Suriname [Country Flag of Suriname]
Transnational Issues
[Country map of Suriname]



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Location: Northern South America, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between French Guiana and Guyana

Geographic coordinates: 4 00 N, 56 00 W

Map references: South America

total: 163,270 sq km
land: 161,470 sq km
water: 1,800 sq km

Area—comparative: slightly larger than Georgia

Land boundaries:
total: 1,707 km
border countries: Brazil 597 km, French Guiana 510 km, Guyana 600 km

Coastline: 386 km

Maritime claims:
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm

Climate: tropical; moderated by trade winds

Terrain: mostly rolling hills; narrow coastal plain with swamps

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: unnamed location in the coastal plain -2 m
highest point: Wilhelmina Gebergte 1,286 m

Natural resources: timber, hydropower potential, fish, kaolin, shrimp, bauxite, gold, and small amounts of nickel, copper, platinum, iron ore

Land use:
arable land: NA
permanent crops: NA
permanent pastures: 0%
forests and woodland: 96%
other: 4% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: 600 sq km (1993 est.)

Natural hazards: NA

Environment—current issues: deforestation as timber is cut for export; pollution of inland waterways by small-scale mining activities

Environment—international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea

Geography—note: mostly tropical rain forest; great diversity of flora and fauna which for the most part is increasingly threatened by new development; relatively small population most of which lives along the coast


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Population: 427,980 (July 1998 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 33% (male 72,945; female 69,468)
15-64 years: 62% (male 133,840; female 129,452)
65 years and over: 5% (male 10,309; female 11,966) (July 1998 est.)

Population growth rate: 0.77% (1998 est.)

Birth rate: 22.48 births/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Death rate: 5.79 deaths/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Net migration rate: -8.99 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.86 male(s)/female (1998 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 27.44 deaths/1,000 live births (1998 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 70.61 years
male: 68.05 years
female: 73.29 years (1998 est.)

Total fertility rate: 2.59 children born/woman (1998 est.)

noun: Surinamer(s)
adjective: Surinamese

Ethnic groups: Hindustani (also known locally as "East Indians"; their ancestors emigrated from northern India in the latter part of the 19th century) 37%, Creole (mixed white and black) 31%, Javanese 15.3%, "Maroons" (their African ancestors were brought to the country in the 17th and 18th centuries as slaves and escaped to the interior) 10.3%, Amerindian 2.6%, Chinese 1.7%, white 1%, other 1.1%

Religions: Hindu 27.4%, Muslim 19.6%, Roman Catholic 22.8%, Protestant 25.2% (predominantly Moravian), indigenous beliefs 5%

Languages: Dutch (official), English (widely spoken), Sranang Tongo (Surinamese, sometimes called Taki-Taki, is native language of Creoles and much of the younger population and is lingua franca among others), Hindustani (a dialect of Hindi), Javanese

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 93%
male: 95%
female: 91% (1995 est.)


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Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Suriname
conventional short form: Suriname
local long form: Republiek Suriname
local short form: Suriname
former: Netherlands Guiana, Dutch Guiana

Data code: NS

Government type: republic

National capital: Paramaribo

Administrative divisions: 10 districts (distrikten, singular—distrikt); Brokopondo, Commewijne, Coronie, Marowijne, Nickerie, Para, Paramaribo, Saramacca, Sipaliwini, Wanica

Independence: 25 November 1975 (from Netherlands)

National holiday: Independence Day, 25 November (1975)

Constitution: ratified 30 September 1987

Legal system: based on Dutch legal system incorporating French penal theory

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Jules WIJDENBOSCH (since 14 September 1996); Vice President Pretaapnarian RADHAKISHUN (since 14 September 1996); note—the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Jules WIJDENBOSCH (since 14 September 1996); Vice President Pretaapnarian RADHAKISHUN (since 14 September 1996); note—the president is both the chief of state and head of government
cabinet: Cabinet of Ministers appointed by the president from among the members of the National Assembly
note: First Advisor of State maintains significant power
elections: president and vice president elected by the National Assembly or, if no presidential or vice presidential candidate receives a constitutional majority vote in the National Assembly after two votes, by the larger Peoples Assembly (the National Assembly members and 289 local and regional councillors), for five-year terms; election last held 23 May 1996; runoff election held 5 September 1996 (next to be held NA May 2001)
election results: Jules WIJDENBOSCH elected president; percent of legislative vote NA; National Assembly failed to elect president; results reflect the People's Assembly votes—Jules WIJDENBOSCH (NDP) 438, Ronald VENETIAAN (NF) 407

