Former military leader, and now democratically elected President of Suriname, Desi Bouterse, is keen to bring a positive international spotlight to his country. That is the case so far. Just a week ago, Fitch upgraded the sovereign foreign currency credit rating for Suriname one notch to B-plus, citing a stronger credit position and improvements in its balance of payments. The rating outlook was revised to stable from positive. Suriname is moving ahead in its quest to develop its economy without the help of Holland, its former colonial master.
Already, Suriname has made news in the Arab Gulf after Dubai Ports acquired major stakes in two harbours in Paramaribo. Canada and the United Arab Emirates are emerging rapidly as Suriname’s principal trading partners because of economic external factors such as the rapidly growing world market for gold.
In the next three years, Suriname will see over $2 billion in investments from IAMGOLD (US$800 million), Newmont (at least half a billion) and State Oil (US$1 billion). As well, the government will commence the building of 18,000 homes. These investments are besides those that China will be negotiating with Suriname soon. This will lead to a construction boom in Suriname and the government is already looking to address the issue of labour shortage. Most likely, Paramaribo will look to Guyanese labourers to fill this void.
Suriname pushed ahead before Guyana to build a major road and railway to northern Brazil and with a major partnership with Dubai Ports and an agreement with Cayenne, this investment is sound.
Moreover, on the western front, Suriname will bridge the Corentyne River to Guyana, and there are also discussions to build an international airport in Nickerie. This will attract Guyanese travellers from Berbice, offering cheaper, easier and more convenient options of travelling to the Caribbean, North America, Europe and Brazil. Suriname Airways (SLM) will recommence its service to Guyana and extend its reach into northern Brazil according to Foreign Minister Lackin.
Suriname has been on its own for the past decade; funds that Holland owed to Paramaribo have dried up, and the government is looking for Foreign Direct Investment and capital from Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Turkey and the Gulf Arab States.
President Bouterse is a keen supporter of South American integration though the multilateral organisation, UNASUR. He has also given his ambassador to Indonesia, Amina Pardi, the mandate to sell Suriname as the bridge between ASEAN and Caricom. Suri-name has joined the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) and the Bouterse pro-Arab government has reactivated ties with the Middle East. The IsDB, the OIC’s financing branch, is one of many institutions that could provide financing for several government programmes, said Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Lackin. “We believe this organization is an important one, taking into consideration the resources which are available through the IsDB to finance our programmes and projects,” he added.
On the tourism front, this sector is on the rise. The steady flow of Euro-travellers from French Guiana has the tourism industry there in Suriname learning French. These are not expatriates. While the majority of tourists from Europe are expatriates from Holland, there are many non-Surinamers from Holland visiting as well.
And while Guyana struggles to bring Marriot to Georgetown, Paramaribo has already attracted the BestWestern, Marriot and Wydham hotels.
These were all brought here by the local private sector. As well, the local Torarica and Kransnapolsky group of hotels have expanded in Paramaribo and in the interior to tap the lucrative eco-tourism market. There is much more work to be done to market this product and to reduce airfares.