Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Suriname
Suriname, a former Dutch colony, is one of the most diverse (ethnically, culturally and linguistically) countries on earth.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Suriname

  1. Suriname ranks 77 of the 100 most corrupt countries in the world. The International Narcotics Control Strategy Report issued by the U.S. government in March 2017 stated that corruption at the bureaucratic level was deeply endemic and played a role in the inefficient policy-making environment.
  2. Suriname was ranked 94 out of 182 countries on the Human Development Index (HDI). In the same year, the World Bank classed Suriname as an upper-middle income country. Since 2005, the HDI has continually increased which explains the increase in GDP.
  3. Officially, Suriname does not have a minimum wage. However, unofficially, this figure is estimated to be SRD 600 per month, the lowest possible wage for civil servants. This amounts to $3,998 per year.
  4. Suriname has a relatively high poverty rate, with 70 percent of its population living beneath the poverty line. Most of its population works in the mining industry which is extremely vulnerable to shocks in the market. The mining industry contributes to 85 percent of exports and 27 percent of government revenues.
  5. Suriname has one of the lowest GDPs in South America. The country’s economy is heavily reliant on trading natural resources which left it particularly vulnerable to low international prices for commodities such as bauxite.
  6. Between the years 2000 and 2015, there have been 57,811 local cases of malaria in Suriname. However, there has been a significant reduction in the rates of malaria between 2006 and 2015. This has been the result of intensive efforts to contain the disease, such as distributing free, long-lasting insecticide-impregnated mosquito nets as well as several policlinics run by the Medical Mission, providing care for the indigenous population.
  7. Suriname’s cost of living is 70 percent cheaper than in the United States. People in Suriname pay 3.3 percent less for groceries, 58.6 percent less for entertainment and sports, and 82.7 percent less for housing. A one-bedroom apartment in a downtown area of the U.S. costs $1075.75 on average, as compared to $162.92 in Suriname.
  8. Suriname also has high inflation rates, with 55.5 percent inflation in 2016 and 22.3 percent in 2017. Given that the average gross salary in Suriname is $28,093, the inflation rates affect the working poor and middle-class people the hardest, as they are unable to afford basic necessities.
  9. Suriname has four hospitals, as well as several district-level hospitals and private clinics. General access to health care in Suriname is fairly high with around 90 percent of locals living within a 5km radius of a hospital.
  10. Suriname has free, compulsory education up until the age of 12. Children who attend public schools are taught completely in Dutch, but there are private or international schools which teach subjects in English. Many students continue their education to the tertiary level in either the Netherlands or the U.S., even though the Anton de Kom University in Paraimbo offers degrees in medicine, law and some sciences.

In conclusion, the top 10 facts about living conditions in Suriname shows that while there is a considerable way to achieving a developed nation status, the relatively good access to education and healthcare will contribute to a burgeoning economy.

– Maneesha Khalae
Photo: Flickr

infrastructure in Suriname
Infrastructure in Suriname is on both ends of the spectrum when it comes to quality, with some facets being up to date and self-sufficient, while others have fallen into serious disrepair due to improper maintenance and oversight. Suriname is sparsely populated in most areas, with most of its people inhabiting the capital, Paramaribo, and the surrounding regions. Most of the country is heavily forested making habitation and transport impossible.

Paramaribo is the country’s main hub with a vast majority of infrastructure in Suriname focused in this one city. Roads, railways, bridges, imports, and exports are all centered in Paramaribo making it the main support for Suriname’s economy. This translated to economic instability with little to no possibility of growth. Unless infrastructure in Suriname is expanded to the outer regions of the country and thence to its neighbors, it will continue to deteriorate and threaten an economic collapse.

Water, railway, and flight are the main modes of travel and transporting goods across the forested areas of Suriname. Unfortunately, many of the roads and airport runways are unpaved, making the operational expenses a fiscal nightmare. According to the 2013 World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report, the quality of Suriname’s roads ranks 71st out of 148 countries, while the airports and railroads rank 104th and 108th, respectively.