Legislative branch: unicameral National Assembly or National Assemblee (51 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 23 May 1996 (next to be held NA May 2001)
election results: percent of vote by party—NA; seats by party—NDP 16, NF 14, BVD 5, KTPI 5, Pendawa Lima 4, Alliance 3, DA '91 2, OPDA 2

Judicial branch: Supreme Court, justices nominated for life

Political parties and leaders: The New Front (NF), a coalition of three parties (NPS, VHP, SPA), leader Ronald R. VENETIAAN; Progressive Reform Party (VHP), Jaggernath LACHMON; National Party of Suriname (NPS), Ronald VENETIAAN; Party of National Unity and Solidarity (KTPI), Willy SOEMITA; Suriname Labor Party (SPA), Fred DERBY; Democratic Alternative '91 (DA '91), a coalition of parties (AF, and BEP) formed in January 1991, Winston JESSURUN; Alternative Forum (AF), Rick VAN RAVENSWAY; Party for Brotherhood and Unity in Politics (BEP), Caprino ALLENDY; Pendawa Lima, Paul SOMOHARDJO; National Democratic Party (NDP), Desire BOUTERSE; Progressive Workers' and Farm Laborers' Union (PALU), Ir Iwan KROLIS; The Progressive Development Alliance, a combination of two parties (HPP, PVF), Harry KISOENSINGH; Democratic Party (DP), Frank PLAYFAIR; Reformed Progressive Party (HPP), Harry KISOENSINGH; Party of the Federation of Land Workers PVF), Jwan SITAL; Party for Renewal and Democracy (BVD), Atta MUNGRA; Independent Progressive Democratic Alternative (OPDA), Joginder RAMKHILAWAN

Political pressure groups and leaders: Union for Liberation and Democracy, Kofi AFONGPONG; Mandela Bushnegro Liberation Movement, Leendert ADAMS; Tucayana Amazonica, Alex JUBITANA, Thomas SABAJO; General Liberation and Development Party (ABOP), Ronnie BRUNSWIJK

International organization participation: ACP, Caricom, ECLAC, FAO, G-77, IADB, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IFAD, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, ITU, LAES, NAM, OAS, OIC, OPANAL, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Arnold Theodoor HALFHIDE
chancery: Suite 460, 4301 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 244-7488
FAX: [1] (202) 244-5878
consulate(s) general: Miami

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Dennis K. HAYS
embassy: Dr. Sophie Redmondstraat 129, Paramaribo
mailing address: P. O. Box 1821, Paramaribo; pouch address: American Embassy Paramaribo, Department of State, Washington, DC, 20521-3390
telephone: [597] 472900, 477881, 476459
FAX: [597] 420800

Flag description: five horizontal bands of green (top, double width), white, red (quadruple width), white, and green (double width); there is a large yellow five-pointed star centered in the red band


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Economy—overview: The economy is dominated by the bauxite industry, which accounts for more than 15% of GDP and 70% of export earnings. Following a dismal year in 1994—which saw the value of the Surinamese guilder plummet by about 70%, inflation rise to more than 600%, and national output fall for the fifth consecutive year—nearly all economic indicators improved in 1995-97. The VENETIAAN government unified the exchange rate as part of its structural adjustment program (SAP). After assuming power in the fall of 1996, the WIJDENBOSCH government ended the SAP claiming it was unfair to the poorer elements of society. Tax revenues fell as old taxes lapsed and the government failed to implement new tax alternatives. By the end of 1997, the allocation of new Dutch development funds was frozen as Surinamese government relations with Holland deteriorated. Suriname's economic prospects for the medium term will depend on renewed commitment to financially responsible monetary and fiscal policies.

GDP: purchasing power parity—$1.44 billion (1997 est.)

