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.
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.
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 has no territories or colonies.
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.).