Infrastructure in Suriname is constrained by several factors:

  • electricity tariffs
  • transportation costs, and
  • monopolization of telecommunications by Telesur, a state-owned company.

Despite this monopolization, however, service and access to telecommunication services are far more advanced than all other aspects of the country’s infrastructure, ranking 7th in the 2013 World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report. These last few years have seen a rise in government plans for developing infrastructure in Suriname, all focused on increasing the country’s status as an economic competitor. Telecommunication networks are being opened to the private sector, allowing for more competitors and lower rates.

The government’s main concern is developing the Paramaribo port (as the country’s largest) to increase its capacity to handle more exports. This port currently handles from five to six hundred vessels. Exports include 40 percent of the country’s oil (taken from the Tambaradjo oil field), gold, bauxite, rice and tropical wood from its forests.

Investment from the public and private sectors have enabled the development of the physical structure of the ports in Suriname, along with modernization of cargo holds and storage. This not only allows for easier transport but ensures greater protection of goods.

– Kayla Rafkin

Photo: Flickr

credit access in Suriname
While small, the South American country of Suriname has a booming mining economy. With a recent rise in oil prices, Suriname has worked to overcome a recent dip in economic growth and currency inflation. Credit access in Suriname is also on the rise, and there have been several advancements in credit access and its reporting in recent years.

International Finance Corporation

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) reported that in 2013, Suriname created a new credit reporting system that increased the access businesses have to information about credit processes. This has been built and implemented to help build better business strategies and manage risky lending strategies, measures that then save small businesses from dangerous credit choices.

Systems like these encourage lending growth and healthy business strategy in small countries. Although Suriname has little to no record of credit histories before 2013, the IFC’s new credit reporting system is a step toward healthier credit access in Suriname.

Female Investors and the U.N.

Suriname is in the process of an economic reboot after economic growth statistics dropped from five percent in 2012  to -10.4 percent in 2016. At a 2012 presentation to the U.N., a representative for Suriname spoke on behalf of the female population of Suriname and presented a proposal for a new national gender policy; the plan delineated how the nation would prevent further discrimination of Surinamese women in business practice.

One of the areas in which women have been hurt by discrimination is in the credit access market. By implementing this new policy-based on the Beijing Plan for Action, Suriname hopes to alleviate the added stress of gender discrimination on its credit market.

Growth of Credit Access

Although only two of many new policies offer a solution for credit access growth, Suriname has a strong and constantly increasing economy that helps to grow credit access within its borders.

– Molly Atchison

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Sustainable Agriculture in SurinameThe sector for sustainable agriculture in Suriname is uniquely poised to take advantage of a highly valuable market, eschewing new and higher value organic crops while intensifying the long-held tradition of rice farming. In 2012, agriculture constituted only 9 percent of Suriname’s GDP, decreasing from 15 percent in the 1990s.

The country’s most important crops, rice and bananas, have become nearly stagnant in terms of yield and are facing major overseas competition, causing high export and transportation costs. Rice, as the essential backbone of sustainable agriculture in Suriname, is a focus of the Anne van Dijk Rice Research Institute (ADRON). In addition to rice production, sustainable agriculture in Suriname can increase its value significantly by developing a framework for organic farms.

Rice Production

Through ADRON, the Ministry of Agriculture developed a system for intensifying rice production, increasing it from 4.1 to 4.7 tons per hectare at one point. However, ADRON’s research on seed breeding and crop productivity only got them so far. Small farmers lack proper education and knowledge of the most effective rice production practices, resulting in only 400 hectares of rice being planted in 2007, as opposed to the expected 1000 hectares.

