital city, Paramaribo, is located on the Atlantic coast.
Suriname is composed of thick forests, unexplored mountains, and swampy plains. Several geologically old rivers, including the Maroni in the east and the Courantyne, flow northward to the Atlantic Ocean from the southern highlands near the Brazilian border; there, numerous rapids and waterfalls bar boat passage.
The coastal plain is flat and sometimes as much as 1.5 m (5 ft) below sea level, necessitating a system of sea defenses. The soils of the coastal plain are relatively fertile. A forest belt, 48–72 km (30–45 mi) wide, lies to the south, interspersed with grassy savannas. Farther south are dense forest and higher ground.
The climate is tropical and moist. Daytime temperatures range from 28–32°c (82–90°f). At night the temperature drops as low as 21°c (70°f) because of the moderating influence of the north-east trade winds, which blow in from the sea all year. The annual rainfall in Paramaribo is about 230 cm (90 in). May to August is the main rainy season, with a lesser rainy season from November to February.
Dominated by rain forest, Suriname contains many flowers but is most famous for water lilies and orchids. Tropical shrubs include hibiscus, bougainvillea, and oleander. There are at least 180 species of mammals. Among the reptiles are the tortoise, iguana, caiman, and numerous snakes. Tropical birds abound, especially the white egret.
In general, Suriname's environment and wildlife are protected from the destructive influences that threaten the majority of the world's nations. However, deforestation is becoming a concern, as foreign interests obtain timber concessions from the government. Pollutants from the country's mining industry affect the purity of the water. Salinization of the water supply is becoming a problem for the coastal areas.
Suriname's eight nature reserves are managed by the Foundation for Nature Preservation, founded in 1969. The Suriname Wildlife Rangers Club, consisting mainly of students 15–20 years old, assists in various nature preservation activities. National responsibility for environmental matters is vested in the Ministry of Health and Environment and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy. In the late 1990s, the Central Suriname Wilderness Nature reservation was created to set aside about 10% of the total land area as protected land; this site became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
Due to the preservation of Suriname's tropical rain forest, the nation's wildlife flourishes. Even so, according to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 12 types of mammals, 6 types of reptiles, 2 species of amphibians, 12 species of fish, and 27 species of plants. Threatened species in Suriname included the brazil nut tree, red cedar, the tundra peregrine falcon, five species of turtle (South American river, green sea, hawksbill, olive ridley, and leatherback), the Caribbean manatee, and the spectacled caiman.
The population of Suriname in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 447,000, which placed it at number 164 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 6% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 29% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 100 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 2005–10 was expected to be 1.4%, a rate the government viewed as satisfactory. The government incorporates population planning into its comprehensive development policies. The projected population for the year 2025 was 480,000. The population density was 3 per sq km (7 per sq mi).
The UN estimated that 74% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 1.32%. The capital city, Paramaribo, had a population of 253,000 in that year.
About 90,000 Surinamese resided in the Netherlands by the mid-1970s, and the number had reached some 200,000 by 1985. Emigration was about 12,000 per year in the early 1970s, but it accelerated as the date of independence approached and again after the coup of February 1980. An estimated 8,000 Surinamese fled to neighboring French Guiana by 1987, seeking refuge from a guerrilla conflict raging in the northeast. Democracy was restored in 1987, and a repatriation movement began in 1988. In 1991, the refugees still living in French Guiana took part in that year's elections. Repatriation was completed with the return of most refugees by the end of 1993. In 2004 there were 100 refugees and no asylum seekers. In 2005, the net migration rate was an estimated -8.78 migrants per 1,000 population. The government views both the immigration and emigration levels as too high. Worker remittances were $12.9 million in 2002.
Suriname has one of the most cosmopolitan populations in the world. The largest ethnic group is the Hindustani (also known locally as "East Indians"), whose ancestors emigrated from northern India in the latter part of the 19th century, with 37% of the total population. Ranking a close second is the Creole community (mixed white and black), with 31%. The Javanese constitute about 15%. "Maroons," whose African ancestors were brought to the country in the 17th and 18th centuries as slaves but escaped to the interior lands, make up 10%. Amerindians, Suriname's original inhabitants, form 2% of the population and include the Arawak, Carib, and Warrau groups along the riverbanks and coastal plains, and Trios, Akurios, and Wyanas along the upper reaches of the rivers. Chinese account for 2% of the populace; whites for 1%; and other groups for the remaining 2%.
The official language is Dutch, but English is widely spoken, and the local people use a lingua franca known as Sranang-Tongo or Takki-Takki, a mixture of Dutch, African, and other languages. Hindustani (a dialect of Hindi), Javanese, and several Chinese, Amerindian, and African languages and dialects are also spoken.
Religious freedom is guaranteed by the constitution, and there is no state or dominant religion. According to government statistics, 40% of the population is Christian. Approximately 18% are Roman Catholic, 15% are Moravian, and 7% are of other denominations, including Lutheran, Dutch Reformed, Methodist, Baptist, and the Evangelical churches. Hinduism is practiced by about 27% of the inhabitants and Islam by about 22%. Indigenous tribal religionists make up around 8% of the populace. About 3% claim no religious affiliation at all. There are about 150 Jews in the country and a small number of Baha'is and Buddhists.
Political parties are often dominated by a particular ethnic and religious affiliation. For instance, members of the Creole National Party of Suriname are primarily Moravian and members of the Javanese Pertjaja Party are primarily Muslim. Certain Christian, Muslim, and Hindu holidays are celebrated as national holidays. The constitution provides for religious freedom.
Suriname, as of 2003, had 1,200 km (746 mi) of navigable waterways, most of which can handle vessels with a draft of up to 7 m. A ferry service across the Corantijn River to Guyana began operating in 1990. As of 2005, the country had only one merchant ship of 1,000 GRT or more, a cargo vessel, totaling 1,078 GRT. There are 166 km (103 mi) of single-track railway, 86 km (53 mi) government owned and the rest industrial. Paramaribo can be reached from any town or village on the coastal plain by good all-weather roads. In 1999, the first of two new bridges connecting the country from East to West along the coast was opened. As of 2002, there were 4,492 km (2,794 mi) of roadways, of which 1,168 km (726 mi) were paved. State-owned and private companies operate regular bus services, both local and long distance. In 2003, there were 65,400 passenger cars and 27,000 commercial vehicles. Total number of airports stood at an estimated 46 in 2004, only 5 of which had paved runways as of 2005. Zanderij International Airport near Paramaribo can handle jet aircraft, and there are small airstrips throughout the interior. The government-owned Suriname Airways offers regularly scheduled service to the Netherlands and Curaçao. In 2001 (the latest year for which data was available) it carried 202,900 passengers.
Military operations involving the Jungle Commando and the national army badly damaged Albina and the road connecting Moengo to the eastern border. Overall lack of proper maintenance on roads, canals, and port facilities has resulted in a degraded infrastructure and higher local transportation costs.
Spaniards came to Suriname in the 16th century in search of gold, but did not stay when they found none. The first large-scale colonization took place under Lord Francis Willoughby, the English governor of Barbados, who sent an expedition to Suriname in 1650 under Anthony Rowse. In 1660, the British crown granted Willoughby official rights, and it became a flourishing agricultural colony. Settlers included English colonists, African slaves, and Jewish immigrants from the Netherlands, Italy, and Brazil. In the Peace of Breda between England and the United Netherlands in 1667, Suriname became a Dutch colony.
The English held Suriname again between 1799 and 1802 and from 1804 to 1816, when the Dutch resumed control over the colony under the Treaty of Paris. With the final abolition of slavery in 1863, workers were imported from India, Java, and China. In 1954, a new Dutch statute provided for full autonomy for Suriname, except in foreign affairs and defense. A commission was set up on 5 January 1972 to prepare alternatives to the existing legal framework. In May 1974, the terms for Suriname's independence were agreed on, and Suriname became an independent country on 25 November 1975.
For five years, Suriname was a parliamentary republic under Prime Minister Henk Arron. On 25 February 1980, the government was overthrown in a military coup led by Désiré Bouterse. Parliament was dissolved and the constitution suspended, and in 1981 the new government declared itself a Socialist republic. Relations with the United States became strained as the Bouterse government moved closer to Cuba. In December 1982, as a result of the government's execution of 15 political opponents, the Netherlands and the United States suspended all aid to Suriname.
The military and Bouterse continued to rule through a succession of nominally civilian governments. Still, pressure mounted for a return to genuine civilian rule. A separate challenge to the government came from a guerrilla movement under the leadership of Ronny Brunswijk. The Surinamese Liberation Army (SLA), also known as the Maroon or Bush Negro insurgency, began operating in the northeast in July 1986. It struck various economic targets, including the Suriname Aluminum Company. The government responded with repression, killing civilians suspected of supporting the insurgency.
The military allowed for elections on 25 November 1987. An anti-Bouterse coalition, the Front for Democracy, won 80% of the vote and 40 of the 51 seats in the newly constituted National Assembly, but a new appointive State Council, rather than the elective National Assembly, was given law-making authority. The new president, Ramsewak Shankar, remained in office from 25 January 1988 until 24 December 1990, when the military once again took over. International pressure mounted, and the military soon relented, allowing for elections on 25 May 1991. Again, an antimilitary coalition, called the New Front (NF), swept the election. The leader of the coalition, Ronald Venetiaan, was chosen president on 6 September 1991. Bouterse was forced to resign his post as army commander in 1992, but he retained his political influence by becoming president of the National Democratic Party (NDP).
Although Venetiaan managed to remain in office throughout his five-year term, severe economic difficulties leading to increased poverty for the majority of Suriname's citizens caused his popular support to decline. In the May 1996 elections, NDP candidate Jules Wijdenbosch was elected president, effectively returning Bouterse—as NDP president—to power. Nevertheless, these elections marked the first time in independent Suriname's history that power passed peacefully from one democratically elected government to another.
Wijdenbosch did not prove to be a popular president. His close association with Bouterse hurt him, both at home and abroad, as did the failure of his administration to improve Suriname's faltering economy, which continued to struggle with high inflation and unemployment, a major budget deficit, and the virtual collapse of its currency. A plan to privatize the oil and banana industries met with widespread protests culminating in a five-day general strike in the first part of June 1999. By the end of that month, popular discontent with the government had become so strong that Wijdenbosch called for early elections (which took months to arrange but still took place earlier than the normally scheduled date in 2001). In the meantime, Bouterse, sought by human rights groups for abuses during his time in power, was tried in absentia in the Netherlands for cocaine trafficking and convicted in July 1999.
The opposition New Front coalition, supported by former president Venetiaan, swept the May 2000 elections, winning 32 of the 51 contested parliamentary seats, just short of the two-thirds majority needed to select a new president. The Democratic National Platform 2000 of President Wijdenbosch sustained a staggering loss, winning only three seats, while Millennium Combination, a separate party formed by Bouterse, won 10 seats.
General elections were held in May 2005, and the New Front coalition won 23 seats to the NDP's 15. The People's Alliance for Progress coalition (VVV) won 5 seats, the A-Combinatie coalition won 5, and the Alternative-1 coalition (A-1) took 3 seats in the National Assembly. The NDP contested the results of the election. Venetiaan was reelected president in August after months of political deadlock; the regional People's National Assembly had to choose the president. The next elections were scheduled for May 2010.
In June 2004, the UN set up a tribunal to try to resolve the longstanding maritime border dispute between Guyana and Suriname. In 2000, Suriname gunboats evicted an oil exploration rig from the area; Guyana had approved the exploration in the oil-rich disputed region.
Between 1954 and 1975, Suriname was administered by a governor appointed by and representing the Dutch crown, with a cabinet appointed by the governor and an elected parliament (Staten van Suriname). Under the constitution adopted on 21 November 1975 by parliament, Suriname is a republic. However, that constitution, which provided for a unicameral, 39-member parliament directly elected for a four-year term by universal suffrage, was suspended on 15 August 1980 and parliament was dissolved. Bouterse then ruled through a series of appointed governments, whose members represented the military, industry, trade unions, business, and political parties. In September 1987, a popular referendum approved a new constitution, which is still in effect.
The constitution provides for a unicameral 51-member National Assembly directly elected for a five-year term. The executive branch consists of the president, vice president, and prime minister, all selected by the legislature. There is also a cabinet and an appointed Council of State. The judicial system is ineffective and in need of reform.
Suriname's political parties tend to represent particular ethnic groups. The National Party of Suriname (NPS), led by President Ronald Venetiaan, draws support from the Creole population. The Progressive Reform Party (VHP) is East Indian and the Party of National Unity and Solidarity, formerly the Indonesian Peasant's Party (KTPI) is more tied in name to its constituency. All three parties allied in the coalition National Front for Democracy in 1987 to defeat Bouterse's National Democratic Party (NDP). In 1991, these three parties and the Suriname Labor Party (SPA) formed the New Front (NF) and won a solid victory, gaining 30 of 51 Assembly seats, while Bouterse's NDP took 10 seats. Another coalition formed during the 1991 elections was called Democratic Alternative '91. It included four nonethnic parties representing a variety of white-collar concerns. They took 9 of the remaining 11 seats in the Assembly, with the other 2 going to minor parties.
After four years as an opposition party, following the 1996 elections, the New Front regained its parliamentary majority in early elections called for May 2000, winning a total of 32 seats (Suriname National Party, 14; Progressive Reform Party, 9; the Javan Pertjajah Luhur party, 7; Suriname Labor Party, 2) to 10 for Bouterse's Millennium Combination and only 3 for President Wijdenbosch's Democratic National Platform 2000.
The New Front coalition suffered a significant setback in the May 2005 elections, due to widespread dissatisfaction with the state of the economy and a public perception that the NF had done little for the country. The NF won 23 seats to the NDP's 15. The People's Alliance for Progress coalition (VVV) won 5 seats, the A-Combinatie coalition won 5, and the Alternative-1 coalition (A-1) took 3 seats in the National Assembly. The NDP contested the results of the election. Ronald Venetiaan was reelected president in August 2005 after months of political deadlock; the regional People's National Assembly had to choose the president.
The republic is divided into 10 districts, which include the urban district of Paramaribo. Administration is centralized and there are no recognized municipalities.
The Constitution provides the right to a fair public trial before a single judge, the right to counsel, and the right to appeal. There is a Supreme Court (Court of Justice) whose members are nominated for life, and there are three Cantonal Courts. In 2003, Caribbean leaders met in Kingston, Jamaica, to ratify a treaty to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). Eight nations—Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago—officially approved the CCJ, although 14 nations were planning to use the court for appeals. The court was officially inaugurated in April 2005, in Portof-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. As of 2005, however, the court's jurisdiction was limited to the CARICOM states of Barbados and Guyana. The CCJ heard its first case in August 2005.
Military personnel fall under military jurisdiction and are generally not subject to civilian criminal law. Military courts follow the same procedural rules as do the civil courts with military trials held before a judge and two military personnel.
The 1987 constitution calls for the establishment of an independent constitutional court. However, as of 2005, this body had not yet been established by the government.
The Suriname National Army consists of army, air force, and naval components, with the strength of 1,840 in 2005 (Army 1,400, Navy 240, and Air Force 160). The Army included one infantry battalion, one mechanized cavalry squadron, and one military police battalion. The Navy mans 3 patrol craft, while the Air Force's major units include 7 combat capable aircraft, 4 transports, and 3 utility helicopters. The defense budget was $7.7 million in 2005.
Suriname was admitted to the United Nations on 4 December 1975; it is part of ECLAC and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the FAO, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, the World Bank, and the WHO. Suriname is also a member of the ACP Group, CARICOM, G-77, the South American Community of Nations (CSN), the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the Islamic Development Bank, the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), the Inter-American Development Bank, the Latin American Economic System (LAES), the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), OAS, and the WTO.
Suriname is part of the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL) and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The nation is also a member of the Nonaligned Movement. In environmental cooperation, Surinam is part of the Amazonian Pact, the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, CITES, the London Convention, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.
The bauxite and alumina industries traditionally set the pace for Suriname's economy, accounting for about 15% of GDP and 70% of exports. Two companies, Suriname Aluminum Co. (Suralco), a wholly-owned Alcoa subsidiary, and Billiton, owned by Royal Dutch/Shell, account for about one-third of government revenue and employ nearly 4,000 workers. In 2002, Alcoa and BHP Billiton signed a letter of intent as the basis for new joint ventures between the companies, in which Alcoa will assume 55% of all bauxite mining in West Suriname. The government and the companies are looking into cost-effective ways to develop new mines, as the major mining sites at Moengo and Lelydorp are maturing. Other proven reserves exist in the country and are projected to last until 2045. The opening of the Gross Rosbel gold mine is expected to boost exports and GDP growth.
Although agriculture is the chief means of subsistence and second-largest employer after the government; plantation agriculture is the weakest sector of the economy, with the notable exception of rice growing. Suriname is self-sufficient in rice, and exports large amounts; however, Suriname is a net food importer. Imports account for more than 80% of consumption. Agricultural products accounted for only 13% of GDP in 2001, with rice, bananas, palm kernels, coconuts, plantains, and peanuts as the principal crops.
In February 1987, guerrilla destruction of electricity pylons to the bauxite mines closed the industry while repairs were made. The collapse of world prices for bauxite in 1987 was another severe blow for the economy. Despite high expectations, the civilian government inaugurated in early 1988 proved unable to address the country's considerable economic problems and was overthrown by the military on 24 December 1990. A year later, civilian government, under the leadership of President Ronald Venetiaan, came back to power. Next to bauxite, foreign aid is the mainstay of the country's economy. Suriname was once a colony of the Netherlands, and thus the Dutch government continues to provide economic aid. When Suriname's economic and political problems escalated, the Netherlands suspended aid between 1982 and 1991, and in 1997. Aid was resumed, from both the Netherlands and the United States, once reforms were initiated.
