Suriname is richly endowed with natural resources. With large reserves of minerals and timber and considerable opportunities for agriculture, industry, and fishing, Suriname has the makings of a prosperous nation, but years of political turbulence and military misrule have taken a heavy toll, and Suriname still struggles to turn its natural assets into national wealth.
The Surinamese economy had long been based on sugar cane, introduced by the Dutch in the 17th century. Most Surinamers are the descendants of African, Indian, and Javanese laborers imported to work on sugar plantations. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the core of the economy has been bauxite mining and processing, an industry that continues to supply over 70 percent of official export revenue. With geological surveys suggesting existing mines will be exhausted by 2006, continued
Most of the country's population and infrastructure are concentrated on the narrow coastal plain, leaving the interior largely empty, inaccessible, and outside the government's full control. Consequently, exploiting Suriname's reserves of oil, gold, kaolin, stone, and timber tends to be difficult and expensive, and the natural resource sector, for all of its potential, remains under-developed.
Political uncertainty and mismanagement have also been significant problems. In 1982 the Netherlands, Suriname's largest benefactor, cut off aid to the military junta, exacerbating a pattern of economic deterioration. A structural adjustment program initiated in 1992 aimed at economic stabilization through improved tax collection, removal of certain government subsidies , and the harmonization of exchange rates . Although the program succeeded in taming Suriname's rampant inflation (bringing it from 400 percent in 1994 to less than 1 percent in 1996), it failed to address the more difficult reforms, such as trimming the civil service and privatizing government-owned industries. In the absence of a clear and rigorous economic plan, Suriname experienced a soaring inflation rate in the late 1990s and its currency began to tumble.