Facts about Suriname

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Suriname MosqueFirst explored by the Spaniards in the 16th century and then settled by the English in the mid-17th century, Suriname became a Dutch colony in 1667. With the abolition of slavery in 1863, workers were brought in from India and Java. Independence from the Netherlands was granted in 1975. Five years later the civilian government was replaced by a military regime that soon declared a socialist republic. It continued to exert control through a succession of nominally civilian administrations until 1987, when international pressure finally forced a democratic election. In 1990, the military overthrew the civilian leadership, but a democratically elected government - a four-party New Front coalition - returned to power in 1991 and has ruled since; the coalition expanded to eight parties in 2005.

Geography of Suriname

Northern South America, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between French Guiana and Guyana
4 00 N, 56 00 W
total: 163,270 sq km
land: 161,470 sq km
water: 1,800 sq km
Area comparative:
slightly larger than Georgia
Land boundaries:
total: 1,707 km
border countries: Brazil 597 km, French Guiana 510 km, Guyana 600 km
386 km
Maritime claims:
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
tropical; moderated by trade winds
mostly rolling hills; narrow coastal plain with swamps
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: unnamed location in the coastal plain -2 m
highest point: Juliana Top 1,230 m
Natural resources:
timber, hydropower, fish, kaolin, shrimp, bauxite, gold, and small amounts of nickel, copper, platinum, iron ore
Environment current issues:
deforestation as timber is cut for export; pollution of inland waterways by small-scale mining activities
Geography - note:
smallest independent country on South American continent; mostly tropical rain forest; great diversity of flora and fauna that, for the most part, is increasingly threatened by new development; relatively small population, mostly along the coast

Population of Suriname

475,996 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 29% (male 65,412/female 62,069)
15-64 years: 64.7% (male 145,913/female 138,076)
65 years and over: 6.3% (male 12,223/female 15,424)
Median age:
26.5 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
23.02 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 69.01 years
male: 66.66 years
female: 71.47 years
Fertility rate:
2.32 children born/woman
noun: Surinamer(s)
adjective: Surinamese
Ethnic groups:
Hindustani (also known locally as "East Indians"; their ancestors emigrated from northern India in the latter part of the 19th century) 37%, Creole (mixed white and black) 31%, Javanese 15%, "Maroons" (their African ancestors were brought to the country in the 17th and 18th centuries as slaves and escaped to the interior) 10%, Amerindian 2%, Chinese 2%, white 1%, other 2%
Hindu 27.4%, Muslim 19.6%, Roman Catholic 22.8%, Protestant 25.2% (predominantly Moravian), indigenous beliefs 5%
Dutch (official), English (widely spoken), Sranang Tongo (Surinamese, sometimes called Taki-Taki, is native language of Creoles and much of the younger population and is lingua franca among others), Hindustani (a dialect of Hindi), Javanese
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 88%
male: 92.3%
female: 84.1%


Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Suriname
former: Netherlands Guiana, Dutch Guiana
local long form: Republiek Suriname
Government type:
constitutional democracy
Administrative divisions:
10 districts (distrikten, singular - distrikt); Brokopondo, Commewijne, Coronie, Marowijne, Nickerie, Para, Paramaribo, Saramacca, Sipaliwini, Wanica
25 November 1975 (from Netherlands)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 25 November (1975)
ratified 30 September 1987
Legal system:
based on Dutch legal system incorporating French penal theory
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Runaldo Ronald VENETIAAN (since 12 August 2000); Vice President Ramdien SARDJOE (since 3 August 2005); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Runaldo Ronald VENETIAAN (since 12 August 2000); Vice President Ram SARDJOE (since 3 August 2005)
cabinet: Cabinet of Ministers appointed by the president
elections: president and vice president elected by the National Assembly or, if no presidential or vice presidential candidate receives a two-thirds constitutional majority in the National Assembly after two votes, by a simple majority in the larger United People's Assembly (893 representatives from the national, local, and regional councils), for five-year terms (no term limits).
Legislative branch:
unicameral National Assembly or Nationale Assemblee (51 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
Judicial branch:
Cantonal Courts and a Court of Justice as an appellate court (justices are nominated for life)


The economy is dominated by the mining industry, with exports of alumina, gold, and oil accounting for about 85% of exports and 25% of government revenues, making the economy highly vulnerable to mineral price volatility. The short-term economic outlook depends on the government's ability to control inflation and on the development of projects in the bauxite and gold mining sectors. Suriname has received aid for these projects from Netherlands, Belgium, and the European Development Fund. Suriname's economic prospects for the medium term will depend on continued commitment to responsible monetary and fiscal policies and to the introduction of structural reforms to liberalize markets and promote competition. In 2000, the government of Ronald VENETIAAN, returned to office and inherited an economy with inflation of over 100% and a growing fiscal deficit. He quickly implemented an austerity program, raised taxes, attempted to control spending, and tamed inflation. These economic policies are likely to remain in effect during VENETIAAN's third term. Prospects for local onshore oil production are good as a drilling program is underway. Offshore oil drilling was given a boost in 2004 when the State Oil Company (Staatsolie) signed exploration agreements with Repsol, Maersk, and Occidental. Bidding on these new offshore blocks was completed in July 2006.

$3.846 billion (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 13%
industry: 22%
services: 65%
Inflation rate:
Labor force:
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 8%
industry: 14%
services: 78%
revenues: $392.6 million
expenditures: $425.9 million
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 25.2%
hydro: 74.8%
other: 0% 
bauxite and gold mining, alumina production, oil, lumbering, food processing, fishing
paddy rice, bananas, palm kernels, coconuts, plantains, peanuts; beef, chickens; forest products; shrimp
alumina, crude oil, lumber, shrimp and fish, rice, bananas
Export partners:
Norway 24.8%, Canada 16.4%, US 16.2%, Belgium 9.2%, France 7.8%, UAE 6.8%
capital equipment, petroleum, foodstuffs, cotton, consumer goods
Import partners:
US 28.9%, Netherlands 17.4%, Trinidad and Tobago 13.1%, China 6.4%, Japan 5.1%, Brazil 4% 
Surinamese guilder (SRG)

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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