The new government inherited a formidable array of economic problems. In 1992, real GDP fell by 5% and average inflation accelerated to 44%, compared to 26% in 1991. Foreign exchange reserves had reached a record low, unemployment was high, and the climate for foreign investment was bad. The government implemented a structural adjustment program (SAP), which included the legalization of the parallel foreign exchange market, reduced government spending, privatization of key sectors of the economy, and revision of the country's investment code. By 1994, the inflation rate had reached over 400%, but thereafter the SAP kicked in and reduced inflation to less than 1% in 1996. In 1997, relations with the Netherlands soured when Suriname ended the SAP and replaced it with an ambiguous National Reconstruction Plan, and the government failed to implement necessary austerity measures. Inflation reached almost 21% in 1999, and growth had slowed to 2%. By 2005, the GDP real growth rate was estimated at 4%. The inflation rate in 2004 stood at 9%.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Suriname's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $2.1 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $4,700. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 4%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 9.5%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 13% of GDP, industry 22%, and services 65%.
According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $21 million or about $48 per capita and accounted for approximately 2.1% of GDP.
It was estimated that in 2002 about 70% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.
In 2003, Suriname's workforce numbered 104,000. As of 1996 (the latest year for which data was available), about 70% were engaged in services, 8.3% in manufacturing, 17% in commerce, 5.9% in agriculture, and 7.8% in transport and communications. In 2000 the unemployment rate was 17%.
Suriname has numerous small unions, representing individual workplaces or enterprises, organized into six union federations. Among them are the General Confederation of Trade Unions, sometimes called the Moederbond (Mother Union); the Progressive Workers Organization, whose members are predominantly from the commercial and banking sectors; the Centrale 47, which includes bauxite and sugar unions; and the Central Organization for Civil Service Employees. Nearly 60% of the workforce is organized and about one-half are covered by collective bargaining agreements. Workers, with the exception of civil servants, are freely allowed to strike and do so often. Antiunion discrimination is illegal.
The minimum working age is 14 but this is not sufficiently enforced and many children work, especially in the informal sector. There is no set minimum wage. The lowest wage for civil servants was $100 per month in 2002. The standard workweek is 45 hours and time worked in excess of that requires overtime pay.
The chief crops are rice, sugar, plantains and bananas, citrus fruits, coffee, coconuts, and palm oil, in addition to staple food crops. With the exception of rice, the main export crop, plantation agriculture has suffered the consequences of absentee ownership. Rice production was 95,000 tons in 2004. Sugar production dropped so substantially in the 1980s that imports were required to meet local demand. Under union pressure, the government in early 1987 agreed to a national sugar plan to improve machinery and housing, and to create employment. Production of sugarcane in 2004 was 120,000 tons; of bananas, 43,000 tons; of plantains, 11,800 tons; of oranges, 13,000 tons; and of coconuts, 9,000 tons.
Since its creation in 1945, the Commission for the Application of Mechanized Techniques to Agriculture in Suriname has worked to reactivate several old plantations and bring new land under cultivation. The successful control of diseases and pests, introduction of water storage and irrigation schemes, and the development of new quick-growing varieties of rice have also increased total agricultural production.
Livestock numbers are relatively small, since breeding is done primarily by small farmers who own only a few animals each. The government has tried to reduce the import of eggs, dairy products, and meat by undertaking projects to cross Dutch and local breeds of cattle and poultry. Estimated livestock numbers in 2005 included 137,000 head of cattle, 24,500 hogs, 7,100 goats, 7,700 sheep, and 3.8 million chickens.
Fishing has become increasingly important, both on inland waterways and at sea. The chief commercial catch is shrimp, which is exported. In 2003, the freshwater catch was 250 tons, and marine landings amounted to 28,107 tons. Shrimp production totaled 1,650 tons that year. The Fisheries Service, founded in 1947, has worked to develop the fishing industry. Exports of fish and fish products in 2003 amounted to nearly $4.6 million. Japan is the largest market for Surinamese shrimp.
Approximately 90.5% of Suriname is covered by tropical rain forest, but existing forest resources have scarcely been touched. Initial exploitation has been confined to the more accessible strips along the riverbanks. The Suriname Forestry Service, under an FAO technical assistance program, has undertaken to survey and open up the forests for commercial use. Roundwood production was about 207,000 cu m (7.3 million cu ft) in 2004. In August 1992, a peace agreement between the central government and insurgent groups from the interior (where timber is found) was signed. Since the fighting ended, logging has increased. The trade deficit in forest products was $2 million for 2004.
Suriname was one of the world's largest producers of bauxite, and alumina. The bauxite industry in 2003, accounted for at least 15% of Suriname's gross domestic product (GDP) of an estimated $2.5 billion and around 70% of foreign exchange earnings in that year. Mineral production by Suriname is centered on alumina, bauxite, gold, and oil. In 2003, 4.215 million metric tons (gross weight) of bauxite was mined, up from 4.002 million metric tons in 2002. Suriname's bauxite industry has suffered in recent years from a weak market, foreign competition, and the effects of the guerrilla war, but mines with higher-grade bauxite were replacing older depleted mines. The alumina industry, however, was threatened by the deterioration of the international alumina market. Suriname's privately owned multinational companies mined the bauxite and processed alumina and aluminum. The Suriname Aluminum Company (SURALCO) has estimated bauxite reserves at 575 million tons.
Official gold mine output has been put at 300 kg annually, from 1999 through 2003. Gold has been mined in south and east Suriname since the second half of the 19th century. In addition, the government estimated as much as 30,000 kg of unrecorded production in alluvial deposits, much of it by people from Brazil. Most of the nearly 40,000 Brazilians living in Suriname arrived during the past several years in search of gold. More than 15,000 people (Suriname's population was estimated at 435,449 in 2003) were employed in the gold industry. The government expressed concern about the damage to the environment caused by illegal miners' use of mercury. Gold was produced by numerous small operators and sold to the government. Gold concessions were negotiated with N.V. Grassalco, the state-owned gold company. The Gross Rosebel gold property, south of Paramaribo, was the most advanced gold development. In 2003, Suriname also produced hydraulic cement, common clays, gravel, common sand, and crushed and broken stone. Suriname also had resources of chromium, clay, copper, diamond, iron ore, manganese, nickel, platinum, and tin.
Suriname, with only limited reserves of oil and no proven reserves of natural gas or coal is heavily reliant upon imports to meet its hydrocarbon needs.
Suriname in 2004 had proven oil reserves of only 99 million barrels, and no proven reserves of natural gas or coal. In that year, the production and consumption of oil was estimated to average 12,000 barrels per day and 14,000 barrels per day, respectively. Although imports in 2003 averaged 1,644 barrels per day, the country did manage to see oil exports of 1,370 barrels per day. There were no imports or demand for natural gas in 2004.
Suriname's electric power generating capacity in 2002 totaled 0.389 million kW, of which 0.200 million kW of capacity was dedicated to conventional thermal plants. Hydropower capacity accounted for 0.189 million kW. Electric power output in 2002 amounted to 1.984 billion kWh, of which 1.500 million kWh came from hydroelectric sources and 0.484 billion kWh came from fossil fuel-burning plants. Demand for electricity in 2002 totaled 1.845 billion kWh.
The major industries are bauxite and gold mining, alumina and aluminum production, lumber, and food processing. Industry accounted for 22% of GDP in 2001.
The bauxite industry, which accounts for about 15% of GDP and 70% of export revenue, has developed into a complex of factories, workshops, power stations, laboratories, hospitals, recreational facilities, residential areas, and sports grounds. Depressed world prices for bauxite and alumina in the recent past have reduced the industry's development. In 2005, Suriname Aluminum (Suralco), a wholly-owned Alcoa subsidiary, announced it had completed the 250,000-metric-ton-per-year expansion of its alumina refinery in Paranam. The facility now has a capacity of 2.2 million metric tons per year of alumina. Suralco and an affiliate of BHP Billiton own 55% and 45%, respectively, of the Paranam facility.
The long-term future of the mining industry depends on the companies' ability to keep production costs low and competitive, the availability of financing to exploit new reserves, and on the consolidation of peace in the country's interior. Because mineral rights are still vested in the state, exploration rights are granted by the government. The Canadian company Golden Star started mining for gold in Suriname in 1992. Proven and probable oil reserves in Suriname are estimated at 166 billion barrels. The State Oil Company of Suriname, or Staatsolie, produced 12,000 barrels per day in 2005. Staatsolie is actively seeking international joint venture partners. Suriname has one oil refinery.
Research centers and scientific societies in Suriname include the Center for Agricultural Research in Suriname (founded in 1965), Geological Mining Service (founded in 1943), and the Agricultural Experiment Station of the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, and Fisheries (founded in 1903), all in Paramaribo. The University of Suriname, founded in 1968 at Paramaribo, has faculties of medicine and technology.
There are a few supermarkets and department stores, but most urban trade is conducted in small shops. Most trade in rural areas is conducted in open markets. A few American fast-food franchises have opened in the country in recent years. Price controls are applied to a number of goods. Credit cards are not widely accepted.
The ITIFAS trade fair, held in October, serves as an annual showcase for Surinamese products. Suri-Flora, held every April, is a major exhibition for horticulture and agriculture.
Business hours are Monday through Friday, 7:30 am to 4:30 pm and from 7:30 am to 12:30 pm on Saturdays. Banks are open weekdays from 7:30 am to 2 or 3 pm.
In 2005, exports of alumina accounted for more than 70% of export earnings. Other exports include gold, rice, shrimp, wood products, and bananas. On the black market, Suriname is a large exporter of cocaine, especially to the Netherlands.
The US is Suriname's most important trading partner, although Norway is Suriname's largest export market. In 2004, Suriname's
|Trinidad and Tobago||18.4||90.4||-72.0|
|(…) data not available or not significant.|
primary export partners were: Norway (29.4%), the United States (15.2%), Canada (12.5%), Belgium (10.3%), France (8.4%), and the United Arab Emirates (6.2%). That year, Suriname's principal import partners were: the United States (26.2%), the Netherlands (19.3%), Trinidad and Tobago (13.5%), Japan (6.6%), China (4.6%), and Brazil (4.2%).
Suriname runs a persistent deficit on current accounts, which has generally been offset by development aid, mainly from the Netherlands, Belgium, and the EU. Remittances from some 200,000 Surinamese expatriates in the Netherlands are not apparent in the balance of payments because they are usually exchanged in the parallel market. In 1989, lower profitability in the bauxite sector led to a decline in remittances which was not offset by investment
|Balance on goods||29.8|
|Balance on services||-135.6|
|Balance on income||-48.5|
|Direct investment abroad||…|
|Direct investment in Suriname||-76.1|
|Portfolio investment assets||…|
|Portfolio investment liabilities||…|
|Other investment assets||46.9|
|Other investment liabilities||46.9|
|Net Errors and Omissions||193.7|
|Reserves and Related Items||-7.2|
|(…) data not available or not significant.|
inflows, resulting in the first capital account surplus in many years. Foreign exchange reserves grew by 110%; from $10 million in 1989 to $21 million in 1990. Unfortunately, these reserves were squandered by the interim government during its nine-month rule and had fallen close to zero by July 1993. Suriname had a surplus of $66 million by 1996, but this figure declined to $25 million in 1997 and a deficit in 1998 due to a lack of development aid. Alumina accounts for 70% of export earnings. Suriname's external debt stood at $321 million in 2002. Brazil and China are the largest debt holders. In 2004, the value of Suriname's exports was estimated at $881 million, and imports were valued at $750 million.
Since 1 April 1957, the Central Bank of Suriname has acted as the bank of issue. Other banks include the ABN-Amro (Dutch), De Surinaamsche Bank (majority-owned by the ABN-Amro), and Hakrinbank.
In 1998, the exchange rate separated into multiple rates, leading to a 40% currency devaluation in January 1999. According to the government, cocaine sold by Surinamese shippers was confiscated by Dutch authorities, causing a currency flow problem. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand deposits—an aggregate commonly known as M1—were equal to $181.1 million. In that same year, M2—an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual funds—was $263.5 million.
Both Dutch and foreign insurance companies operate in Suriname.
For years the Suriname budget operated with a deficit. Government revenues increased somewhat following the introduction of a new bauxite levy in 1974. During the 1980s, however, the military regime in power increased government intervention and participation in the economy, causing public employment and budget deficits to soar. The return to civilian government in 1991 enticed the Dutch government to resume its development aid program, which amounted to $200 million by 1996. Reforms enacted included the reduction of deficit spending, the renunciation of monetary creation as a means of financing deficits, and the deregulation of trade and business licensing systems. The Netherlands halted development aid in 1997, but resumed it again 1998. As of 2005, the Netherlands' government agreed to continue providing aid to Suriname.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2003 Suriname's central government took in revenues of approximately $400 million and had expenditures of $440 million. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$40 million. Total external debt was $321 million.
Direct taxes provide only a small portion of governmental revenues and payments have been in arrears for years. By far the greatest tax sources are the bauxite-related industries. Companies are taxed on the sum of all net profits. The standard corporate income tax rate is 36%. Capital gains are taxed at the corporate rate, while dividends are subject to a withholding tax of 25%. There is no tax on interest or royalty income. All the operating costs of a company are tax deductible, at set rates for certain equipment. The main indirect tax is Suriname's value-added tax (VAT). As of 1 December 2002, the basic rate for goods was raised from 8% to 10%, and the basic rate for services, from 7% to 8%. Staple foods are exempt from VAT.
Suriname became a full member of CARICOM in 1995, and as of 2005, its tariffs were in accordance with the CARICOM Common External Tariff duties. Imported goods are subject to a turnover tax of 10%, with an 8% rate for services. Pharmaceutical products used to treat infectious diseases are admitted duty and tax free. Other pharmaceutical products are subject to a tax of 15%. Luxury goods such as weapons and ammunition, dishwashers, and motorcycles are subject to a 25% luxury tax. Cigarettes and tobacco are subject to an excise tax of 100%. Spirits are taxed at 45%, while beer and other alcoholic beverages are subject to a tax of 30% and 10%, respectively. Excise taxes are based upon the CIF (cost, insurance, freight) value plus the duty, excluding the turnover tax. There are no free trade zones.
By 2006, Suriname had updated its investment code, and slow progress was being made on eliminating disincentives to foreign investment. Bureaucratic delays are rife, however. Economic and business relations with the United States are very important to this nation. US firms operating in Suriname include Suralco, the bauxite company, Exxon, Texaco, IBM, and the insurance firm, Alico. In addition, Suriname is highly dependent on relations with the Dutch government.
Foreign investment during the 1990s included gold mining by the Canadian company Golden Star, and Japanese shrimp farming by the company Sujafi.
In terms of its success in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI), Suriname was at the bottom of the list of 140 countries surveyed by UNCTAD for 1988–90 and 1998–2000. During the five years from 1997 to 2001, reverse divestment exceeded the inflow of new FDI every year except 1998, when net FDI inflow amounted to $9.1 million. Divestment was -$9.2 million in 1997, and reached -$61.5 million in 1999 and -$148 million in 2000. In 2001, net divestment of FDI in Suriname was -$66.9 million. The investment climate improved over the 2003–04 period.
As of 2006, the government was planning to privatize the state-owned banana company, and to liberalize the telecommunications sector. The top corporate tax rate is 36%.
In wholesale, retail, and foreign trade, the government has been highly interventionist. Quota restrictions or outright bans on many imported items considered nonessential or in competition with local products have been announced. The government forced price rollbacks on domestic items and imposed price controls on essential imports, resulting in some shortages.
Although the government has been Socialist in principle since 1981, it refrained from nationalizing key industries, although it did increase its participation in them. The Action Program announced by the government in 1982 called for the encouragement of small-scale industry, establishment of industrial parks, development of rural electrification and water supply projects, liberalization of land distribution, and worker participation in management of government enterprises.
In 1975, the Netherlands promised Suriname $110 million annually in grants and loans, for a period of 10–15 years. This aid program and $1.5 million in aid authorized by the United States in September 1982 were suspended following the killings of prominent Surinamese in December 1982. In 1983, Brazil and Suriname reached agreement on a trade and aid package, reportedly underwritten by the United States. By 1986, Suriname had signed trade agreements with several countries, among them the Netherlands.
As of 1994, Suriname was undergoing a comprehensive structural adjustment program (SAP). This program, recommended by the EC (now EU), was designed to establish the conditions for sustained growth of output and employment with relative stability of prices, a viable balance of payments, and protection of the low-income population. However, only minimal progress toward restructuring was initially accomplished. Enacting the full SAP in its proper sequence was hoped to improve the prospects for the Surinamese economy and living conditions into the new millennium. However, the SAP was abandoned in 1996 in favor of a National Reconstruction Plan.
In 2000, the Netherlands announced their aid package would be disbursed by sectoral priorities, as opposed to individual projects. The government was not in favor of this approach, but began to cooperate. Suriname's economic situation deteriorated from 1996 to 2001. Inflation grew from 0.5% at the end of 1996 to 113% at the end of 1999, in part due to loose governmental fiscal policies, and a soaring parallel market for foreign exchange. This, along with an unstable exchange rate, and falling real incomes, led to a political crisis. The new government elected in 2000 devalued the official exchange rate by 88%, raised tariffs on water and electricity, and eliminated the subsidy on gasoline. The inflation rate had fallen to 22% in 2002, and a new law was enacted, placing a 60% ceiling on the ratio of total government debt to gross domestic product (GDP). The large fiscal deficit had been eliminated, the exchange rate was stabilized, and investor and donor confidence was reviving.
As of 2006, the economic situation and investment climate had improved. Suriname is faced with the decision to follow responsible monetary and fiscal policies and to introduce structural reforms to liberalize markets and promote competition. The 2005 presidential elections were won once again by Ronald Venetiaan, who raised taxes and attempted to control spending. The Dutch government in 2005 agreed to restart the flow of aid, which will allow Suriname to access international development financing, but the Dutch planned to phase out financing over the following five years. The government is open to plans to further develop the bauxite and gold mining sectors. The opening of the Gross Rosbel gold mine is expected to boost exports and GDP growth. An onshore oil drilling program is underway, and prospects look good. In 2004, offshore oil drilling was aided by an exploration agreement signed by the state oil company (Staatsolie) with Repsol and Mearsk. In 2004, the government introduced a new currency, the Surinamese dollar, to replace the guilder.