ADRON has since supported the Seed Growers Association, an extension program for the support of small farmers and providing them with the technology they need to create sustainable agriculture in Suriname. According to the International Institute for Sustainability, world rice production must increase 50 percent by 2025 to accommodate average consumption per capita. Since 2009, rice production has shown an upward trend of above 200,000 tons per year, but ADRON is looking to push it even further with the following programs:

  • Plant breeding program: breeding a seed with higher yields and better quality when cooked that will flower at a specific time after it is planted.
  • Crop management program: researching the potential results of planting rice at higher elevations, as well as soil, weed and pest management.
  • Post-harvest processing program: optimizing waste management and researching the cooking quality of different rice varieties.
  • Technology transfer program: reaching out to farmers and farmer field schools through mass media.
  • Rice seed production program: transferring rice produced in Suriname to a separate agency for continued research.

These five ADRON programs will provide the education and technology necessary for the expansion of rice production, as well as an assurance of rice quality that will survive rising competition in the world market.

Organic Farming

Organic farming has become a worldwide trend and highly dynamic market, particularly in Europe, and Suriname is going along with the trend. The Suriname Business Development Center and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have funded multiple projects for boosting organic farming and sustainable agriculture in Suriname. With funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), UNDP created the GEF Small Grants Programme, allowing Suriname to begin instituting projects involving biodiversity, sustainable land management and non-timber forest products.

Institutions like the Centre for Agricultural Research provide a gateway to the national market for organic food, creating initiatives to capture national interest. Safe farming, an environmentally friendly initiative for the small-holder farmers, is one of many that uses fewer chemicals in their crops.

Sustainable agriculture in Suriname has become a nationwide focus, with support from the government, research institutions and local farmers. They have the means to succeed and they are taking advantage of it.

– Kayla Rafkin

Photo: Flickr

humanitarian aid to Suriname
Suriname, officially the Republic of Suriname, is a small country on the northeastern coast of South America. Originally a Dutch colony, Suriname gained independence in 1975. Though Suriname is not a widely prosperous country, its economy has recently endured a variety of difficulties.


The Netherlands

In 2016, Suriname’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was more than $3.6 billion, the unemployment rate was slightly less than 10 percent and the poverty rate was 47 percent.

Despite gaining its independence, the Kingdom of the Netherlands was Suriname’s heaviest financial donor, sending years worth of humanitarian aid to Suriname. In 2012, the Netherlands suspended all aid to Suriname — approximately 26 million — two years after the election of President Desi Bouterse.


The European Commission

The European Commision has also approved emergency funding for Suriname over the years, especially in the case of natural disasters. Suriname is prone to severe flooding, which can wipe out homes and businesses, and increase unemployment and poverty. Usually, this aid is geared toward the population’s health, hygiene and sanitation, food and water.


People’s Republic of China

However, shortly after the Kingdom of the Netherlands completely pulled their funding to Suriname, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) increased its humanitarian aid to the country.

Since the immigration boom to Suriname in the 1990s, China has slowly been giving humanitarian relief to the South American country; in 2011, the Chinese government gifted Suriname with a new Foreign Ministry headquarters.

Also in 2012, China gave Suriname a grant of over 4 million to further the cooperation between both countries; however, it is unclear where this money is going. Since 2009, the Chinese embassy stated that development projects in Surinam — such as help with low-income housing, transportation, seaports and network television — are underway, despite any major initiatives.


Investment and Infrastructure

Within the last 10 years, China has set up various companies, businesses, shops, casinos and restaurants throughout Suriname. While this has vastly helped decrease unemployment, the poverty rate is still high, with nearly half the country living below the poverty line. In exchange for the land, China continues to give Suriname grants, buildings and advancements for the military.


Health-Related Aid

But not all of China’s aid is geared toward infrastructure and employment. In 2016, China provided Suriname with $1 million in humanitarian aid specifically geared toward Zika-related assistance. This included medical supplies and funding for medication and hospitalization for those affected. Zika virus is an infection most commonly found in Central and South America and can be fatal.

Suriname still has a long way to go before it is a completely stable country. The poverty rate still needs to lower significantly and the GDP must increase to be considered a prosperous economy.

Despite these much needed improvements, Suriname has already started distributing humanitarian aid itself. In September 2017, Suriname sent humanitarian aid to Cuba to help with relief efforts after hurricane Irma.