GDP—real growth rate: 4% (1997 est.)

GDP—per capita: purchasing power parity—$3,400 (1997 est.)

GDP—composition by sector:
agriculture: 14%
industry: 33%
services: 53% (1994)

Inflation rate—consumer price index: 8% (1997 est.)

Labor force: NA
by occupation: agriculture, industry, services

Unemployment rate: 20% (1997)

revenues: $317 million
expenditures: $333 million, including capital expenditures of $52 million (1997 est.)

Industries: bauxite and gold mining, alumina and aluminum production, lumbering, food processing, fishing

Industrial production growth rate: 6.5% (1994 est.)

Electricity—capacity: 425,000 kW (1995)

Electricity—production: 1.601 billion kWh (1995)

Electricity—consumption per capita: 3,727 kWh (1995)

Agriculture—products: paddy rice, bananas, palm kernels, coconuts, plantains, peanuts; beef, chicken; forest products and shrimp of increasing importance

total value: $434.3 million (f.o.b., 1996 est.)
commodities: alumina, aluminum, shrimp and fish, rice, bananas
partners: Norway 33%, Netherlands 26%, US 13%, Japan 6%, Brazil 6%, UK 3% (1994)

total value: $490 million (f.o.b., 1997 est.)
commodities: capital equipment, petroleum, foodstuffs, cotton, consumer goods
partners: US 40%, Netherlands 24%, Trinidad and Tobago 11%, Japan 3% (1994)

Debt—external: $216 million (1996 est.)

Economic aid:
recipient: the Netherlands provided a 1996 aid package of $224 million to Suriname, Aruba, and the Netherlands Antilles

Currency: 1 Surinamese guilder, gulden, or florin (Sf.) = 100 cents

Exchange rates: Surinamese guilders, gulden, or florins (Sf.) per US$1—central bank midpoint rate: 401.00 (January 1998), 401.00 (1997), 401.26 (1996), 442.23 (1995), 134.12 (1994); parallel rate: 412 (December 1995), 510 (December 1994), 109 (January 1994)
note: beginning July 1994, the central bank midpoint exchange rate was unified and became market determined

Fiscal year: calendar year


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Telephones: 43,522 (1992 est.)

Telephone system: international facilities good
domestic: microwave radio relay network
international: satellite earth stations—2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean)

Radio broadcast stations: AM 5, FM 32, shortwave 1

Radios: 290,256 (1993 est.)

Television broadcast stations: 10 (1998 est.)

Televisions: 59,598 (1993 est.)


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total: 166 km (single track)
standard gauge: 80 km 1.435-m gauge
narrow gauge: 86 km 1.000-m gauge

total: 4,530 km
paved: 1,178 km
unpaved: 3,352 km (1996 est.)

Waterways: 1,200 km; most important means of transport; oceangoing vessels with drafts ranging up to 7 m can navigate many of the principal waterways

Ports and harbors: Albina, Moengo, New Nickerie, Paramaribo, Paranam, Wageningen

Merchant marine:
total: 2 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 2,421 GRT/2,990 DWT
ships by type: cargo 1, container 1 (1996 est.)

Airports: 45 (1997 est.)

Airports—with paved runways:
total: 5
over 3,047 m: 1
under 914 m: 4 (1997 est.)

Airports—with unpaved runways:
total: 40
914 to 1,523 m: 7
under 914 m: 33 (1997 est.)


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Military branches: National Army (includes small Navy and Air Force elements), Civil Police

Military manpower—availability:
males age 15-49: 117,031 (1998 est.)

Military manpower—fit for military service:
males: 68,985 (1998 est.)

Military expenditures—dollar figure: $8.5 million (1997 est.)

Military expenditures—percent of GDP: 1.6% (1997 est.)

Transnational Issues

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Disputes—international: claims area in French Guiana between Litani Rivier and Riviere Marouini (both headwaters of the Lawa Rivier); claims area in Guyana between New (Upper Courantyne) and Courantyne/Koetari [Kutari] Rivers (all headwaters of the Courantyne)

Illicit drugs: transshipment point for South American drugs destined mostly for Europe