Organized welfare programs are conducted largely by private initiative, through ethnic or religious associations. However, the government has begun to establish a social welfare system designed eventually to include a free national health service.
Women have full legal rights under the law, but discrimination in hiring and salary practices persists. Opportunities for women remain limited as a result of traditional attitudes that encourage women to stay at home. This attitude is especially prevalent in rural areas. As of 2004, the government has not made specific efforts to combat economic inequality. Spousal abuse and other forms of violence against women are widespread social problems, and the government has not addressed these issues.
Amerindians in Suriname have traditionally played only a limited role in decisions affecting their land and culture. Although Suriname's human rights record has improved, some abuses continue to be committed. These include the mistreatment of detainees, the abuse of prisoners, and overcrowding of jails. Pretrial detainees still constitute a large percentage of all prisoners. Nongovernmental organizations are permitted to monitor the conditions of prisons.
Suriname's largest hospital is the Academic Hospital, which had 402 beds and has the country's only emergency unit. Other hospitals included the 227-bed Diakonessen Hospital, 75-bed Nickerie Hospital, and the Military Hospital. The 280-bed Psychiatric Hospital provided mental health care. In 2004, there were an estimated 45 doctors per 100,000 people. Safe water was available to 89% of the population. Health care expenditures totaled 5% of GDP.
In 2002, Suriname's estimated birth rate was 20 per 1,000 people. The infant mortality rate was estimated at 23.57 per 1,000 live births in 2005. Average life expectancy was estimated at 68.96 years and the total fertility rate at 2.4 children per woman. The mortality rate for children under five years of age was 8.7 per 1,000. Overall mortality was 5.7 per 1,000 in 2002. The immunization rates for a child under one were as follows: diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 85%; polio, 81%; and measles, 81%.
Tuberculosis, malaria, and syphilis, once the chief causes of death, have been controlled. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 1.70 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 5,200 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 500 deaths from AIDS in 2003.
Housing programs are supervised by the Department of Social Affairs. As of 1 July 1980 there were 68,141 inhabited houses in Suriname and 8,208 huts; 82.3% of living quarters had electricity. Between 1988 and 1990, 82% of the urban and 94% of the rural population had access to a public water supply, while 64% of urban dwellers and 36% of rural dwellers had sanitation services. As of late 2005, the results of the 2004 population and housing census had not yet been published. However, a Habitat for Humanity report indicated that the housing deficit stood at about 20,000 units. The country has about 90,000 households.
Education is compulsory for all children ages 6 through 16. While primary education lasts for six years, secondary education has two phases—four years followed by three years. Free primary education is offered by the government and by Roman Catholic and Protestant mission schools. The official school language is Dutch.
In 2001, about 96% of children between the ages of four and five were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 97% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 64% of age-eligible students; 54% for boys and 74% for girls. It is estimated that about 74% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 20:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 15:1. In 2003, private schools accounted for about 47.8% of primary school enrollment and 21.3% of secondary enrollment.
Higher education is provided by five teacher-training colleges, five technical schools, the Academy for Higher Art and Culture, and the University of Suriname, with its Law School and a Medical Science Institute. The Polytechnic College of Suriname was established in 1994. There is also a dental school and a nursing school. Higher education is free of charge to citizens. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 88%, with 92.3% for men and 84.1% for women.
The main public library is at the Stichting Cultureel Centrum in Paramaribo, with 850,000 volumes, seven branches, and two bookmobiles. The Anton de Kom University in Paramaribo has 51,000 volumes and serves as a depository library for the United Nations. The library of parliament is also in Paramaribo. The Suriname Museum and the Natural History Museum are in Paramaribo. There is an open-air museum in Nieuw Amsterdam, with historical exhibits based at an 18th century fort.
Nearly all the towns and villages have telephone connections. In 2003, there were 79,800 mainline phones and 168,100 mobile phones in us throughout the country. In 2004, there were 14 television stations and 25 radio stations. Two television stations and two radio stations were publicly owned. Broadcasts are available in Dutch, English, Hindi, Portuguese, Spanish, and some local languages. In 1997, 668 radios and 137 television receivers were in use for every 1,000 people. In 2002, there were 20,000 Internet users. There were 18 Internet hosts in 2003.
There were two privately owned daily newspapers in 2005: the Dutch-language De Ware Tijd (circulation 10,000 in 2002) and De West (circulation 15,000 in 2002). The constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the government is said to generally respect these rights.
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry is located in Paramaribo.
Youth organizations in Suriname include the YWCA/YWCA, Girl Scouts, and Boy Scouts. The Bouterse government established the National Women's Organization and the Suriname Youth Union. There are several sports associations in the country representing such pastimes as tennis, tae kwon do, weightlifting, badminton, and football (soccer); many sports associations are affiliated with international counterparts.
Volunteer service organizations, such as the Lions Clubs and Kiwanis International, are also present. The Father Ahlbrinck Foundation promotes development programs for the Amerindian and Bush Negro communities in central Suriname. The National Forum of Nongovernmental Organizations Against Poverty and for Sustainable Development was formed in 1992. There are national chapters of the Red Cross Society and Habitat for Humanity.
Tourism is a growing industry in Suriname. The government is the main support encouraging ecotourism and increasing tourism facilities. Sports are the primary source of recreation, with football (soccer), basketball, and cricket being the most popular. Visitors also fish in the Suriname and Saramacca Rivers. The brilliant flora and fauna are shown off on dugout canoe jungle trips, and Paramaribo is becoming more popular with its wooden architecture and market.
A vaccination certificate against yellow fever is required if traveling from an infected country. All visitors must have a valid passport and onward/return ticket. Visas are required for all foreign nationals except citizens of Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Gambia, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands Antilles, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Venezuela, and citizens of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)
In 2004, the US Department of State estimated the daily cost of staying in Suriname at $183.
Lt. Col. Désiré ("Dési") Bouterse (b.1945) led the coup of February 1980, and is perhaps the most controversial figure in the history of independent Suriname.
Suriname has no territories or colonies.
Buckman, Robert T. Latin America, 2005. 39th ed. Harpers Ferry, W.Va.: Stryker-Post, 2005.
Calvert, Peter. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Latin America. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2004.
Dew, Edward M. The Trouble in Suriname, 1975-1993. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1994.
Health in the Americas, 2002 edition. Washington, D.C.: Pan American Health Organization, Pan American Sanitary Bureau, Regional Office of the World Health Organization, 2002.
Heenan, Patrick and Monique Lamontagne (eds.). The South America Handbook. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2002.
Price, Richard (ed.). Maroon Societies. 3rd ed. Baltimore, Md.: John Hopkins University Press, 1996.
West-Duran. African Caribbeans: A Reference Guide. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 2003.
"Suriname." Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 21, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/suriname
"Suriname." Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. . Retrieved October 21, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/suriname
Republic of Suriname
Albina, Moengo, Nieuw-nickerie, Totness, Wageningen
This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated July 1993. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site athttp://travel.state.gov/ for the most recent information available on travel to this country.
SURINAME , which, as Dutch Guiana, was an autonomous territory within the Kingdom of the Netherlands until 1975, is an independent, racially and ethnically mixed country on the northeast coast of South America. It retains much of its Dutch heritage in language and culture, while striving to develop an identity within the context of its geographical environment.
Suriname is currently pursuing institutional changes in a concerted effort to recover from a 1980 military coup and an escalating austerity alien to this once prosperous colony. From the beginning, it has been faced with a small population and an economic development largely restricted to a narrow coastal band, and the suspension of Dutch aid in the wake of the military takeover has created additional hardships. Growing inflation and foreign exchange restrictions continue to strain immediate plans for development.
Suriname's capital city, Paramaribo, is located 12 miles inland, on the west bank of the Suriname River. Founded in 1613 as a trading post with the Indians it was, at various times, subject to alternating British and Dutch administration. The city expanded and developed greatly during the 18th century, but declined somewhat during the next century after two damaging fires. At present, many of Paramaribo's structures date from the early and mid-20th century, and exhibit a characteristic Dutch-colonial, tropical style of architecture. The canals are reminiscent of the Netherlands.
Some 180,000 people live in Paramaribo and its immediate suburbs. The city is the heart of Suriname's political, cultural, and intellectual life, serving not only its own population, but also that of the entire country. Older cultural traditions prevail in isolated jungle villages.
Paramaribo is not generally afflicted by floods, although heavy rains can, at times, exceed the city's drainage capabilities and create isolated flooding on some streets and in low-lying areas.
About 350 American citizens live in Suriname. Most are connected with the U.S. Embassy, or are in Protestant missionary work.
Resident foreign embassies include those of the U.S., the Netherlands, India, Brazil, Venezuela, the former U.S.S.R., the People's Republic of China, Indonesia, South Korea, Japan, Libya, France, and Guyana. A number of other countries are represented by honorary consular officers. Cuba established a trade mission in 1981, but its advisers were expelled after the U.S. invasion of Grenada in October 1983.
Schools for Foreigners
The American Cooperative School, operated by American Protestant missionaries, provides classes in grades kindergarten through 8. Instruction is in English and meets U.S. standards. The school year runs from late August until May.
Suriname has a dual religious and secular educational system, conducted in Dutch. Schools are run by Catholic and Moravian Churches as well as by the state. While some foreign children enroll in the Suriname schools at Paramaribo, the necessity of learning Dutch and the problems of transferring credits make this difficult (if not impossible) for Americans. Standards vary from school to school, with the best schools having an excellent record in placing students in universities here and abroad.
Suriname's Anton de Kom University (in the capital) has faculties of medicine, law, technical and social sciences, and natural resources. Other institutions of higher education also operate in Suriname.
The most popular national sport is soccer. Basketball and cricket are also available, and adult teams play regularly. Weight lifting, badminton, horseback riding, and aerobic exercise classes are also pursued by Americans. A nine-hole golf course is four miles from Paramaribo. Formerly a rice paddy, it is flat and low, and drainage, though extensive and well planned, is a problem during the rainy season. Americans have found Paramaribo an excellent place to learn to play golf under uncrowded but rustic conditions.
Hunting and fishing also evoke a great deal of interest, as neither requires any unusual equipment. Both, however, can involve hard trekking in deep forests. Stringent laws govern ownership of firearms and ammunition. Rifles and pistols are prohibited, and an individual may own only one shotgun. Guides and transportation to the best hunting areas are expensive; hunting without a guide is definitely not recommended. It may be necessary to hire a power boat and/or plane to get to the desired area. Dogs are needed for some kinds of hunting.
A gun club uses pistols (owned by the club) at a range near Paramaribo three times a week, traps at Paranam once a month, and rifles (owned by the club) at a range near Zanderij Airport, also monthly.
Fishing in the Suriname and Saramacca Rivers, Afobakka Lake, and the surrounding streams is not unduly inconvenient, but trips to the interior or saltwater fishing are as difficult to organize as hunting trips. Tarpon is the principal sport fish, with catfish and other species also popular. Many excellent streams and rivers in Suriname are suitable for small boats. It is possible to do some fishing from the river banks.
Camping and hiking are difficult because of heat, insects, and lack of organized campsites and marked trails, but adventurous types might enjoy these sports at several of the national parks here. Bicycling is popular, although heavy traffic makes it risky.
There are neither ocean beaches nor lakes suitable for swimming. Several tannic acid-colored rivers and creeks offer interesting and safe swimming and water-skiing. The city has one public swimming pool, and four private clubs maintain their own pools.
The Suriname Aero Club has a Cessna plane and operates both a ground school and a flying school. For beginners, at least a basic knowledge of Dutch is necessary, since the ground course and examination are conducted in that language. Costs are somewhat higher than those in the U.S., but not prohibitively so.
Some opportunities exist for sight-seeing. The visitor can drive to Kola Creek, Brokopondo Dam, Groningen, Joden Savanna, or Nieuw-Amsterdam for outings; some facilities for picnicking are available. It also is possible to drive to Cayenne, French Guiana, and to the border of Guyana. The scenery and climate in these places are similar to that of Suriname. French Guiana, however, offers the added attraction of French wines, cheeses, and meals, making it a popular place to visit. Trips to the interior by plane or boat are interesting, but can be expensive.
Paramaribo has one small museum (Fort Zeelandia), a natural history collection, a small zoo, and numerous public parks. There are 10 movie theaters, but not all of them are patronized by Americans. Films in English are popular at most of the theaters, and five establishments specialize in Indian movies. Movies are censored and may be restricted to certain age groups. A film league offers art films about every two weeks, and one drive-in theater shows an occasional movie in English.
Suriname's government-owned TV channel (STVS) broadcasts every evening and offers American variety programs and occasional feature films. A private TV station (ATV), inaugurated in 1987, offers American, Brazilian, and European programs, mostly in English.
Videotapes in VHS or Betamax can be rented from commercial sources at low cost. The Beta format, popular here, offers the most variety.
Although the country has no legitimate theater, the Suriname Cultural Center (CCS) and Ons Erf sponsor occasional plays, concerts, and other cultural presentations. Plays are almost always in Dutch or Sranan Tongo. Modest parades and trade fairs are sometimes held on holidays.
Average-to-good Chinese, Javanese, and Korean food is served in at least five restaurants in Paramaribo. Prices are higher than those at good U.S. restaurants. A few continental-style restaurants are here.
No special or unusual etiquette is required when participating in any form of entertainment. Bush Negroes often object to being photographed in their villages.
The Torarica Hotel stages floor shows on weekends—usually a solo performance by a singer, dancer, or musician. It also has a dance band and a casino and restaurant. A few local discos and nightclubs cater to young people. Good Chinese and Javanese food is served in at least five restaurants, with prices comparable to those at good U.S. dining establishments. There is a good continental-style restaurant at the Ambassador Hotel, and a disco next to the Krasnapolsky Hotel.
Paramaribo is a friendly city. It is easy to meet people through personal introductions. Among men's and women's service clubs, Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, Jaycees, Optimists, Soroptimists, and Toastmasters are represented in Paramaribo. Anyone interested in social work may volunteer with the Salvation Army, Red Cross, YWCA, the family planning organization (LOBI), or one of many other secular and religious groups.
The American community is too small to support exclusive social activity, even in Paramaribo. Most of the non-Surinamese middle-class expatriate community is composed of Dutch Europeans and some Belgians, with few other foreigners. Social calls and social affairs among both Surinamese and Dutch are more structured than U.S. custom requires. Close friends usually do not call on one another without prior notice.
ALBINA is a seaport town on the west bank of the Maroni (Morowijne) River. Besides being a district capital, it is the largest city on the French Guiana border.
MOENGO lies on the Cottica River in the northeast part of the country. The local economy depends on extensive bauxite deposits.
NIEUW-NICKERIE is Suriname's major coastal town in the northwest, across from Corriverton, Guyana. It is the capital of the Nickerie District. The city is an important port through which rice, cocoa, and lumber is exported.
TOTNESS is the capital and largest village of Coronie District. Situated on the Atlantic Ocean, halfway between Nieuw-Nickerie and Paramaribo, Totness has a government guest house and bus connections to Paramaribo. The village's main road traverses a great forest of coconut palms.
The small town of WAGENINGEN has great status in the field of agriculture. It lies on the Nickerie River, 30 miles southeast of Nieuw-Nickerie, in the northwest. Located in the heart of the country's rice-producing area, Wageningen is the home of one of the world's largest fully mechanized rice farms. The road from Nieuw-Nickerie is newly rebuilt.
Geography and Climate
Roughly square, Suriname lies on South America's northeast coast, bounded on the east by French Guiana, on the south by Brazil, and on the west by Guyana. Most of the 220-mile shoreline on the Atlantic ocean consists of mud flats and swamps. Suriname's inland boundaries with French Guiana and Guyana are in dispute.
Suriname (this is the Dutch spelling, but the English spelling, Surinam, is often seen) has a land area of about 63,000 square miles, and is about the same size as Georgia. However, most Surinamers live in the 1,900-square mile, narrow coastal plain in and around Paramaribo, Moengo, and Nieuw-Nickerie.
Suriname's coastal area is flat. Hills and low mountains, reaching a maximum height of about 4,000 feet (1,230 meters), rise in the heavily forested interior. Between these two zones lie the savanna lands, 30 to 40 miles in width. Large rivers and streams bisect the country from the south to the north and provide major transportation routes between the coast and the interior. However, they hinder east-west land transportation.
Suriname has a tropical rainforest climate—hot and humid all year. Daytime temperatures average about 90 ° F (27 ° C), although evening and night readings are considerably lower (about 70°F, or 21°C). Interior temperatures, not moderated by coastal breezes, are slightly more extreme.
Most Americans find the climate notably more agreeable than they had anticipated. On a normal day, outdoor activities such as golfing, fishing, and jogging are pleasant except between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun is high.
Seasons are distinguished only by more or less rain, with annual rainfall averaging 87 inches. December to February and April to August are generally the periods of heaviest rainfall. The hottest months are September and October, with temperatures averaging 89°F (35°C). Suriname lies outside the hurricane and earthquake area.
Suriname's estimated population is 434,000 (2000 est.). Because of emigration to the Netherlands between 1972 and 1980, there was a significant decline in total numbers. The people are a mixture of several ethnic and racial classifications, with Hindustanis (37%) and Creoles (32%) the two largest groups. Others represented in the population include Javanese (15.3%), Bush Negroes (10.3%), Amerindians (2.7%), Chinese (1.7%), and Europeans, one percent.
The Hindustanis (East Indians) are predominately Hindu, but include a substantial Muslim minority. They are descended from contract farm laborers brought to Suriname in the latter part of the 19th century. Hindustanis are still heavily engaged in agriculture, but have become increasingly urbanized and are often active in business and commerce.