Though the success of humanitarian aid to Suriname is slow, the funds thus far have laid a solid groundwork. The Surinamese now have the tools they need to become a prosperous and independent country.

– Courtney Wallace

Photo: Flickr

5 Development Projects in Suriname

There are several important development projects in Suriname that are currently taking place to help the country positively progress. The United Nations Development Programme, the Caribbean Development Bank and the Inter-American Bank all currently have active development projects in Suriname.

Suriname’s economy is dependent on mineral resources such as oil, gold and bauxite as well as natural resources, due to the fact that four-fifths of the country is covered by tropical rainforest. The country as a whole, however, still needs help to keep its economy from faltering and to improve climate control.


The UNDP’s Projects

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is one of the organizations that has implemented different development projects in Suriname to assist in the country’s needs when it comes to climate change. The UNDP currently has three active development projects in Suriname called National REDD+ Strategy, Suriname Global Climate Change Alliance and Strengthening the National Assembly of Suriname.

The National REDD+ Strategy project’s purpose is “to ensure success in continuing to preserve Suriname’s natural capital, enhance the value of forest-related services and benefits for its peoples and contribute to the international fight against climate change and the preservation of healthy ecosystems.”

The Suriname Global Climate Change Alliance project’s purpose is to support Suriname in improving its current climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts by providing more knowledge on the effects of climate change and developing tools that target adaptation measures, as well as strengthen capacities for mangrove conservation.

The Strengthening the National Assembly of Suriname project’s purpose is to provide best practices in parliamentary development, good governance, policy guidance and initiate capacity building initiatives.


The CDB’s Projects

The Electricity System Upgrade and Expansion Project is another development project in Suriname that has been created by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the government of Suriname. The project’s objective is to deliver a more reliable, efficient and sustainable electricity supply in Suriname.

When discussing the importance of the project to Suriname, Vice President of Suriname Ashwin Adhin said, “Our government will leave no stones unturned to achieve the objectives necessary to improve the energy sector. We will do this together with CDB and other important people and institutions.”


The IDB’s Projects

Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which is the largest source of development financing for Latin America and the Caribbean, has also partnered with Suriname to create a developmental project to assist the country’s needs. The IDB Group Country Strategy with Suriname 2016-2020 project’s objective is to support Suriname’s economic stabilization.

This project is complemented by a longer-term view on the modernization of the public and private sectors in the country. Reducing subsidies, lowering public spending while protecting the social safety net, strengthening public administration and strengthening human capital are all important parts of the project’s focus.

Development projects in Suriname like the ones these organizations are implementing will continue to help the country of Suriname in its goal to become a thriving country.

– Kennisha L. Crawford

Photo: Flickr

women's empowerment in surinameSuriname, a small country in South America, has had issues in the recent past with women’s rights. While there has been growth, it has taken many years and it is difficult to continue the changes in the country. Certain actions have been taken by other countries and women’s groups to promote women’s empowerment in Suriname.

Suriname has enacted laws to dismantle inequality. Mostly created during the 21st century, an example is the Penal Code, which, once amended in 2009, penalized rape within marriage. The Law on Combatting Domestic Violence was passed in 2009. It punishes all forms of violence, and has, along with increased awareness, cut instances of domestic violence from 1,769 in 2009 to 1,213 in 2010.

This increased awareness continued in 2015 when Iceland convened with Suriname in January to discuss violence against women. In 2013, the two countries were ranked almost exactly opposite in women’s rights, with Iceland first and Suriname 110th in the world. The conference was the first time the United Nations brought together male leaders of nations to specifically discuss gender equality.

Another program for women’s empowerment in Suriname was an exchange between the South Dakota National Guard and the Suriname Defense Force. In March 2017, there was a three-day conference about Women in Leadership. Four women from Suriname went to South Dakota to learn about support services and the opportunities in which women can serve. By the end of the conference, the women were able to work with foreign partners and share their experiences to gain an understanding of each other’s cultures.

