Any disturbances in the economy have profound effects on this small, impoverished nation, where 63% of the people live below the poverty line. Frustrated citizens staged protests against the government of Venetiaan's predecessor, Jules Wijdenbosch. The country's central bank president has pointed to rampant spending during the Wijdenbosch administration as the cause of the economic problems. Noting the swelling government deficit as the country's number one problem, he challenged Venetiaan to slash government spending immediately.
To wrestle the economy under control, Venetiaan sought advice and support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank—both of whom have helped the government sketch out an austerity plan to bring the treasury out of its near-bankrupt condition. Venetiaan's government began implementing the austerity measures in 2002, raising taxes and trying to cut government spending. In the fall of 2002, an IMF review found that the country's financial and economic indicators were still weak. The depreciation of the country's currency early in the year had led to rising inflation, totaling 22% for the year ending August 2002 (compared with 5% for the previous year). Economic growth, however, which totaled 1.2% in 2002, was expected to rise to 2.1% in 2003, and the government deficit was expected to decline. IMF advisors urged diversification for the country's mining-intensive economy.
Although Suriname is in the top 20 nations of the world in natural resources, most of its minerals resources—believed to include reserves of gold, diamonds, platinum, uranium, manganese, copper, nickel, and iron ore—have gone unexplored. The only resource that has been exploited is bauxite, the raw material used in the production of aluminum; Suriname is one of the world's leading suppliers of this raw material. The U.S. Geological Survey also suggests that Suriname's territory has billions of barrels of untapped oil reserves.