Creoles, of mixed African, European, and other ancestry, are descendants of African slave laborers emancipated in 1863. In this century, they have filled the ranks of civil service and office jobs.
The Javanese, who are descended from farm laborers brought to Suri-name on contract from Java, in Indonesia, are chiefly active in agricultural life in the rural areas of Suriname. They have retained their own language. The Bush Negroes, or Maroons, are descended from escaped African slaves. Many escaped before losing their African culture, which has been maintained in some primitive villages along streams and rivers in the interior. Although such communities still exist far removed from the developed coastal region, many Bush Negroes are now abandoning their traditional life-style to move to population centers in search of better education and job opportunities.
Amerindians, descendants of original pre-Columbian inhabitants, also live in tribal villages along interior streams and rivers. They are less hospitable and desire more privacy than Bush Negroes. Certain small Amerindian tribes in Suriname have been discovered only recently.
The Chinese, many born in China, are mostly shopkeepers, business people, and restaurateurs. They speak Chinese (Hakka and Cantonese) among themselves, and support a Chinese newspaper.
Caucasians are mainly descended from Dutch farmers who came here in the 18th and 19th centuries, though some are descended from early Jewish, French, and German immigrants. A small community of expatriate Europeans, mostly from the Netherlands, work in some local businesses.
Approximately 350 Americans reside in Suriname, mostly in Paramaribo. Mostly Protestant missionaries, they spend some of their time in the interior.
Each ethnic group maintains its identity and customs. Some wear distinctive clothing. Almost all celebrate their own holidays, observe their own religions and, except for sophisticated city dwellers, associate with members of their particular groups in exclusive or semi-exclusive social clubs and societies. Political parties are racially or ethnically oriented. The government seeks to break down such barriers and forge a national identity.
The official language of Suriname is Dutch, but Sranan Tongo (literally, Suriname tongue), also called Surinamese, a non-tonal English-based Creole tongue, is the lingua franca. Dutch is taught in school and used exclusively by the government; government publications and newspapers are in that language, as are radio and television.
English is widely understood and almost all educated people speak it fluently. A great many Surinamers speak three or even four languages—Sranan Tongo, Dutch, and English, plus Hindi, Chinese, or Javanese. The latter three are used extensively in Paramaribo.
Freedom of religion is legally protected in Suriname. Hindus and Muslims comprise the two largest religious groups, but there are also many Roman Catholics and other Christians (primarily Moravians) and a small number of Jews and Baha'is. A significant number of Amerindians and Bush Negroes follow animistic religions, although the majority of both groups profess Christianity in either its Catholic or Moravian form.
The popularly elected government that ruled Suriname after the end of Dutch colonial rule was overthrown in a military coup in February 1980. The sergeants who took power in 1980 were at first welcomed as reformers. Their gradual leftward drift, however, increasingly alienated the generally conservative middle-class Surinamese majority, and the repressive methods they employed to maintain control eventually cost them most of their popular support.
The executions of 15 opposition leaders in 1982 led to the suspension of Dutch and American development aid. Combined with a decline in world market prices for bauxite and alumina (Suriname's chief export commodities), the aid suspension led to a general economic downturn that had reached a critical stage. When an insurgent group began a series of attacks on military and economic targets in the interior, the government gave in to international and domestic pressures and announced that a new constitution would be adopted by the end of March 1987, and that national elections would be held in November of that year.
Eighty-eight percent of Suriname's eligible voters took part in the elections, in which a coalition of traditional, ethnic-based, pre-coup parties called the Front for Development and Democracy won with an 85 percent majority.
Under the new constitution, the 51-member directly elected National Assembly is the highest authority in Suriname. The President, chosen by the Assembly, is both head of government and head of state. The Vice President, also elected by the Assembly, is chairman of the Council of Ministers that, together with the President and Vice President, makes up the government. Like the Assembly members, the President and Vice President are elected for five-year terms.
Despite the democratic elections of 1987, Suriname's political situation remained extremely unstable. Although the army had relinquished control of the government, it remained powerful and influential. The army often sharply criticized the new government's economic policies. A series of confrontations between the government and army caused relations to worsen. By 1990, the tensions between the two parties had come to a head. On December 24, 1990, the army launched a successful military coup against the government. President Ramswewak Shankar was overthrown and replaced by Johannes Samuel Kraag. A military council established shortly after the coup announced that Kraag would govern on an interim basis until new elections could be held.
The military fulfilled this promise by holding democratic elections in May 1991. Election results showed that the New Front Coalition, consisting of three ethnically-based parties and the Surinamese Labor Party, captured 30 of 51 seats. The pro-military National Democratic Party obtained only 10 seats. The rest of the seats were divided among several small opposition parties. On September 6, 1991, the National Assembly and other elected representatives of districts and subdistricts met to select a new President. The New Front Coalition candidate, Ronald Venetiaan, became Suri-name's new president after gaining 80 percent of the vote.
Economic difficulties caused Venetiaan's popularity to decline over the succeeding years, and he was replaced by NDP candidate Jules Wijdenbosch in elections held in May 1996. These elections marked the first peaceful transfer of power between democratically elected governments since Suriname gained independence.
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 New Front 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.
Suriname is a member of the United Nations, World Health Organization (WHO), and United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), as well as European Communities, International Bauxite Association, Inter-American Development Bank, Nonaligned Movement, Organization of American States and Latin American Economic System.
The flag of Suriname consists of green, white, red, white, and green horizontal bands, with a yellow star in the middle of the red band.
Arts, Science, Education
Some local cultural activities are available. Occasional plays and concerts are offered at the Suriname Cultural Center, Ons Erf Cultural Center, and elsewhere. Two or three times a year, foreign groups (Chinese acrobats, American jazz ensembles) arrive for performances. Live theater is confined to two companies which produce plays in Dutch and Sranan Tongo. A music school offers instruction in a wide range of instruments. There are several small ballet schools in Paramaribo.
Each government cultural center maintains a public library with a limited collection of English editions. English-language paperbacks and hardcover books are available from several retail outlets in Paramaribo, but are expensive. Ons Erf, a Roman Catholic Church organization, maintains an arts and crafts center and sponsors activities for younger children.
Suriname's main ethnic groups—Creoles, Hindustanis, and Javanese—maintain associations which occasionally sponsor cultural activities.
Suriname has an extensive educational system, with compulsory free schooling until age 14. Its Anton de Kom University has faculties of medicine, law, natural resources, and social and technical sciences. However, transfer of individual course credit to or from the U.S. is unlikely, even when a non-Dutch-speaking person is allowed to enroll. Teacher-training institutes, secondary schools, and technical schools also provide degrees. Nurses and dental technicians are trained in conjunction with the medical faculty. The adult literacy rate was approximately 93 percent in 1995.
The government and the Roman Catholic and Moravian Churches provide education from kindergarten through secondary school. All instruction is in Dutch, except at the American Cooperative Elementary School, administered by the Suriname Aluminum Company (SURALCO), and in two private schools administered by American missionaries. Lectures in English are sometimes given at the university. Many students still attend high schools and universities in the Netherlands; a growing number study in U.S. universities.
The Government Language Center offers courses in Dutch, English, Spanish, and Sranan Tongo. French is offered by the Alliance Française, Spanish by the Andrés Bello Center, and Portuguese by the Brazilian Cultural Center. The Indonesian and Indian centers give instruction in their native folk art and dance.
Commerce and Industry
Approximately 70 percent of Suri-name's exports by value are bauxite and its aluminum derivatives. The attractiveness of Suriname's bauxite reserves has diminished in recent years as more economical sources have been developed elsewhere in the world and the worldwide marketing of bauxite and aluminum has become more complex. SURALCO, a subsidiary of ALCOA and the biggest private firm in Suriname, has reduced its labor force as its bauxite and aluminum shipments have fallen and internal costs have risen.
Agriculture is important as a major source of employment. Rice, citrus, other tropical fruits, vegetables, seafood, and a few other commodities are available. The principal food crop is rice. Suriname also produces half of the sugar it consumes. Commercial fishing is undertaken by Japanese, Korean, and Surinamese companies using imported labor. Shrimp is a major export; the catch has diminished since 1982 as the shrimp have at least temporarily moved to grounds closer to Guyana. However, production of other foodstuffs is inadequate to meet the needs of the country. Importation of a wide variety of foods is, therefore, necessary.
Forestry is an important sector of the economy, dominated by the state-owned company, Bruynzeel, which exports products derived from tropical hardwoods.
Wheat, potatoes, some poultry, milk powder, cheese, and many other commodities must be imported. Protective tariff and nontariff barriers and import substitution plans have been put into effect, sometimes limiting the variety of foods available on the local market. Local manufacturing consists of saw mills, shrimp-packing plants, a cigarette factory, a rum distillery, a brewery, soft drink bottlers, and a few other small industries.
A rapid deterioration in the Surinamese balance of trade began in 1983. It was brought about both by reduced bauxite revenues and by termination—due to Dutch displeasure with Suriname Government actions regarding human rights—of Dutch development aid. The virtual disappearance by late 1984 of freely available foreign exchange finally induced the government to impose stringent restrictions on import of consumer and industrial goods.
High wages, low foreign exchange levels, a small domestic economy, and little experience in exporting limit Suriname's competitiveness in international markets. Nonetheless, the country's GDP was an estimated $1.48 billion in 1999. Per capita income is ten times that of the poorest Caribbean islands.
Suriname is a member of the Lome Convention and has observer status in the Caribbean Common Market (CARICOM). The U.S. has traditionally been the country's largest trading partner, accounting for approximately one-third of export-import trade. The remainder has been carried on with European nations, Japan and, to an increasing extent, neighboring countries in the Caribbean and South America. This pattern may change, however, as the Surinamese Government does more centralized procurement in bulk from lower cost sources.
The Suriname Chamber of Commerce and Industry can be reached at P.O. Box 149, Mirandastraat 10, Paramaribo.
Suriname's extensive rivers and streams are important avenues of transportation. Some rivers are navigable by ocean freighters for 100 miles inland. Hundreds of miles of smaller rivers are navigable by smaller boats and barges, which are used widely for moving people and freight. The boats of the Amerindians and Bush Negroes are vital to them.
Surinamese Luchtvaart Maatschappij NV (SLM) offers flights between major populated areas. The only practical means of reaching some interior areas is by small plane, using the recently built "grasshopper" airstrips. Chartered flights to these small fields are very expensive. Zanderij International Airport, 25 miles south of Paramaribo, can accommodate large jets. Zanderij is served by KLM, ALM, SLM, Guyana Airways, and Brazil's Cruzeiro do Sul, which connect the country with the U.S., Europe, and major South American cities. A small airfield on the edge of the city is limited to twin-engine propeller craft.
Suriname has no passenger rail transportation. River transport is one way to visit the interior and some coastal areas.
Buses serve Paramaribo, but service is erratic and the buses are hot and usually crowded during rush hours. Motorbikes, motorcycles, scooters, and bicycles are important local means of transportation. Traffic is hazardous, especially for riders of two-wheeled vehicles. Paramaribo has several taxi companies. Cabs are hard to find, but it is possible to phone for service.
Private cars are the best means of transportation in Paramaribo, particularly small vehicles, as some streets are narrow, and good maneuverability is necessary in traffic. Cars are not used very often for trips outside the city. Traffic moves on the left (although cars for right-hand traffic are numerous), and visitors are cautioned to be careful when crossing streets, as it is easy to forget which way traffic is coming. The bicycle and motorbike paths can be hazardous, too, as the latter have the right-of-way.
Prices of small foreign cars are comparable to U.S. prices, and spare parts for these vehicles are more readily available than for large American cars. Insurance can be purchased at reduced rates (10 percent per year up to five years) with a statement from previous insurers that no claim has been made within five years. For other than liability, it is wise to purchase additional insurance through a U.S. company, as rates are more reasonable. A driver's license can be obtained for a small fee by presenting a valid U.S. license and two photos.
Postal, telegraph, and telephone systems connect Suriname's cities with one another and with the outside world. These services are quite reliable, and the rates reasonable. Suriname has a dial telephone system; direct dialing from the U.S. is possible using country code 597. International airmail letters arrive almost daily from the U.S., with transit time averaging 15 days. Surface mail takes two months or longer. Local mail service is slow, although reasonably reliable.
Government-owned, commercial stations provide news and entertainment in local languages, Dutch and English. Shortwave radio can pick up Voice of America (VOA), Armed Forces Radio, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), a few U.S. stations, and numerous Spanish and Portuguese broadcasts. The television broadcasts provide many recorded programs from the U.S., with some in color. The news is reported in Dutch.
Government publications and newspapers are in Dutch. The government cultural center maintains a public library with a limited collection of English editions. A few very expensive English-language paperbacks and hardcover books are available from one or two outlets in Paramaribo.
Paramaribo has medical facilities which are satisfactory for all but the most serious health problems. Local doctors have received their training in the Netherlands, Suriname, and the U.S. Several good dentists with modern equipment practice in the city. Eyeglasses can be fitted satisfactorily, as there are several eye specialists and opticians. Some common prescription and patent medicines are available, but most prescription medications are unavailable.
The general level of sanitation and health in Paramaribo, although not up to U.S. standards, is good. Garbage is collected weekly. Government efforts have eliminated yellow fever, malaria, and rabies from the capital area. Locally produced food, milk, bottled drinks, and meat are safe.
Tap water is potable in Paramaribo, Nieuw-Nickerie, and Moengo. In small villages and in the interior, waterborne diseases are always a possibility because of various unsanitary health practices. Skin infections are fairly common. It is inadvisable to walk barefoot, since schistosomiasis and other parasites can be contracted through exposed skin. The coastal area has been free of yellow fever and malaria for many years, but these diseases are still found in the interior. The visitor should take anti-malarial drugs when traveling in those regions.
Suriname's high humidity aggravates arthritis, sinusitis, rheumatism, and bronchial asthma. The damp, warm air encourages fungus growth which can affect the skin or cause allergic reactions. Numerous plants and flowers are also sources of allergies. The climate is debilitating to many Americans, particularly those arriving from cooler climates. New arrivals may feel weak and tired and may require extra sleep during their first few weeks in Paramaribo. The tropical sun is surprisingly strong, and direct exposure at midday can cause uncomfortable burns in 15 to 20 minutes.
Mosquitoes are prevalent in some lower lying parts of Paramaribo. Some people use mosquito nets when sleeping in rooms that are not air-conditioned, especially in some areas outside the capital, where mosquitoes may carry malaria. Mosquito and insect repellents are widely used. The many insects found in this tropical region result in frequent, but mild, bites, which sometimes become infected despite precautions. Outside heavier-populated sections, there are poisonous reptiles and wild animals. Caution should be exercised by wearing proper clothing and keeping alert when in forested areas.
Clothing and Services
The warm, humid climate of Suri-name normally necessitates only lightweight summer clothing, except in some air-conditioned offices and buildings. Evenings in the rainy season are cooler than in the dry season. It rains almost daily, so an umbrella is necessary for each family member. Because of the high humidity, raincoats are seldom worn.
Men normally wear light cotton shirts and lightweight suits. At many social occasions, casual attire is acceptable.
Women generally wear skirts or slacks while shopping in the city. Shorts should not be worn in public. Pants and pantsuits are often seen in casual social situations. Clothing accessories can be purchased in Paramaribo, but selection is limited, and prices are higher than in the U.S.
Basic services are adequate. The city has two laundries and two dry cleaners. Work is fair, and prices are higher than to those in the U.S. A few dressmakers, tailors, hairdressers, and barbers do good work at reasonable rates. Repairs of any kind are adequate, but slow. Qualified technicians for some repairs do not exist in Paramaribo. However, many auto garages, especially those of dealers, have modern facilities, skilled mechanics, and do adequate work, although parts are often in short supply.
Virtually all miscellaneous household items, supplies, medicines, and tobacco are difficult to find locally. Since nearly everything must be imported, prices are high. It is advisable to have on hand a supply of special or unusual medicines or toiletries.
English-speaking domestics are not only hard to find, but are rarely willing to live in. A full-time maid works six hours a day, six days a week, is paid at least $300 a month, plus food and transportation, and is paid overtime for evening work.
Part-time gardeners often will do heavy tasks when required. For entertaining, ample extra help is available.
Expatriates should be careful not to hire persons with illegal residential status in Suriname, as is often the case with Guyanese and Haitians.
NOTES FOR TRAVELERS
There are several routes from the U.S. to Paramaribo, the easiest being the SLM flight from Miami, which departs twice a week. Transit can also be through Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, from Miami; or through Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, from either New York or Miami.
A passport, visa and, if traveling by air, return ticket are required for travel to Suriname. There is a processing fee for business and tourist visas. A business visa requires a letter from the sponsoring company detailing the reason for the visit. There is an airport departure charge and a terminal fee. Travelers arriving from Guyana, French Guiana and Brazil are required to show proof of a yellow fever vaccination. For further information, travelers can contact the Embassy of the Republic of Suriname, 4301 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Suite 460, Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 244-7488, email:firstname.lastname@example.org, or the Consulate of Suriname in Miami, 7235 NW 19th Street, Suite A, Miami, Fl 33126, telephone (305) 593-2697.
While the situation in the countryside is stable at present, there is insufficient police authority over much of the interior of Suriname to offer assistance in an emergency. Unaccompanied travel to the interior, particularly the East-West highway between Paramaribo and Albina, is considered risky due to the high incidence of robberies and assaults along this route. Isolated acts of violence, particularly in but not limited to the interior, may occur. Travelers to remote areas of the interior of Suriname should be aware that they may encounter difficulties because of the lack of government authority throughout the interior and inadequate medical facilities in some areas. The ability of the U.S. Embassy to assist in an emergency situation may be hampered by limited transportation and communications in some areas.