Elsewhere, there is the Ilse Henar Foundation for Women’s Rights in Paramaribo, Suriname. As women tend to have a disadvantageous position in Suriname society, the foundation seeks to eliminate these inequalities. For example, in 2006 they started a project called “Elimination of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace in Suriname.” The NGO helped draft legislation specifically regarding this topic, and it organized vulnerable women’s groups for domestic workers and migrant women workers.

Several agencies and countries are taking a stand for women’s empowerment in Suriname. By addressing gender inequality, it will enable women to improve their social standing while benefiting society as a whole.

– Nick McGuire

Photo: Flickr

Why Is Suriname Poor? Poor Planning and Unhealthy Dependence.
Suriname, one of the smallest countries in South America, is also one of the poorest. Nearly one out of every two people in Suriname are impoverished. Tucked between Brazil and Guyana and endowed with oil reserves, one may wonder: why is Suriname poor?

The most important answer to this question lies in Suriname’s exports. Economically, Suriname is heavily dependant on exporting commodities, namely oil and gold, for revenue. As market prices fluctuate, so too does Suriname’s economy.

Mining for said commodities is the main source of employment in the nation. Stagnant markets cause production to slow and unemployment to jump. From 2014 to 2015, Suriname’s unemployment rate climbed from 6.9 to 8.9 percent.

The country’s GDP decreased two percent in 2015 and 10 percent in 2016—more than eight full quarters of economic contraction. A country is considered to be in a recession after just two.

Oil Dependence
After the crude oil price spikes during the global recession, crude supply increased as North America, and Russia exploited domestic supplies.

The sharp increase in supply, coupled with the plateauing of China’s demand for crude, depressed the global price. This led to a decrease in Suriname’s exports and public revenues. Couple that with the announcement that Alcoa, a major U.S. aluminum company, was ending its operations in Suriname after 100 years of activity—Suriname’s economy entered free fall.

In 2016, Suriname’s GDP plummeted to 2008 levels. In the same period, the U.S. added $4 trillion to its GDP, an average increase of 1.4 percent.

Currency Issues
In response to the recession, Suriname experimented with a number of monetary and fiscal policies. The Suriname dollar was devalued by 20 percent amid the drop in oil prices, was unpegged from the U.S. dollar and, by the end of 2016, had lost more than 46 percent of its total value.

Suriname also implemented austerity policies in last two years to reign in spending and raise revenue. As a result, the Suriname dollar inflated over 50 percent in 2016.

In regards to the question “why is Suriname poor?”, there are a few big takeaways:

  • The drop in global oil prices dealt a major blow to Suriname’s export-driven economy.
  • Suriname’s economy is in a two-year-long contraction. The unemployment and poverty rates have both increased.
  • The Suriname dollar has lost a great deal of value and purchasing power, hurting the country’s less-fortunate.

The short and mid-term economic forecasts for Suriname are bleak, according to economists. Economic contractions are expected to continue throughout 2017. However, the discovery of another offshore oil deposit has given the nation hope. With foreign investment and revenues from another oil project, Suriname might stabilize its economy, which will allow it to restructure to rely less on exports.

Thomas James Anania

Photo: Flickr

How to Help Suriname: Development and IndustrySuriname, the smallest country in Latin America, has had one of the strongest economies in the Caribbean in the last ten years. However, although the economy continued to grow until 2015, the nation has since been hit with a devastating recession. Why? Suriname’s economy has been built on a few key exports (gold, oil, bauxite and alumina) that may be plentiful, but are also unable to withstand shocks to the global system. In other words, if the price of these few items drops, then the economy struggles to withstand the pressure and goes into a recession. Although this seems like a huge problem, and it has been over the last few years, Suriname does have steps it can take to ensure that the economy can better withstand fluctuations in the international market. The first step: taking the economy out of the government’s hands.

Privatizing Industry and Changing Location
Over half of all workers in Suriname are employed by the government, which controls the majority of the industries, from gold mines to oil refineries. In order to diversify the economy and help Suriname, the government must take a step back and allow for privatization. Private industries are more competitive, which usually increases the workers’ salaries and allows for a competitive market, strengthening the economy and making it less prone to shocks. In the wake of the 2009 recession in the United States, private industries were relied upon to bolster the economy and lead it back to pre-recession levels. The recession in Suriname requires the same kind of private industry investment to revitalize the economy.

