Suriname Economic Conditions

Lack of protection of the environment and indigenous peoples

In both the bauxite and gold sectors, there has been a desire to expand mining and explore new areas for mining. This is disputed and the indigenous people continue to fight for the authorities in Suriname to recognize land rights, so that they can avoid potentially destructive mining in the areas where they live and have their livelihoods. By October 2011, representatives of indigenous peoples and maroons (descendants of escaped slaves) arrived in Suriname with a joint statement to the government at a land rights conference. The statement was met with support from the president, but they still have no rights to land under current Surinamese law.

The big companies are extracting a lot, but doing relatively little damage to the environment today since they have not been able to expand their production areas to any greater extent. Small-scale mining of gold is considered a major threat to the environment. In such a process, mercury is used which, when released, is very harmful to the environment. According to WWF, the country also has no laws regulating the use and collection of mercury in the pursuit of gold.

Small-scale extraction is common in the north and south-east of the country. Much of the extraction takes place in inland rainforest areas where there is no infrastructure and often by Brazilian garimperos who have crossed the border illegally to look for gold. This means that the authorities have no complete picture of the extent of the mercury emissions problem, but it is estimated that about 40,000 Brazilian legal and illegal labor immigrants work in the gold sector.

One of the biggest environmental and climate issues in recent years has been the preservation of rainforests. Among other things, Suriname’s neighboring country Guyana has received Norwegian support for measures that can prevent deforestation as part of the REDD initiative. Suriname consists of about 90 percent rainforest, and much of it is already protected. According to Conservation International, which has long been involved in the conservation of rainforests in Suriname, there are twelve nature reserves, which together make up about 14 percent of the total land area. The Central Suriname Nature Reserve alone accounts for 10 percent and has been placed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Suriname forests are managed today by indigenous people and maroons. The nature reserves prevent deforestation and protect the environment of endemic and endangered species elsewhere in the Amazon, according to Conservation International.

China on the march

According to, Suriname differs from the other countries in the region linguistically and culturally, but has close cooperation with other countries in the region, including through membership in the largest regional organizations, such as the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Caribbean cooperation organization CARICOM. But China is another important partner that has only become more important after the Netherlands phased out its assistance in 2010 after its release in 1975.

Unlike the Netherlands, China has no problems with today’s government. The country has long had close cooperation with Suriname and the background of the new president is no obstacle to continued close cooperation, the Chinese ambassador to Paramaribo told the New York Times in the article “With Aid and Migrants, China Expands Its Presence in a South American Nation “. China, among other things, makes a large contribution financially, both with aid, favorable loans and by initiating major construction projects in the country. For many of the Chinese projects, Chinese workers come to implement.

The small crucible Suriname has recently had some consequences for the two large immigrant groups of Chinese and Brazilians. Politician Ronnie Brunswijk has come up with a political backlash against the crowd of Chinese workers and expressed the desire that the larger projects create more jobs for the Surinamese people. Late in 2009, riots erupted in the mining town of Albina northeast of Suriname, reportedly triggered by the killing of a local Brazilian resident. Several immigrants were injured in the riots and Brazilian miners in the city were evacuated to Paramaribo

Both outcomes can be seen as reactions to lack of jobs and still poor conditions for many Surinamese. How Bouterses’ five-year tenure will evolve remains to be seen.


Capital: Paramaribo
Population: 585,824 (2016)
Life Expectancy: 72.2 Years (2016)
Infant Mortality: 25.3 Per 1000 (2016)
Religion: Hindu 27.4%, Protestantism 25.2%, Catholicism 22.8%, Islam 19.6%, indigenous religions 5%
Official languages: Dutch GDP per capita (PPP): US $ 15,200 (2016) Currency unit: Surinamese dollars Main export items: Aluminum, gold, crude oil, timber, shrimp, fish, bananas and rice. Regional relations: Member of UNASUR, PetroCaribe, OAS