The rate of violent crime has increased. Burglary and armed robbery are increasingly common in the capital city of Paramaribo, as well as in the outlying areas. Banditry occurs along routes in the interior of the country where police protection is inadequate. An increasing number of tourists report being attacked and robbed. Visitors may wish to exercise caution when traveling to the interior without an organized tour group, and secure their belongings carefully while staying in Paramaribo. Visitors may find it useful to carry photocopies of their passport, drivers license, credit cards and other important papers and leave the originals in a safe place.
Travelers to Suriname may experience disruptions in travel plans because of the unreliability of scheduled airline service to and from that country. Suriname Airways (SLM), operating in conjunction with Antillean Airways, serves as the only direct air link between the U.S. and Suriname. Limited flight schedules and ongoing technical problems commonly result in delays. Additionally, transportation to the interior is unreliable. Interior flights are often delayed, sometimes for days, because of mechanical difficulties, fuel shortages, and runway conditions. Dutch is the official language of Suriname; however, English is widely used, and most tourist arrangements can be made in English.
Household pets must have veterinary certificates stating that they are free from disease and have had rabies shots. Quarantine is waived if the documentation is in order. No kennels are available.
Stringent laws govern ownership of firearms and ammunition. Hunting licenses are obtained only after acquiring a permit to own a shotgun, and importing and registering a shotgun is a long, slow process. An individual may own one shotgun. Twelve and 16-gauge shotguns are used almost exclusively. Rifles or pistols are forbidden.
Travelers should note that natives object to being photographed.
Paramaribo has Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, Dutch Reformed, Lutheran, Moravian, Baptist, Assembly of God, Jehovah's Witnesses, Pilgrim Holiness, AME, and Seventh-Day Adventist churches, an Anglican mission, two synagogues, a Baha'i center and several Muslim mosques and Hindu temples. English services are held regularly each Sunday at the Anglican mission and the AME church. A Catholic mass in English is offered once a month. Many Americans attend an interdenominational Protestant service held each Sunday.
The time in Suriname is Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) minus three-and-a-half.
The Suriname guilder (Sf) is the monetary unit. Currency controls are stringent.
The metric system is used. An additional unit of weight measurement is the Dutch pond, which equals 500 grams, 46 more than in an American pound.
Americans living in or visiting Suri-name are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Paramaribo to obtain updated information on travel and security within Suriname. The Embassy is located at Dr. Sophie Redmondstraat 129, telephone (011)(597) 472-900. The Consular Section hours of operation for routine American citizen services are Mondays and Wednesdays from 8:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m., or by appointment, except on American and Surinamese holidays. U.S. citizens requiring emergency assistance evenings, weekends, and holidays may contact an Embassy duty officer by pager at (011)(597) 088-08302. The U.S. Embassy in Paramaribo also provides consular services for French Guiana. For further information on French Guiana, please refer to the separate Consular Information Sheet on French Guiana.
Jan. 1 …New Year's Day
Feb/Mar …Holi Phagwa*
Mar/Apr. … Good Friday*
Mar/Apr. … Easter Monday*
Mar/Apr. … Easter*
May 1…Labor Day
July 1…Emancipation Day
Nov. 25…Independence Day
Dec. 25 …Christmas Day
Dec. 26 …Boxing Day
The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country:
Beatty, Noelle B. Suriname. New York: Chelsea House, 1988.
Hoogbergen, Wim. The Boni Maroon Wars in Suriname. Kinderhook, NY: EJ Brill, 1990.
Price, Richard. Alabi's World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990.
Stedman, John G. Stedman's Surinam: Life in an Eighteenth-Century Slave Society. Edited by Richard Price and Sally Price. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992.
"Suriname." Cities of the World. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 21, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/suriname-0
"Suriname." Cities of the World. . Retrieved October 21, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/suriname-0
Republic of Suriname
LOCATION AND SIZE.
Suriname sits on the northern shoulder of South America, facing the Atlantic Ocean between Guyana to the west, French Guiana to the east, and Brazil to the south. It shares with these 3 nations 1,707 kilometers (1,061 miles) of border and has a coastline of about 386 kilometers (240 miles). With an area of 163,270 square kilometers (63,038 square miles), Suri-name is slightly larger than the state of Georgia. The capital, Paramaribo, lies on the Atlantic coast.
The population of Suriname was estimated at 431,303 in mid-2000. Population density is one of the lowest on earth: 6.9 people per square mile compared with 921.8 people per square mile in Aruba, another former Dutch colony in the region. The heaviest population density is on the coast, with around 45 percent of the population living in the capital district. The birthrate of 21.08 births per 1,000 people is relatively high (more than one and a half times that of Aruba's), but very high levels of emigration —8.92 out of every 1,000 Surinamers left in 2000—have kept the annual growth rate to a modest 0.65 percent. One-third of all Surinamers live abroad, mostly in the Netherlands, Netherlands Antilles, and the United States. The life expectancy is 71.36 years. About one-third of the population is younger than 15, and 6 percent is older than 65.
Suriname's ethnic composition is diverse. Slightly more than one-third of the population (37 percent) is of Indian origin, descended from 19th-century indentured laborers brought from northern India. Other large population groups are mixed black-white Creole (31 percent), Javanese (15 percent), and Maroons (10 percent), the descendants of West African slaves who were imported in the 17th and 18th centuries and escaped inland. The rest of the population is comprised of Amerindians (2 percent), Chinese (2 percent), whites (1 percent), and assorted others (2 percent). The official language is Dutch, though English is widely used, as is the Surinamese Creole, Sranang Tongo (also called Taki-Taki). Hindustani (a dialect of Hindi), and Javanese are also spoken.
OVERVIEW OF ECONOMY
Suriname is richly endowed with natural resources. With large reserves of minerals and timber and considerable opportunities for agriculture, industry, and fishing, Suriname has the makings of a prosperous nation, but years of political turbulence and military misrule have taken a heavy toll, and Suriname still struggles to turn its natural assets into national wealth.
The Surinamese economy had long been based on sugar cane, introduced by the Dutch in the 17th century. Most Surinamers are the descendants of African, Indian, and Javanese laborers imported to work on sugar plantations. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the core of the economy has been bauxite mining and processing, an industry that continues to supply over 70 percent of official export revenue. With geological surveys suggesting existing mines will be exhausted by 2006, continued bauxite production will require the exploration and development of new mines, a difficult venture in the face of Suriname's serious infrastructural shortcomings.
Most of the country's population and infrastructure are concentrated on the narrow coastal plain, leaving the interior largely empty, inaccessible, and outside the government's full control. Consequently, exploiting Suriname's reserves of oil, gold, kaolin, stone, and timber tends to be difficult and expensive, and the natural resource sector, for all of its potential, remains under-developed.
Political uncertainty and mismanagement have also been significant problems. In 1982 the Netherlands, Suriname's largest benefactor, cut off aid to the military junta, exacerbating a pattern of economic deterioration. A structural adjustment program initiated in 1992 aimed at economic stabilization through improved tax collection, removal of certain government subsidies , and the harmonization of exchange rates . Although the program succeeded in taming Suriname's rampant inflation (bringing it from 400 percent in 1994 to less than 1 percent in 1996), it failed to address the more difficult reforms, such as trimming the civil service and privatizing government-owned industries. In the absence of a clear and rigorous economic plan, Suriname experienced a soaring inflation rate in the late 1990s and its currency began to tumble.
POLITICS, GOVERNMENT, AND TAXATION
Occupied by the Dutch in 1667, Suriname (then Dutch Guiana) was ruled from the Netherlands until 1954, when it gained autonomous status under Dutch sovereignty. Full independence was achieved in 1975. Since then Suriname has had a turbulent history. The first elected government was ejected by the military in 1980, followed by a long period of political instability and deteriorating economic conditions. Although popular pressure led to elections in 1988, the military reasserted itself in another coup in 1990. Elections in 1991 and 1996 resulted in the establishment of fragile coalition governments. Growing frustration at the worsening state of the economy led to widespread strikes and demonstrations and forced the government of President Jules Wijden-bosch to resign in 2000. After new elections, a coalition led by the New Front (Nieuw Front or NF) was formed under the leadership of Ronald Venetiaan, who had been president from 1991 to 1996.
The president is both the chief of state and the head of government. The president and vice president are elected by the 51-member National Assembly or, in case of deadlock, by the larger People's Assembly, which has 869 representatives from national, local, and regional councils. Legislative power is vested in the unicameral National Assembly, whose members are elected to 5-year terms. Judicial power is vested in a Court of Justice, in which justices serve for life.
While the transition to multi-party democracy has been essentially peaceful, the threat of civil disorder remains ever present. The government has little control over the interior, where remnants of the Maroon Jungle Commando rebellion, officially quelled in 1992, continue to operate, along with bandits, drug traffickers, and illegally armed gold miners, making development difficult and even dangerous. Corruption and favoritism in the bureaucracy also combine to undermine government's effectiveness. In October 2000 it was discovered that 98 percent of Suriname's gold reserves had disappeared. Foreign investors are discouraged by a legal and regulatory system they consider inefficient and unreliable.
Since the 1990s, relations with the Netherlands, once an important source of foreign aid, have been strained. The United States suspects Suriname of being a transshipment base for both South American cocaine and illegal Chinese immigrants. Suriname is also embroiled in long-standing disputes with neighboring Guyana and French Guiana over rival territorial and maritime claims.
Suriname's tariff regime is cumbersome and complex. Average import duties range from 30 to 40 percent. New legislation is being drafted to liberalize and streamline the system. To compensate for losses in tariff revenues, the government plans to enact more aggressive strategies for collecting taxes from the country's large informal economy . Direct taxes accounted for only a third of revenue in 1996, and the government hopes to increase this by 20 percent.
INFRASTRUCTURE, POWER, AND COMMUNICATIONS
Suriname's poor transportation deteriorated further due to neglect during the period of military rule in the 1980s. The country has 4,530 kilometers (2,814 miles) of road, about 26 percent of which are paved. Although these roads have been joined together into 1 integrated system with the construction of bridges across the Coppename and Suriname Rivers in 1999 and 2000 respectively, they are overwhelmingly concentrated in the northern coastal region. Transportation into the heavily forested and sparsely populated interior is still extremely difficult. The logging and bauxite industries use Suriname's 166 kilometers (103 miles) of railway; others must depend on the river system, whose 1,200 kilometers (746 miles) of navigable waterways are an essential means of travel and transport, and on air transport. Paramaribo, the capital, is the major seaport and handles around 500 to 600 vessels a year. There are about 46 airports throughout the country, but only 5 paved runways. International air links are through Johan Adolf Pengel Airport outside Paramaribo.
Telecommunications are largely the preserve of the state-owned Telesur, though the private-sector operator ICMS is also active, and there are plans to open the industry up to full competition. Services are generally good, and infrastructural development has seen the number of telephones rise from 71 per 1,000 people in 1985 to 152 in 1998. By the late 1990s, there were 18 radio stations, 3 television stations, and 1 Internet service provider.
Suriname is largely self-sufficient in energy production. Three-quarters of its power consumption is supplied by the state-owned hydroelectric stations at Paramaribo and Nickerie and by the Suriname Aluminum Company's station on the Blommestein Meer, whose electricity is bought by the government. Oil production at the Tambaradjo oil field outside Paramaribo is 12,500 barrels per day (more than 300 percent over its 1982 levels), which is enough to meet all of Suriname's own oil needs, and leave about 40 percent for export. The government is planning to develop the industry further but needs an overseas strategic partner to help it with the cost of exploration.
Precise data about the Surinamese economy are not always available, especially because of the large informal sector that runs from street vending and casual labor through illegal mining and drug trafficking. Mining is the predominant sector in the official economy, as it has been for most of the 20th century. Along with quarrying, it generated 14.5 percent of the GDP in 1998. Altogether, industry contributed 22 percent of the GDP, while agriculture contributed 13 percent and services 65 percent.
|Country||Telephones a||Telephones, Mobile/Cellular a||Radio Stations b||Radios a||TV Stations a||Televisions a||Internet Service Providers c||Internet Users c|
|Suriname||64,000||4,090||AM 4; FM 13; shortwave 1||300,000||3 (2000)||63,000||2||10,000|
|United States||194 M||69.209 M (1998)||AM 4,762; FM 5,542; shortwave 18||575 M||1,500||219 M||7,800||148 M|
|Brazil||17.039 M||4.4 M||AM 1,365; FM 296; shortwave 161 (1999)||71 M||138||36.5 M||50||8.65 M|
|Guyana||70,000 (2000)||6,100 (2000)||AM 3; FM 3; shortwave 1||420,000||3||46,000||3||3,000|
|aData is for 1997 unless otherwise noted.|
|bData is for 1998 unless otherwise noted.|
|cData is for 2000 unless otherwise noted.|
|SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online].|
With only 0.4 percent of Suriname's total land area cultivable, cropping and farming play a secondary role in the economy, employing around 12 percent of the workforce. Half of the cultivable land, mostly in the alluvial coastland, is devoted to rice production, which makes up around 10 percent of Suriname's total exports. The rest is used for fruit and vegetable production, especially bananas, which account for 2.5 percent of total export revenues. As the European Union moves to scale down the special trading access it allows to developing nations, Suriname's rice and banana sales can be expected to suffer. Beef and cut-flower production are being investigated.
About 90 percent of Suriname's land area is forest and woodland, but the government has tried to preserve its fragile ecology by opting against large-scale logging operations in favor of sustainable harvesting. Lumber generated about US$3 million in export receipts in 1998. A promising ancillary industry is the production of traditional homeopathic remedies from forest plants.
Fishing, especially for shellfish, is an important sector, with wild-harvest shrimp accounting for US$29 million, or 6.7 percent of all exports in 1998, and scale-fish another 0.8 percent. Fish, shrimp, and crabs are also farmed, though a major setback occurred in October 2000, when a ban was imposed on Suriname's aquaculture products because of unacceptably high levels of toxic residues.
Bauxite mining and alumina smelting are the backbone of Suriname's economy, bringing in two-thirds of its export revenues. With 3.9 million tons produced annually, Suriname is the eighth largest producer of bauxite in the world and responsible for an estimated 3.2 percent of all bauxite production globally in 1998. The industry is entirely in the hands of 2 corporations: the Suriname Aluminum Company (Suralco), a subsidiary of the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa); and Billiton Maatschappij Suriname (BMS). The government is looking for new partners to develop mines in the western Bakhuys Mountains in preparation for the exhaustion of existing mines, expected around 2006.
In 1998 Suriname's gold production reached an estimated 770,000 ounces, but much of the gold mining industry, which includes some 14,000 small producers, either mines illegally or evades government tax levies . The government tried to bring miners into the formal economy by lowering the levy rate from 3 percent to 1 percent in 1997, but with limited success. Legitimate mining operations have been further discouraged by low prices for gold on the world market.
Other resources include oil, kaolin (used in ceramic, rubber, plastic, paper, and cosmetics production), nickel, silver, and granite. Deposits of manganese, platinum, uranium, iron ore, phosphate, and diamonds have also been found. The discovery of offshore oil and gas reserves also suggests significant promise.
Manufacturing, which generated around 12 percent of the GDP in 1998, is dominated by food processing, which accounts for 60 percent of the revenues of this sector, and by the refining of bauxite into alumina and aluminum.
Suriname has hopes of capitalizing on its lush forests and enormously diverse plant life to appeal to the ecotourist nature-holiday market. While the potential is significant, prospects are seriously hindered by the deficiencies in Suriname's infrastructure, which has few tourist amenities, and by the inaccessibility and hazards of so much of the rain-forested interior. Most of Suriname's 500 or so hotel rooms are in Paramaribo and cater to business travelers, who made up a large proportion of its 89,000 visitor arrivals in 1997; the remaining visitors were largely emigrants making trips home.
Financial services are rudimentary and consist of the Central Bank of Suriname, which supplies the foreign exchange market and 3 major commercial banks. Difficulties in financing are further complicated by the economy's instability, especially the parallel currency markets. The financial services industry, a valuable source of foreign exchange for many of Suriname's neighbors, is a potential growth sector for the country, and the government is preparing new legislation designed to stimulate activity.
Suriname's consumer tastes are fairly thoroughly Westernized, and the retail trade is consequently well developed, especially in the capital district. Complicated and expensive import procedures, however, do limit the availability of goods. Paramaribo also has a full complement of "American-style" fast-food chains such as Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, and McDonald's restaurants.
Suriname's bauxite exports and aid grants (especially from the Netherlands, Belgium, and the European Union) have tended to keep its trade account more or less balanced, and the country ran a balance of payments surplus until 1997. A heavy reliance on imports—especially food and consumer goods —combined with the fall of commodity prices for Surinamese products and the suspension of Dutch aid in 1997, pushed the account in 1998 into the red. In that year, exports were valued at US$406.1 million and imports at US$461.4 million.
In 1999 alumina and aluminum accounted for 71 percent of all exports, with the remaining 29 percent derived from rice, bananas, shrimp, and timber. Suriname's main export customers in that year were the United States (23.2 percent), Norway (19 percent), Canada (10.8 percent), and the Netherlands (9.6 percent). The main import suppliers were the United States (34.9 percent), the Netherlands (14.8 percent), and Trinidad and Tobago (12.2 percent).
