About Suriname

Suriname is an unusual cultural enclave with an extraordinary ethnic variety deriving from Dutch colonization, the early importation of African slaves and, later, indentured laborers from India and Indonesia. Independence from the Netherlands was granted in 1975.

Suriname is located in South-America between 2 and 6 northern latitude and 54 and 58 western longitude. It borders in the north on the Atlantic Ocean, in the west on Guyana, in the east on French Guiana, and in the south on Brazil. The capital is Paramaribo.

THE CLIMATE is tropical. The temperature fluctuates from 21ºC. to 30ºC. There are dry and rainy seasons: the minor dry season from February to April; the major rainy season from May to August; the major dry season from August to November and the minor rainy season from November to February.

Full country name: Republic of Suriname
Area: 163,270 sq km (63,675 sq mi)
Population: 431,303
Capital city: Paramaribo (pop 240,000)
People: 35% East Indian, 32% Afro-Surinamese, 15% Indonesian, 10% Maroons (descendants of ex-slaves who inhabit the upland forests)
Language: Dutch, and also English, Sranan (an English-based Creole), Hindi, Javanese and Chinese
Religion: 27% Hindu, 25% Protestant, 23% Roman Catholic, 20% Muslim
Government: Republic
President: Runaldo Ronald Venetiaan
Prime Minister: Jules Rattankoemar Ajodhia

GDP: US$1.48 billion
GDP per head: US$3,500
Annual growth: 2%
Inflation: 20%
Major industries: Bauxite and aluminium, palm oil, rice, shrimp and fish, bananas
Major trading partners: Norway, the Netherlands, US, France

Suriname's capital Paramaribo (often abbreviated to 'Parbo') is a curious hybrid of northern Europe and tropical America. Imposing brick buildings overlook grassy squares and wooden houses crowd narrow streets, but towering palms shade some areas and mangroves still hug the riverside. Mosques and synagogues sit side by side, while Javanese vendors peddle satay and Dutch-speaking Creoles guzzle beer at sidewalk cafés.

Central Paramaribo's focus is the Onafhankelijkheidsplein (Independence Square), fronting the Presidential Palace. Immediately behind the palace is the Palmentuin, an attractive park with tall palms inhabited by tropical birds. To the east is Fort Zeelandia, a 17th century riverside fortification used for the detention and torture of political prisoners after the coup of 1980. The main market is found on the riverside boulevard, Waterkant, and ferries for Meerzog, on the other side of the river, leave from nearby.

Suriname’s principal export and source of foreign investment is bauxite, it accounts for 70 percent of Suriname’s exports an 10 percent of GDP. In the year to come gold will be the second most important export product. A member of CARICOM, Suriname also exports rice, shrimp, timber, bananas, fruits, and vegetables. Gold mining is unregulated by the government, and this important part of the informal economy (estimated as much as 100% of GDP) must be brought into the realm of tax and environmental authorities. Suriname has attracted the attention of international companies in gold exploration and exploitation as well as those interested in extensive development of a tropical hardwoods industry and possible diamond mining. However, proposals for exploitation of the country's tropical forests and undeveloped regions of the interior traditionally inhabited by indigenous and Maroon communities have raised the concerns of environmentalists and human rights activists both in Suriname and abroad. Oil is a promising sector; current output is 12,000 barrels a day, and regional geology suggests additional potential.