Another way to help Suriname is to move key industries to safer, less disaster-prone areas. Hurricane Irma hit the Caribbean hard, proving harmful to an industry that is already vulnerable to flooding. Due to these flood risks, if Suriname does not endeavor to diversify industry, they should at least try to create new mines in higher elevation areas less prone to flooding. Gold mining is one of the major industries that the government is constantly expanding, and considering how valuable even a small amount of gold can be, this industry should be protected.

International Cooperation and Investment
Additionally, the government of Suriname has identified Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) as a way to grow their economy and develop. FDI would provide investment that bolsters several industry sectors, primarily crude oil and mining. One such investment includes $1 billion from the United States that is invested annually. However, the Suriname government worries that this investment agreement will not be honored due to a decline in world market prices for gold. Therefore, the government has examined other options, including increasing investment in oil refining and ethanol production. However, once again, this is a state-owned industry, which means it is more vulnerable to market fluctuations.

Other options as to how to help Suriname on the international front are through support from the international organization ALBA, in which Suriname takes part. ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas) has limited resources, and one of its key members, Venezuela, is on the brink of being a failed state, but it does provide a way to link Central American and Caribbean nations in trade. Ultimately, if ALBA were to gain more support and investment from other trade organizations and Suriname privatizes some of their vulnerable industries, the path of how to help Suriname is relatively straightforward and hopeful.

Rachael Blandau
Photo: Flickr

Suriname Poverty RateThe Suriname poverty rate is 47 percent. It is estimated that more than 6 percent of the population suffers from multidimensional poverty, lacking good health, education and standard of living.

Malnutrition is a rampant problem. Many children are hospitalized for malnutrition and suffer lasting effects that extend into adulthood. In recent years, AIDS has also become one of the primary causes of child mortality.

The education system in Suriname is also wanting. At the same time, as many teachers are poorly trained, many students, mostly boys, leave primary school at an early age. The children that leave school are often forced to work. It is estimated that 8 percent of children between 5 and 14 engage in child labor under difficult working conditions.

As for the girls that are either discouraged from attending school or leave early, many are subjected to sexual exploitation and trafficking. Both inside and outside of prostitution, violent abuse toward children is a rampant problem.

Though the Suriname poverty rate is high, the country’s per capita income is also relatively high, standing at almost $10,000. Inequality between different geographic regions and ethnic groups accounts for the coexistence of the high national income and the high poverty rate.

The Surinamese economy relies on the extraction and exportation of minerals such as alumina, bauxite, gold and oil. While the production of such commodities employs hundreds of thousands of Surinamese and has at times accounted for almost 40 percent of government revenues, the production of these goods is limited to extraction and refinement. As a result, much of the population misses out on economies opportunities.

To lower the Suriname poverty rate, the government should utilize its mineral revenues to subsidize education, health and welfare for the disenfranchised parts of the population. Such measures will serve to increase the value of Suriname’s human capital and work toward diversifying the economy away from commodity exportation.

In addition to actions the Surinamese government can take to reduce poverty in the country, a number of international organizations are already working to improve the Surinamese economy.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), for one, has dedicated millions of dollars in loans and grants under its Low Income Shelter Program (LISP) to provide housing for underprivileged Surinamese. The program has successfully housed more than 3,000 families.

Suriname’s longtime benefactor and ex-colonizer, the Netherlands has also allocated billions of dollars over the past two decades for microcredit lending and infrastructural repair. These efforts have helped facilitate entrepreneurship and stimulate Suriname’s economy from the bottom up.

If these international developmental commitments persist, there may be hope that Suriname can achieve its Multi-Year Development goals, growing small and medium enterprises by 10 percent over the next five years and lifting thousands out of poverty.

Nathaniel Sher

Photo: Flickr