Suriname joined the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in 1995, eliminating all tariffs on CARICOM products in 1996 and with the hope that the region would one day be a pan-American free-trade area. This move has tended to shift trading relations away from Europe, Suriname's traditional source of imports, and towards the U.S. and Caribbean region.
|Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Suriname|
|SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.|
|Exchange rates: Suriname|
|Surinamese guilders, gulden, or florins per US$1|
|Note: Beginning in July 1994, the central bank midpoint exchange rate was unified and became market determined; during 1998, the exchange rate splintered into four distinct rates; in January 1999 the government floated the guilder, but subsequently fixed it when the black-market rate plunged; the government currently allows trading within a band of SRG 500 around the official rate.|
|SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].|
The withdrawal of Dutch support in 1982 forced the government to meet its budgetary shortfall by borrowing on the domestic market, diverting credit from private investment. The strain on the money supply sent inflation into triple digits. Brought briefly under control in the 1990s, the deficit began to increase again, and in 1999 it reached an estimated US$52.6 million, or 16 percent of the GDP. Debt has also climbed as the government substantially expanded its spending on the transportation infrastructure in the late 1990s. The debt rose from US$154 million in 1996 to US$282 million in August 2000. One of the consequences has been the separation of Suriname's currency, beginning in late 1998, into parallel markets, with its bank valuation falling well below the official exchange rate. The result was a 40 percent de-valuation in January 1999 to SG998 per U.S. dollar. With the discovery of the disappearance of the country's gold reserves in October 2000, the rate fell even further, to SG2,200 per dollar. Inflation rose rapidly, increasing by 9 percent per month through 1999, and peaking at 126.7 percent in October 1999 before dropping back to 38.1 percent in June 2000.
POVERTY AND WEALTH
Suriname ranked 67th out of 174 countries in the United Nations Development Program 's development index, which places it in the middle spectrum of nations. This ranking conceals the wide variety of living standards in the country, ranging from Paramaribo, with its roads, full electricity and water services, cosmopolitan shops, and affluent suburbs, to the Maroon and Amerindian villages of the interior, often accessible only by river and with little or no telephone and electricity connections. The index also does not convey quality of life, which even in Paramaribo has been increasingly undermined by
|GDP per Capita (US$)|
|SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.|
urban crimes such as household burglary and armed robbery. The interior, which has considerably less police supervision, can be even more dangerous. Crime reflects growing disparities in wealth and opportunity, not just between the employed and growing numbers of unemployed, but even within the wage and salary sector, where industry salaries run significantly higher than those in the public sector .
Suriname has a workforce of around 100,000, of which half either work directly for the government or for government-owned businesses. Attempts to down-size the public sector have caused considerable unrest, leading to mass street demonstrations by opposition groups and labor unions in 1999, which forced President Jules Wijdenbosch from office. Restructuring and the slow pace of economic development has sent the unemployment rate up to 20 percent (1997) and precipitated an exodus of manpower that in 2000 ran to 8.92 Suri-namers per 1,000. Most emigrants tend to be under 30 and well-educated; the literacy rate in Suriname, despite a long-neglected education system, is high (93 percent, according to 1995 estimates), and many speak English. This drain of expertise is likely continue.
The concentration of workers in government departments and large industries has created a powerful role for trade unions in the economy. This role has been further strengthened by the government's traditional sympathy for worker issues, enshrined in the 1947 labor laws that still regulate the labor market and safeguard worker rights. Union membership is high, and unions are instrumental in determining pay scales and wage increases.
COUNTRY HISTORY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
1667. By the Treaty of Breda, England cedes Dutch Guiana (now Suriname) to the Netherlands in exchange for New Amsterdam (later New York City); Dutch colonization and plantation settlement begins.
1799-1815. Britain controls Dutch Guiana during the Napoleonic wars.
1863. Slavery is abolished.
1954. Suriname becomes internally autonomous (with foreign affairs and defense still controlled from the Netherlands).
1975. With independence from the Netherlands, Suri-name becomes a republic under a new constitution.
1980. A military coup ejects the civilian government of Henck Arron and suspends the constitution, replacing it with a government by Lieutenant-Colonel Deysi Bouterse's National Military Council.
1982. The so-called "December Bloodbath" occurs in which 15 critics of the junta are murdered. Dutch aid suspended.
1988. Elective government is restored.
1990. Deysi Bouterse stages another military coup.
1991. Elections are held, but no party carries the required two-thirds majority of seats, so parliament chooses Ronald Venetiaan, a former education minister, as president.
1992. Deysi Bourtese resigns as army chief.
1994. Bread riots occur in Paramaribo.
1996. Elections are held; again no party carries the required two-thirds majority of seats, so parliament selects Jules Wijdenbosch as president and forms a 5-party coalition.
1997. The Dutch government again suspends aid after Suriname refuses to extradite Deysi Bouterse, indicted in the Netherlands on drug charges.
2000. President Wijdenbosch resigns in face of mounting crises and mass demonstrations; new elections are called; with no party able to command a two-thirds majority, parliament selects Ronald Venetiaan as president.
Military rule in the 1980s, which was marked by poor economic management, the disappearance of foreign aid, and highly disruptive guerrilla insurgencies, ushered in a period of steep economic decline for Suriname. Subsequent economic policy has been concerned with addressing this legacy and rebuilding the country's economic foundations, especially dismantling the state's overly dominant role in the economy. The process has been a slow one, and the social cost of restructuring has prevented the government from pursuing these aims with full vigor. Fundamental economic instability, with high inflation and a weak currency, continues to be a chronic problem. Positive indicators, such as an improving relationship with the Netherlands, the promise of better economic management by the Venetiaan government, and the strong state of the bauxite industry, will not be enough to stave off continued hardship and economic crisis for Suriname.
Suriname has no territories or colonies.
Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2000.
Suriname General Bureau of Statistics. Suriname. <http://www.parbo.com/information/surdata.html>. Accessed March 2001.
U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook, 2000. <http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook>. Accessed January 2001.
U.S. Department of State. FY 2000 Country Commercial Guide: Suriname. Website: <http://www.state.gov/www/about_state/business/com_guides/index.html>. Accessed March 2001.
Surinamese guilder (SG). One guilder equals 100 cents. There are notes of 5, 10, 25, 100, 250, 500, and 1,000 guilders and coins of 1, 5, 10, and 25 cents and 1 and 2.5 guilders.
Alumina, aluminum, crude oil, lumber, shrimp and fish, rice, bananas.
Capital equipment, petroleum, foodstuffs, cotton, consumer goods.
GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT:
US$1.48 billion (1999 est.).
BALANCE OF TRADE:
Exports: US$406.1 million (f.o.b., 1998 est.). Imports: US$461.4 million (f.o.b., 1998 est.).
"Suriname." Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 21, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/economics/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/suriname
"Suriname." Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies. . Retrieved October 21, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/economics/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/suriname
|Official Country Name:||Republic of Suriname|
|Language(s):||Dutch, English, Sranang Tongo, Surinamese (Taki-Taki), Hindustani, Javanese|
History & Background
Suriname, situated on the Atlantic coast of northern South America, became a Dutch colony in 1667 and won independence in 1975. Its population of 431,000 consists of Creoles, East Indians, Javanese, Chinese, Africans, and Amerindians, most of whom live in the country's narrow coastal plain and capital, Paramaribo. Dutch is the official language, but English is spoken, as well as Hindustani, Javanese, and Sranang Tongo. In 1887 the first government school opened, patterned after the Dutch high school. In the 1940s the Dutch government divided the schools into primary and junior secondary schools, and a teacher-training college. A senior secondary school and law school were added by 1950. The country's Constitution of 1987 made education both free and compulsory from age 6 to age 12. More than 90 percent of the children in the coastal areas attend primary school. When the University of Suriname was established in 1968 (renamed Anton de Kom University in 1980), it absorbed the School of Law and School of Medicine, and added a School of Social Sciences. A need for trained technical workers led to the founding of the Natural Technical Institute in 1973 and later the Commercial Institute. Since the 1970s further changes in the educational system have focused on the curricula of primary and secondary schools.
Free access to education is guaranteed by the Surinamese constitution. Tuition is minimal at all levels. About half the schools are public; the rest are religious, most of them Protestant and Roman Catholic, which also receive government funding. The education system comprises preschool, primary, junior secondary, senior secondary, and tertiary schooling. The country has about 400 primary schools and 5 high schools. The University of Suriname has faculties of law, medicine, social science and economics, engineering, and natural resources. Three technical schools and five teacher-training colleges also exist. Although many Surinamese speak only Hindi or Javanese at home, Dutch was used in school until 1980, when this rule was relaxed, but most of the textbooks and other reading materials are still written in Dutch. The school year begins October 1 and ends in mid-August. It is divided into 3 terms, one 14 weeks long, another 13 weeks, and a third 12 weeks. The school day runs from 7:00 or 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Preprimary & Primary Education
About 90 percent of all Suriname's four- and five-year-old children enroll in preschool. The 16,000 children enrolled in nursery school in 1993 were taught by about 600 teachers, virtually all of them female. After their second year, the children enter primary school, which consists of grades one to six. In 1993 about 71,000 students were enrolled in 297 primary schools, an increase of only 7.7 percent over the previous 10 years. About half of these students were enrolled in religious schools. Successful completion of primary school is based on an examination administered nationwide at the end of grade six. Those who pass continue to one of the junior secondary schools. Unsuccessful candidates remain at the primary level until they pass the exam or reach the end of compulsory schooling.
Secondary education consists of junior secondary school and senior secondary school. In junior secondary school, students place in one of six streams according to how they perform on their sixth-grade examination. High scorers attend general junior secondary school, a four-year academic course that includes accounting, mathematics, physics, biology, and the like. Low scorers attend the junior secondary general vocational school and take a preprofessional course leading to further education. Those who do not qualify for the junior secondary general vocational school may attend one of the three-year junior secondary technical schools to learn carpentry, automobile mechanics, and other trades. Those with even lower scores attend an elementary vocational school to learn handyman skills; a vocational home economics school to learn homemaking; or a special education school. Of the 26,000 students enrolled in junior secondary education in 1994, some 49 percent attended a general junior secondary school, 31 percent were enrolled in the junior secondary general vocational school, and 19 percent were enrolled in the terminal vocational and technical options.
Students in the general junior secondary stream take an examination at the end of grade 10 to transfer to senior secondary school. In 1997, about 54.5 percent of the students passed, and 39.6 percent failed out of the 2,788 taking this examination. Students with the highest scores can enter a three-year academic stream, which offers courses leading to university study. Those with lower scores may enter a two-year senior secondary vocational stream, which prepares them for areas such as law and journalism. Those with lower scores can enter a four-year teacher-training college for primary-teacher training, or they can attend a commercial college to learn accounting, general management, or secretarial skills. Students who are even less academically able may attend a junior secondary level elementary vocational program, a vocational home economics program, or a special education program. Higher education is provided by the University of Suriname, the Academy of Arts, and the Advanced Teacher-Training College.
Administration, Finance, & Educational Research
The education system of Suriname is funded by the Minister of Education and Human Development and is regulated by the Ministry's Directorate of Education, which is represented in each of the 10 administrative districts by a district inspector. About half of all primary and junior secondary schools are operated by religious organizations, mostly Hindu, Muslim, or Catholic that operate with government subsidies. The religious organizations maintain the school facilities and hire their teachers from the graduates of the teacher-training college.
Training for preschool and primary teaching is provided through a four-year program at three teachertraining colleges, all of them in Paramaribo, though a part-time program is offered in one of the other districts, where students can study four days a week and at a teacher-training college on weekends. Training for junior secondary teaching is provided by the Advanced Teacher Training College. Vocational and technical teachers are trained at a special training college for vocational teachers. In their third year students learn pedagogical techniques and practice-teach in a school one day a week. The entire fourth year is spent in practice teaching.
Suriname's schools generally are in poor condition. Many of the schools in rural areas lack toilet facilities, running water, or electricity, and many that were damaged during the civil war in the 1980s remain unrepaired. When instructional supplies are provided, if they are not stolen, they arrive many weeks after school begins. Conditions are so dire that the government has instituted a national construction plan, with financial assistance from other countries. The interior regions have no junior or senior secondary schools. The quality of instruction also varies between the urban and interior areas. Whereas about half of students in the Paramaribo area qualify for entrance to the academic track of junior secondary school, only about 30 percent of students in the interior do so.
Education is widely available, particularly at the lower levels, and most Surinamese can afford to send their children to school, but the number of qualified graduates remains low, mainly because of high dropout and repetition rates, poor instruction, lack of education materials, and deteriorated school buildings. About 9 out of 10 Surinamese children start school, but fewer than 4 in 1,000 finish senior secondary school. Special programs have been set up for those who never enter or who drop out, but these programs cannot keep pace with demand.
Apathy has also become a problem in the school system. Less than 1 percent of the students in teachertraining school want to teach. Morale among teachers in the schools is low because of poor pay, poor facilities, and a lack of teaching materials. Between 1980 and 1994, teachers' salaries declined by four-fifths in real terms, thereby contributing to an outflow of qualified teachers who could get jobs abroad. Many teachers do not come to work although they continue to collect their salary. Finding teachers willing to serve in the interior or distant coastal districts has been a long-standing problem. The practice of shunting academically weak and unmotivated students into teaching leaves many teachers poorly prepared for their work. The system needs an entrance examination for teacher-training colleges that is separate from the national examination so as to screen out unmotivated and academically weak students, thereby improving instruction throughout the system.
Suriname receives some educational aid from a number of countries, principally the Netherlands and Belgium. Dutch support has focused on providing instructional materials and supplies at the primary level, particularly in the interior, developing apprenticeship programs in vocational-technical education and supporting higher education. Much of the international assistance to education has been at the tertiary level, in the form of assistance to the University of Suriname and scholarship programs to support Surinamese students studying abroad.
Despite these financial ties, Suriname's economic interests are increasingly shifting toward countries in which English, Portuguese, and Spanish are the official language. The dominance of Dutch in Suriname's education system has slowed the development of a curriculum that better serves the country's needs. Suriname could strengthen its educational system by including instruction not only in English but Portuguese and Spanish, especially as students advance through the higher grades. The Ministry of Education needs better management so that schools are repaired in a timely fashion, budgets are allocated equally among interior and urban schools, and abuses are curtailed. By improving teacher training, the number of well-qualified teachers would increase, and in turn students would be better educated and more of them would reach the higher levels of education.
Behrman, J. R. Human Resources in Latin America and the Caribbean. Washington, D.C.: Inter-American Development Bank, 1996.
Craig, Dennis R., and Margo L. Illes-Deekman. The Education Systems of Suriname and the British Commonwealth Caribbean: A Comparative Study. Guyana: Education and Development Services, Inc., 1998.
European Union. "Co-operation between the European Union and The Republic of Suriname." Annual Report. Paramaribo and Brussels, 1995.
Government of Suriname. Multi-Year Development Plan. Paramaribo, 1998.
——. Statistical Yearbook of the Republic of Suriname. Paramaribo: General Bureau of Statistics, 1995.
Inter-American Development Bank. "Economic and Social Progress in Latin America." Report, Special Section: Making Social Services Work. Washington, D.C., 1996.
——. "Improving the Quality of Primary Education in The Republic of Suriname." Project Completion Report. Washington, D.C., 1995.
Jungblut, Bernadette, et al. Country Review: Suriname 1999/2000. Available from http://www.CountryWatch.com.
Lieberg, Carolyn S. Enchantment of the World: Suriname. Chicago: Children's Press, 1995.
Miller, Errol. Education For All: Caribbean Perspectives and Imperatives. Washington, D.C.: Inter-American Development Bank, 1992.
Sedoc-Dahlberg, B. "Suriname: 1975-89: Domestic and Foreign Policies Under Military and Civilian Rule." In The Dutch Caribbean Prospects for Democracy, ed. Betty Sedoc-Dahlberg. City: Publisher, 1990.
"Suriname." The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2001. SIRS Researcher. Available from http://www.sirs.com.
—Bernard E. Morris
"Suriname." World Education Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 21, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/suriname
"Suriname." World Education Encyclopedia. . Retrieved October 21, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/suriname
POPULATION: 410,000 in Suriname; 200,000 in The Netherlands
LANGUAGE: Dutch (official); English; Spanish; Sranan; Hindi; Sranan Tongo (Taki-Taki)
RELIGION: Christianity; Hinduism; Islam
1 • INTRODUCTION
Suriname became a British colony in 1650 and a Dutch colony in 1667. The Dutch made what has been called the worst land-swap deal in history. They took Suriname in exchange for Nieuw Amsterdam—or New York, as the British called it.
The Dutch imported west African slaves to Suriname to work on sugarcane and coffee plantations. Later indentured workers (contract laborers) were brought from Java, China, and India to work in the fields. It is in this rich ethnic mixture that the modern Surinamese have their roots.
Suriname's journey from independence in 1975 has been marred by military coups, political repression, and guerrilla warfare.
2 • LOCATION
Formerly called Dutch Guiana, Suriname is the smallest country in South America. It also has the smallest population, estimated at 410,000 in 1990. Located on the north-central coast of South America, it has an area of 63,251 square miles (163,820 square kilometers). Suriname has a narrow coastal plain. Much of it is swampy and requires drainage systems and dikes. Low, forested mountain ranges cover 80 percent of the country.
3 • LANGUAGE
The official language of Suriname is Dutch, but many people speak English. Sranan (a Creole language), Hindi, and other Asian Indian, African, and Amerindian languages are also spoken. Altogether, twenty-two languages are spoken. The most common language is Sranan Tongo, also called Taki-Taki. It combines elements of English, Dutch, and several African languages.
4 • FOLKLORE
Many Surinamese folk tales are based on African traditions. They emphasize the African belief in the unity between all forms of life. They also stress the continuing link between the living and the dead. Many of the stories take place in Africa. One particular type of folktale involves a cunning spider who outwits humans and animals. Riddles play an important part in Creole folklore. Despite European influence, the lai tori riddles are overwhelmingly of African origin.
5 • RELIGION
The main religion in Suriname is Christianity, followed by Hinduism and Islam. Some Christian groups also follow traditional African practices such as Obeah and Winti. Winti is a largely secret religion from West Africa. It recognizes a multitude of gods and ghosts, each having its own myths, rites, offerings, taboos (forbidden acts), and magical forces.
6 • MAJOR HOLIDAYS
The Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr celebrates the end of fasting during Ramadan. The Hindu festival of Holi Phagwa is a lively event. Water, paint, and colored powder are thrown into the streets at people passing by. Independence Day, a major national holiday, is on November 25.
7 • RITES OF PASSAGE
Naming ceremonies at birth are important among Surinamese of all religions. Wedding ceremonies are elaborate and colorful, with generous feasting. Circumcision of males is practiced by Muslims.
Hindus practice a birth ceremony called jatakarma. Traditionally it takes place before the umbilical cord is cut. The naming ceremony occurs ten days after the child is born. The different Christian sects baptize children according to their own religious traditions.
8 • RELATIONSHIPS
Hindus in Suriname do not observe the caste system of the villages of India. However, Brahmins (people of the highest-ranking Brahmic caste) retain their special religious role, interpreting sacred rituals and Sanscrit texts.
Anyone visiting a friend or acquaintance is expected to call on everyone they know in the same neighborhood. Not to do so is considered extremely rude.
9 • LIVING CONDITIONS
Life expectancy is sixty-eight years for men and seventy-three for women, among the highest in South America.
The country's economy suffered during the 1980s because of political instability. Health is generally good. Sanitary conditions and nutrition are generally adequate.
10 • FAMILY LIFE
Many of the Maroons (who are descended from escaped black African slaves) have more than one wife. Care of their children is entrusted to one parent at a time. Children spend their first four to six years with their mother. Many are then given to the father or another relative. There may be further shifts at later ages based on the child's developing needs or the parents' situation.
11 • CLOTHING
Many of the Javanese women in Suriname still wear sarongs as they would in Indonesia. The Creole women continue to wear the kotomissie, a traditional costume. It includes a handkerchief called an angisa.
12 • FOOD
The food of Suriname reflects the country's ethnic diversity. Warungs— Javanese food stalls—serve bami goreng (fried noodles) and nasi goreng (fried rice). Creole food uses tubers, such as cassava and sweet potatoes. Plantains, similar to bananas, are eaten with chicken and seafood, including shrimp.
Rice is the staple diet for most people. Pom is puréed taro root, spiced and served with kip (chicken). Moksie alesie is a rice dish with meat, chicken, white beans, tomatoes, peppers, and spices.
13 • EDUCATION
Education is free and compulsory from the age of six years to twelve years. Most students leaving primary education continue into secondary school. Higher education is provided by the government at the Anton de Kom University. Literacy rates (percent of the population who can read and write) are about 95 percent for both men and women.
14 • CULTURAL HERITAGE
Drums are used to accompany the intense dancing during competitions known as "dance feasts." The drums of the Maroons must never be touched by a female.
At night the mellow sounds of metallic music are heard in the capital city, Paramaribo. This is the famous traditional Javanese "gamelan" music.
15 • EMPLOYMENT
The Asian Indians are mostly small farmers. Creoles in urban areas work mostly in retail, politics, and the professions. The Javanese work mainly on Dutch-owned plantations. Many families depend on relatives in the Netherlands who send home money. Some Surinamese add to their incomes by working illegally in neighboring Guyana and French Guiana. There are no unemployment benefits or other social welfare benefits.
16 • SPORTS
Soccer is played in towns and villages everywhere. A great hero of the game is Ruud Gullit, of Suriname descent. He became the captain of the Dutch national team. Another popular sport is swimming.
17 • RECREATION
Birdsong competitions are held in parks and public plazas on Sundays and holidays. People carrying their songbirds (usually small black tua-tuas) in cages are a frequent sight on the streets of Paramaribo. They may be on the way to a training session or simply taking the bird for a stroll.
Young people enjoy outings, sporting events, and movies, as well as dancing.
18 • CRAFTS AND HOBBIES
Many of the Maroons' huts display the fine woodcarvings for which they are famous and that adorn furniture, tools, and boots. The Afro-centered Maroon culture is also known for its sculpture.
19 • SOCIAL PROBLEMS
Certain parts of the interior are controlled by groups of armed rebels. Warfare has driven many refugees from Maroon villages across the border into camps in French Guiana.
The country is also undergoing a continuing economic crisis. Inflation was around 54 percent by mid-1993 and was heading toward 100 percent.
20 • BIBLIOGRAPHY
Beatty, Noelle B. Suriname, Major World Nations. New York: Chelsea House Pub., 1997.
Chin, Henk E. Surinam: Politics, Economics, and Society. New York: F. Pinter, 1987.
Hoefte, Rosemarijn. Suriname. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Clio Press, 1990.
Lieberg, C. Suriname. Chicago: Children's Press, 1995.
Sedoc-Dahlberg, Betty. The Dutch Caribbean: Prospects for Democracy. New York: Gordon and Breach, 1990.
World Travel Guide. Suriname. [Online] Available http://www.wtgonline.com/country/sr/gen.html, 1998.
"Surinamese." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 21, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/international/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/surinamese
"Surinamese." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Retrieved October 21, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/international/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/surinamese
Official name: Republic of Suriname
Area: 163,270 square kilometers (63,038 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Juliana Top (1,230 meters/4,034 feet)
Lowest point on land: Sea level
Hemispheres: Northern and Western
Time zone: 8:30 a.m. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 662 kilometers (411 miles) from northeast to southwest; 487 kilometers (303 miles) from southeast to northwest
Land boundaries: 1,707 kilometers (1,058 miles) total boundary length; Brazil 597 kilometers (371 miles); French Guiana 510 kilometers (317 miles); Guyana 600 kilometers (372 miles)
Coastline: 386 kilometers (239 miles)
Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)
1 LOCATION AND SIZE
Suriname is the smallest independent country in South America. It is located on the northeast edge of the continent, with a coastline along the Atlantic Ocean. The country shares borders with French Guiana, Brazil, and Guyana. With an area of about 163,270 square kilometers (63,038 square miles), the country is slightly larger than the state of Georgia. Suriname is divided into eighteen districts.
2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES
Suriname has no outside territories or dependencies.
Suriname's climate is generally tropical and moist. The daily trade winds that blow in from the Atlantic Ocean are the greatest influence on the country's temperatures. Temperatures range from 28°C to 32°C (82°F to 90°F) during the day; nighttime temperatures can drop to 21°C (70°F).
Annual rainfall in Paramaribo, the capital city, is approximately 230 centimeters (90 inches). Most rainfall occurs in the mountains in the southern region. Annually, the western region receives 193 centimeters (76 inches) of rain, while the eastern area receives 241 centimeters (95 inches). Suriname experiences two wet seasons and two dry seasons. A long rainy season occurs from April to August and is followed by a long dry season from August to November. Another rainy season occurs from December to February, but it is shorter and less rainy. It is followed by a short dry season in February and March.
4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS
Suriname is divided into three distinct natural regions: a coastal plain, a region of forested mountains, and high savannah in the southwest. Of these areas, the mountains are by far the largest, covering roughly three-quarters of the country. Seven significant rivers run through Suriname, all flowing into the Atlantic Ocean in the north.
Suriname is located on the South American Tectonic Plate.
5 OCEANS AND SEAS
Seacoast and Undersea Features
The Atlantic Ocean is located along Suriname's northern coast.
The shape and make-up of the coastline constantly changes because of the deposits from Suriname's numerous rivers. Ocean currents and wind push the river deposits to form unevenly shaped mud banks and ridges along the coast.
6 INLAND LAKES
The largest lake in Suriname is W. J. van Blommestein Lake. This man-made lake was created by construction of the Afobaka Dam.
7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS
The numerous rivers that dissect the land are all interconnected by a remarkable system of channels. In the central part of the country the principal rivers are the Nickerie, the Coppename, the Saramacca, the Suriname, and the Commewijne. The largest river in the country is the Courantyne (Corantjin, 764 kilometers/475 miles), which marks the border with Guyana. Major tributaries of the Courantyne in Suriname are the Sipaliwini, Lucie, and Kabalebo. Along the eastern border with French Guiana is another large river, the Maroni, with its tributaries the Tapanahoni, Paloemeu, and Oelemari. All of the rivers flow northward into the Atlantic Ocean, with many rapids and waterfalls.
There are no desert regions in Suriname.
9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN
The coastal plains in the north cover about 16 percent of the country. Large portions of the coastal plain are swampland, since most of this area lies near sea level. Mud banks and other deposits from slow-moving rivers in their delta stage also contribute to the swamps. Some of these swamps have been drained to make land available for farming.
In the far south, past the mountain ranges, grassy savannahs are scattered throughout the forests.
Approximately 80 percent of the country is covered by tropical rain forest. This is essentially all of the country south of the coastal plains, with the exception of some small savannahs in the south. The rain forest is considered to be one of the best-preserved on Earth. In the late 1990s, the Central Suriname Wilderness Nature Reservation was created, setting aside about 10 percent of the country as a protected area. The reservation is listed as a natural World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES
The mountainous rain forest region that covers most of Suriname has been only partially explored. It consists of a number of chains, with the terrain gradually rising to the country's highest elevation, Juliana Top (1,230 meters/ 4,034 feet), in the Wilhelmina Mountains at the center of the country. The Van Asch-Van Wijck Mountains make up the rest of the central mountain chain, which is connected to the Tumuc-Humac Mountains along the Brazilian border by the southern Eilerts de Haan Mountains. Other ranges include the Kayser and Bakhuis Mountains in the west and the Oranje and Lely Mountains in the east.
11 CANYONS AND CAVES
There are no significant natural caves or canyons in Suriname.
12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS
There are no significant plateau regions in Suriname.
DID YOU KNOW?
The blue poison-dart frog is bright blue and produces special foul-tasting and deadly secretions to ward off predators. The "poison dart" part of its name comes from the fact that Amerindians rubbed the frog's secretions on the tips of darts for hunting and even for warfare. The blue poison-dart frog inhabits the rain forest of Central and South America and is one of the most-endangered of all poison-dart frogs.
13 MAN-MADE FEATURES
The Afobaka Dam was built in the 1960s on the Suriname River in the east central region. The dam generates electricity for the processing of bauxite, one of the country's natural resources.
DID YOU KNOW?
Suriname has some of the world's richest reserves of bauxite, a primary mineral used in the production of aluminum. Mining sites at Moengo and Paranam are estimated to have ten to fifteen years of bauxite reserves remaining. Other bauxite reserves have been located but are currently unexploited. All bauxite mined in Suriname is brought via navigable rivers and the Atlantic to the Suriname Aluminum Company (SURALCO) in Paranam, a subsidiary of the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA).
14 FURTHER READING
Beatty, Noelle B. Suriname. New York: Chelsea House, 1999.
Fridell, Ron. The Search for Poison-Dart Frogs. New York: Franklin Watts, 2001.
Goslinga, Cornelis C. A Short History of the Netherlands Antilles and Suriname. Norwell, MA: Kluwer Academic Press, 1978.
Lieberg, C. Suriname. Chicago: Children's Press, 1995.
Wooding, Charles J. Evolving Culture: A Cross-Cultural Study of Suriname, West Africa, and the Caribbean. Washington, DC: University Press of America, 1981.
"World Watch: Paramaribo." Time International, June 29, 1998, 14.
Lonely Planet Guide: Suriname. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/destinations/south_america/suriname/ (accessed June 19, 2003).
"Suriname." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 21, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/suriname-0
"Suriname." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography. . Retrieved October 21, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/suriname-0
Suriname (sŏŏrĬnäm´, –năm´), officially Republic of Suriname, republic (2005 est. pop. 438,000), 63,037 sq mi (163,266 sq km), NE South America, on the Atlantic Ocean. Part of the Guiana region, it is separated from Brazil on the south by the Tumuc-Humac Mts., from Guyana on the west by the Corantijn (Courantyne or Corentyne) River, and from French Guiana on the east by the Maroni River. The capital and largest city is Paramaribo, which is situated on the Suriname River.
Land and People
Suriname is mostly rolling highlands covered by tropical rain forests. The relatively small population is concentrated along the flat coastal plain, where the use of dikes makes cultivation possible. The people are largely of South Asian or mixed African and European ancestry; there is a significant Indonesian minority. Dutch is the official language, although English, Sranan Tongo (a creole English), Hindi, Javanese, and Brazilian Portuguese are widely spoken. Hinduism, the Moravian and Roman Catholic churches, and Islam are the predominant faiths.
Economy and Government
Agriculture accounts for about 15% of the country's gross domestic product. Rice is the principal crop, and bananas, palm kernels, coconuts, plantains, and peanuts are also cultivated. The mining industry dominates the economy, accounting for about a third of the country's gross domestic product. Bauxite and gold are the principal minerals. Other industries include alumina and oil production, lumbering, food processing, and fishing. The main exports are alumina, crude oil, lumber, shrimp and fish, rice, and bananas. Capital equipment, petroleum, foodstuffs, cotton, and consumer goods are imported. Fluctuations in world mineral prices have a strong impact on the country's economy. The United States, Norway, the Netherlands, and Canada are the main trading partners.
Suriname is governed under the constitution of 1987. Executive power is held by the president, who is both head of state and head of government. The president, who serves a five-year term, is elected by a two-thirds vote of the national legislature, or (after two failed votes) by a majority vote of the United People's Assembly, which includes national, regional, and local representatives. The members of the legislature, the 51-seat National Assembly, are elected by popular vote and also serve five-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into ten districts.
The first Dutch expeditions to the Guiana region took place in 1597–98, and the first Dutch colony, on Essequibo Island in present-day Guyana, was founded in 1616. The Dutch West India Company was founded in 1621 to exploit the territory. The Dutch hold on the east coast was interrupted by English and French attacks and by a slave insurrection (1762–63). The Treaty of Breda (1667, see Dutch Wars) gave all English territory in Guiana to the Dutch, but in 1815 the Congress of Vienna awarded the area that is now Guyana to Britain while reaffirming the Dutch hold on Dutch Guiana (present-day Suriname). Slavery was abolished in 1863, and the Netherlands granted Dutch Guiana a parliament in 1866.
In 1954, Suriname officially became an internally autonomous part of the kingdom of the Netherlands, and in 1975 it became independent. Just prior to independence, some 100,000 Surinamese, mainly of Asian descent, migrated to the Netherlands. In 1980 the government was ousted by a military coup led by Sgt. Major Désiré Bouterse, and the soldiers' civilian allies were installed in office. Bouterse assumed complete control from 1982 to 1987.
A variety of insurgent guerrilla groups formed in the mid-1980s and did considerable damage to the country's infrastructure and major industries. Democracy was restored in 1988 and guerrilla activity decreased. President Rameswak Shankar, however, was ousted from office in a Dec., 1990, military coup led by Bouterse, who again installed his political allies. New elections (1991) gave his opponents, the four-party New Front for Democracy (NFD) coalition, control of parliament, and NFD leader Ronald Venetiaan became president. He implemented free-market reforms, but inflation soared and the economy continued to contract.
Bouterse resigned as army chief in 1992 amid corruption charges. In 1996, however, a former aide to Bouterse, Jules Wijdenbosch of the National Democratic party (NDP), won the presidency. Bouterse served as an adviser to Wijdenbosch's government until Apr., 1999; three months later he was convicted in absentia in the Netherlands of drug trafficking. Venetiaan's New Front won a resounding victory in the May, 2000, parliamentary elections, and the former president was reelected to the office in Aug., 2000.
In the May, 2005, elections the New Front suffered large losses and surrendered its majority but remained the largest party in parliament. Bouterse's NDP won the second largest number of seats. The New Front formed an alliance with the A-Combination, a party representing the descendants of former slaves, and Venetiaan was subsequently reelected president. In 2007 the disputed sea border with Guyana was arbitrated by a UN Law of the Sea tribunal, but portions of their common land border remained contested.
The May, 2010, parliamentary elections resulted in a victory for Bouterse's NDP-led coalition, which won the largest number of seats but fell short of a majority. Bouterse, who faced trial in connection with the murder of 15 political opponents by the army in 1982, was subsequently elected (July) president with the support of the A-Combination and People's Alliance. In Apr., 2012, the National Assembly voted to amnesty Bouterse and others for crimes committed during his military rule and the guerrilla war. The NDP won a narrow majority (26 of 51 seats) in the May, 2015, parliamentary elections, and in July Bouterse was reeelcted president.
See W. N. Van de Poll, Surinam, the Country and Its People (tr. 1951); M. J. Herskovits and F. J. Herskovits, Suriname Folklore (1937, repr. 1969); R. A. L. Hoefte, Suriname (1990).
"Suriname." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 21, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/suriname
"Suriname." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved October 21, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/suriname
|Official Country Name:||Republic of Suriname|
|Region (Map name):||South America|
|Language(s):||Dutch, English, Sranang Tongo, Surinamese (Taki-Taki), Hindustani, Javanese|
Suriname is located on the north coast of South America, on the Atlantic Ocean between Guyana and French Guiana. Originally settled by the English around 1650, they gave the region to the Dutch two decades later in exchange for the land that is now New York. The Dutch maintained colonial rule until 1975, when Suriname was granted full independence. In the last quarter of the twentieth century, the fledging country endured two military coups, one of which lasted seven years and resulted in the creation of a socialist republic. Democratic elections were held in 1987, but a 1990 coup briefly interrupted democratic governance.
The population of Suriname is around 431,000 with an estimated 93 percent literacy rate. Dutch is the official language, but other languages are also spoken. The National Assembly is elected by popular vote; the president and vice president are elected by the National Assembly. Bauxite mining provides the largest source of revenue, followed by gold mining. The timber industry also plays a major role in the economy.
The constitution and government of Suriname generally respects freedom of the press, but self-censorship by journalists still exists to a limited extent due to the policies of the previous administration, which included harassment and intimidation. There are two privately owned daily newspapers, De Ware Tijd and De West. Both are published in Dutch and maintain independent Web sites.
Suriname has 17 radio stations, four AM and 13 FM, of which three are state-owned. The stations reach approximately 300,000 radios. Two state-owned television stations and one privately owned station broadcast to approximately 63,000 televisions. The country has two Internet service providers.
De Ware Tijd. (2002). Available from http://www.dwt.net/.
De West. (2002). Available from http://www.dewestonline.com/.
"Suriname." In The World Press Freedom Review. (2001). Available from http://www.freemedia.at/wpfr/world.html.
"Suriname." Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). In The CIA World Factbook 2001. Available from http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/.
Jenny B. Davis
"Suriname." World Press Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 21, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/media/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/suriname
"Suriname." World Press Encyclopedia. . Retrieved October 21, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/media/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/suriname
163,270sq km (63,069 sq mi)
Indian 37%, Creole, 31%, Indonesian 14%, Black 9%, Native American 3%, Chinese 3%, Dutch 1%
Roman Catholic 23%, Protestant 19%, Hinduism 27%, Islam 20%
Surinam guilder = 100 cents
Land and climateSurinam is made up of the Guiana Highlands plateau, a flat coastal plain and a forested inland region. Its many rivers serve as a source of hydroelectric power.
History and PoliticsSpanish explorer Alfonso de Ojeda discovered Surinam in 1499, but it was the British who founded the first colony in 1651. In 1667, Britain ceded it to Holland in exchange for New Amsterdam (later New York), and in 1815 the Congress of Vienna gave the Guyana region to Britain and reaffirmed Dutch control of ‘Dutch Guiana’. It became officially autonomous in 1954. In 1975 Surinam gained full independence from the Netherlands and membership of the United Nations (UN). In 1980, the military seized control, imposing martial law and banning political parties. Guerrilla warfare disrupted the economy. In 1987, a new constitution provided for a 51-member National Assembly, with powers to elect the president. Rameswak Shankar became president in 1988 elections, but he was overthrown by a military coup in 1990. In 1991, Ronald Venetiaan, leader of the New Front for Democracy and Development, became president. In 1992, the constitution was amended in order to limit the power of the military. The 1996 general election resulted in a coalition government, led by Jules Wijdenbosch of the National Democratic Party. Venetiaan returned as president in 2000 elections.
EconomySurinam's economy depends greatly on the export of bauxite, of which it is one of the world's largest producers. The chief agricultural products are rice, bananas, sugar cane, coffee, coconuts, timber, and citrus fruits (2000 GDP per capita, US$3400).
"Surinam." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 21, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/surinam
"Surinam." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved October 21, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/surinam
Identification. The name "Suriname" (Sranan, Surinam) may be of Amerindian origin. Suriname is a multiethnic, multicultural, multilingual, and multireligious country without a true national culture.
Location and Geography. Suriname is in South America but is considered a Caribbean country. The total area is 63,250 square miles (163,820 square kilometers). The majority of the inhabitants live in the narrow coastal zone. More than 90 percent of the national territory is covered by rain forest. Suriname is a tropical country with alternating dry and rainy seasons. Since the early colonial days, Paramaribo has been the capital.
Demography. The official population estimate in 2000 was 435,000. Approximately 35 to 40 percent of the population is of British Indian descent (the so-called Hindostani), 30 to 35 percent is Creole or Afro-Surinamese, 15 percent is of Javanese descent, 10 percent is Maroon (descended from runaway slaves), and there are six thousand to seven thousand Amerindians. Other minorities include Chinese and Lebanese/Syrians. Since 1870, the population has increased, but with many fluctuations. In the 1970s, mass emigration to the Netherlands led to a population decrease; an estimated 300,000 Surinamers now live in the Netherlands.
Linguistic Affiliation. The official language and medium of instruction is Dutch, but some twenty languages are spoken. The major creole language and lingua franca is Sranantongo, which developed at the plantations, where it was spoken between masters and slaves. Sranantongo is an English-based creole language that has African, Portuguese, and Dutch elements. Attempts to make Sranantongo the official language have met with resistance from the non-Creole population. Other major languages are Sarnami-Hindustani and Surinamese-Javanese. The Chinese are Hakka-speaking. The Maroon languages are all English-based. Eight Amerindian languages are spoken.
Symbolism. The major symbols of the "imagined community" are the national flag, the coat of arms, and the national anthem. The flag was unveiled at independence. It consists of bands in green, white, red, white, and green. Green is the symbol of fertility, white of justice and peace, and red of patriotism. In the center of the red band is a yellow five-pointed star that stands for national unity and a "golden future." The five points refer to the five continents and the five major population groups. The national coat of arms shows two Amerindians holding a shield and has the motto Justitia-Pietas-Fides ("Justice-Love-Fidelity"). The left part of the shield shows a ship; the palm tree on the right represents the future and is the symbol of the righteous man. The national anthem is based on a late nineteenth-century Dutch composition. In the 1950s, a text in Sranantongo was added. In the first lines, Surinamers are encouraged to rise because Sranangron (Suriname soil or territory) is calling them from wherever they originally come.
Independence Day has lost its meaning for many people because of the political and socioeconomic problems since independence. The mamio,a patchwork quilt, is often used as an unofficial symbol of Suriname's variety of population groups and cultures. It reflects a sense of pride and a belief in interethnic cooperation. The country's potential richness and fertility are captured in the saying "If you put a stick in the ground, it will grow."
History and Ethnic Relations
Emergence of the Nation. Suriname was a classical Caribbean plantation society. In the 1650s, English colonists and Sephardi Jewish refugees from Brazil introduced the cultivation of sugar. When the Dutch took over from the British in 1667, fifty sugar plantations were operating. After a decrease in the number of estates, Suriname developed into a prosperous colony producing sugar and later coffee, cacao, and cotton. In the nineteenth century, the value of these products dropped sharply, although sugar exports were more stable.
In 1788, slaves numbered fifty thousand out of a total population of fifty-five thousand, yet there were not many slave rebellions. By 1770, five thousand to six thousand Maroons or runaway slaves were living in the jungle. After waging protracted guerrilla wars, they established independent societies in the interior. Between 215,000 and 250,000 slaves were shipped to Suriname, mostly from West Africa. Slavery was not abolished until 1863. After a ten-year transition period in which ex-slaves had to perform paid work on the plantations, contract laborers from Asia were imported to replace them. Between 1873 and the end of World War I, 34,304 immigrants from British India (the Hindostani) arrived. A second flow of immigrants came from the Dutch East Indies, bringing almost 33,000 Javanese contract laborers between 1890 and 1939. The idea was that the Asian immigrants would return to their homelands as soon as their contracts had expired, but most remained.
The policy of the Dutch colonial administration was one of assimilation: Native customs, traditions, languages, and laws had to give way to Dutch language, law, and culture. The introduction of compulsory education in 1876 was an important aspect of this policy. Javanese and Hindostani traditions proved so strong, however, that in the 1930s assimilation was replaced by overt ethnic diversity. Against the will of the influential light-skinned Creole elite, the governor recognized so-called Asian marriages and other Asian cultural traditions.
The Creole elite increased its influence in the wake of a political process that started in 1942, when the Dutch promised their colonies more autonomy. The Creole slogan "Boss in our own home" expressed the prevailing feeling. Before the first general elections in 1949, number of political parties were formed, mostly on an ethnic basis. In 1954, Suriname became an autonomous part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
World War II had a profound effect on the nation's socioeconomic structure. The presence of U.S. troops to protect bauxite mines and transport routes led to an increase in employment and migration from the rural districts to Paramaribo and the mining centers. This urbanization gradually made Paramaribo a multiethnic city, and the proportion of Creoles in the urban population dwindled.
The position of the light-skinned Creole elite was challenged by the so-called fraternization policy, which involved political cooperation among nonelite Creoles and Hindostani. Creole nationalism later led to Hindostani opposition. Despite the strong resistance of the Hindostani party and the fact that the cabinet had only small majority in the parliament, a Creole-Javanese coalition led the nation to independence on 25 November 1975.
National Identity. After independence, Suriname attempted to bring about a process of integration that would transcend ethnic, social, and geographic barriers. That process was accelerated by the military regime that gained power on 25 February 1980, but lost popular backing when it committed gross violations of human rights during the socalled December murders of 1982. In 1987, the transition to democracy restored the "old political parties" to power. Race, class, and ethnicity continue to play an overwhelming role in national life.
Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space
Greater Paramaribo, with 280,000 inhabitants, is the only city and the traditional commercial center. Paramaribo is multiethnic, but the rest of the coastal population lives in often ethnically divided villages.
Paramaribo is a three hundred-year-old colonial town with many wooden buildings in the old center. A distinctive national architectural style has developed whose most important characteristics are houses with a square brick foundation, white wooden walls, a high gabled roof, and green shutters. Multiethnicity is demonstrated by the many churches, synagogues, Hindu temples, and mosques.
Food and Economy
Food in Daily Life. The nation's many immigrants have left culinary traces. The only truly national dish is chicken and rice. In Paramaribo, Javanese and Chinese cuisine and restaurants are popular. In the countryside, breakfast consists of rice (for the Javanese), roti (Hindostani), or bread (Creoles). The main meal is eaten at 3 p.m., after offices have closed. After a siesta, sandwiches and leftovers are eaten. Drinking water and street food are generally safe.
Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. At weddings and birthday parties, especially those celebrating a jubilee year, the so-called Bigi Yari, huge amounts of food are served. In Javanese religious life, ritual meals called slametans commemorate events such as birth, circumcision, marriage, and death.
Basic Economy. Commercial agriculture is limited to the narrow alluvial coastal zone. Smallholders are mostly Javanese and Hindostani. The largest rice farms are government-owned. The country is self-sufficient in rice, some tropical fruits, and vegetables, which also are exported. In 1996, agriculture contributed 7 percent to the national economy and employed 15 percent of the workforce. There is a small fishing industry. Overall, the country is a net importer of food.
Land Tenure and Property. Provisions for collective landholding are part of the legal system. Collective holding of agricultural lands can be found among Maroons, Amerindians, and Javanese.
Commercial Activities and Major Industries. The most important sector is mining, with bauxite and gold the leading products. Most of the bauxite is processed within the country produce alumina. Alumina and aluminium account for three-fourths of exports. Gold production is difficult to estimate.
Trade. In the 1990s, the main trading partners were Norway, the United States, the Netherlands, and the Netherlands Antilles. Besides mining products, exports include rice, bananas, shrimp, and timber. Imports come mainly from the United States, the Netherlands, and Trinidad and Tobago and include capital goods, basic manufactured goods, and chemicals.
Division of Labor. More than half the labor force is employed by the state. Those jobs are officially assigned on the basis of education, experience, and competence, but unofficially, ethnicity and political affiliation often play a role.
Classes and Castes. Classes are increasingly multiethnic as a result of the social mobility of all population groups. The class structure is based on income and, to a lesser degree, social position. The elite includes import–export merchants, entrepreneurs, politicians, and military officers. Devaluation of the currency has squeezed a traditional middle class that is dependent on fixed incomes (civil servants, pensioners, teachers, paramedics). The gap between rich and poor is widening. The Hindostani could not maintain their caste system once they left India, but some notion of caste persists.
Government. Suriname has been an independent republic since 1975. Its political institutions are defined by the constitution of 1987. The National Assembly has fifty-one members who are elected for a five-year term by proportional representation. The president is elected by a two-thirds majority in the Assembly. The president appoints the cabinet ministers. The Council of State, chaired by the president and including representatives of the military, trade unions, business, and political parties, can veto legislation that violates the constitution.
Leadership and Political Officials. Most political parties are based on ethnicity. Party politics are characterized by fragmentation and the frequent splitting up of parties. Since the elections of 1955, no party has had majority in the National Assembly, and so coalitions of are always necessary to form a government. Many party leaders are authoritarian. Clientelism, a patron–client relationship between a politician and voters in which the politician delivers socioeconomic assistance (e.g., jobs) in exchange for a vote, is an important feature of politics.
Social Problems and Control. The administration of justice is entrusted to a six-member Court of Justice and three cantonal courts. The crime rate has increased since the 1980s because of socioeconomic regression; crimes against property accounted for nearly 80 percent of all crimes in 1995. Formal punishments include jail sentences and fines; no death penalty has been enacted since World War II, but the law is still on the books. So far, human rights violations have not been prosecuted. Informal control is still fairly high but has eroded since a military coup in 1980.
Military Activity. The National Army played a major role in domestic (political) affairs from 1980 to 1992. It was involved in a civil war in the interior in the 1980s and in a United Nations mission in Haiti.
Social Welfare and Change Programs
There is a limited social welfare system funded by the state. Assistance by social organizations and benevolent societies to the elderly, poor, and infirm remains indispensable, as do remittances and care packages sent by emigrants.
Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations
Labor unions traditionally play an important political role. The number and significance of human rights, women's, and social welfare organizations has grown. Suriname is a member of several major global and regional organizations.
Gender Roles and Statuses
The Relative Status of Women and Men. Official labor force figures underestimate the participation of women, many of whom are employed in the informal sector. Women also work in subsistence agriculture.
Despite the economically independent position of many women within their households, in society in general women cannot claim equal status. The domestic status of women varies. Women are the emotional and economic center of the household (matrifocality) in many Creole groups but are subordinated in traditional, patriarchal Hindostani circles.
Marriage, Family, and Kinship
Marriage. Although many marriage partners are of the same ethnic group, mixed marriages do take place in Paramaribo. In traditional Hindostani families in the agricultural districts, parents still select partners for their children. Weddings can be very lavish. Living together without being married is common but is not acceptable to traditional Hindostani, among whom the bride is expected to be a virgin. In the Caribbean family system, female-headed households and the fact that women have children from different partners are accepted. Some women practice serial monogamy; it is more common for men to have several partners simultaneously. Having a mistress (buitenvrouw ) is accepted and usually is not shrouded in secrecy. Maroon men often have different wives in different villages; those men do, however, have the responsibility to supply each wife with a hut, a boat, and a cleared plot for subsistence agriculture.
Domestic Unit. Domestic units vary in type, size, and composition, ranging from female-headed households to extended families. Among the Hindostani, the institution of the joint family has given way to the nuclear family, and the authority of the man is eroding.
Kin Groups. The clan system among the Maroons is based on a shared belief in a common matrilineal descent. The population of a village can overlap considerably with a matrilineal clan (lo ).
Infant Care. Babies usually sleep in cribs near the mother and are moved to a separate room when they are older. In the interior, mothers carry their babies during the day; at night, babies sleep in a hammock. In contrast to Maroon women, Amerindian women are reluctant to let anybody touch their babies.
Child Rearing and Education. Education and diplomas are considered exceedingly important by all population groups.
The Maroons and Amerindians have rites of passage. Among the Wayana, boys undergo an initiation rite, eputop, in which wasps are woven into a rush mat in the form of an animal that symbolizes power and courage. The mats are tied to the boys, who must withstand the stinging without a whimper. Among the Caribs, the girls undergo a similar ritual, except that stinging ants rather than wasps are used. The circumcision of Muslim boys is considered a rite of passage.
Higher Education. Despite economic constraints, public expenditure on education remains relatively high. Higher education is free. Education is compulsory between ages six and twelve. Between ages six and seventeen, school enrollment ratio is officially about 85 percent but the dropout rate is high. The adult literacy rate was 93 percent in 1995.
A typical, mainly urban Creole, expression is "no span" ("Keep cool; don't worry"), symbolizing the generally relaxed atmosphere. The population has a reputation for being hospitable, and most houses do not have a knocker or a bell. Shoes often are taken off when one goes inside. Guests usually are expected to partake in a meal. A casual conversation is initiated by a handshake, and good friends are greeted with a brasa (hug). Children are expected to respect adults, use the formal form of address when speaking to them, and be silent when adults speak.
Religious Beliefs. The three major religions are Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. About 80 percent of the Hindostani are Hindus, 15 percent are Muslims, and 5 percent are Christians. Most Creoles are Christians: the largest denominations are Roman Catholicism and the Moravian Church (Evangelische Broedergemeente); the Pentecostal Church has been growing. Most Javanese are Muslims. Officially most Amerindians are baptized, as are many Maroons. However, many of these groups also adhere to their traditional religious beliefs. The most important alternative system for Maroons and Creoles is Winti, a traditional African religion that was forbidden until the 1970s.
Religious Practitioners. Religious practitioners of all beliefs are paid by the Ministry of the Interior.
Medicine and Health Care
Despite a lack of public funding, health care indicators are comparable with those in other Caribbean countries. Life expectancy at birth was 70.5 years in 1996 compared with 64.8 years in 1980. Infant mortality was 28 per 1,000 live births in 1996 (46.6 in 1980). Specialized care is available at the University Hospital in Paramaribo. There are medical posts throughout the interior. In all population groups, traditional healers are often consulted.
Holidays include 1 January (New Year's Day), Id al-Fitr (end of Ramadan), Holi Phagwa (Hindu New Year, March/April), Good Friday and Easter Monday (March/April), 1 May (Labor Day), 1 July (Keti Koti, Emancipation Day, previously Day of Freedoms), 25 November (Independence Day), and 25–26 December (Christmas).
The Arts and Humanities
Support for the Arts. Government and private, support for the arts is virtually nonexistent. Most artists and writers are amateurs. A lack of publishers and money makes writing and selling literature a difficult enterprise. Most authors try to sell their publications to friends or on the street. The great majority of established authors live and work in the Netherlands. Oral literature has always been important to all the population groups.
Painting is the most fully developed graphic art. The most popular art form is music. Popular among Creoles are kaseko and kawina music, originally sung and played at the plantations. Among Hindostani, the songs from Hindi movies and videos are favorites. A few traditional Javanese gamelan orchestras perform traditional Javanese songs.
The State of the Physical and Social Sciences
The University of Suriname in Paramaribo has faculties of law, economics, medicine, and social sciences. There are also a number of technical and vocational schools.
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Suriname■ SURINAMESE … 185
Suriname has one of the most diverse populations in the world. The two largest ethnic groups are the Creoles, mixed-race descendents of black plantation slaves (about 35 percent of the population), and the Hindustanis (about 33 percent), descendants of indentured laborers from India. The Bushmen (10 percent) are descended from Africans who escaped from the plantations into the forests of the interior. Other groups include the Javanese (about 16 percent), Chinese, and Europeans. The Amerindians (3 percent), Suriname's original inhabitants, include the Arawak, Carib, and Warrau.
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