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Suriname

Executive Summary

The government of Suriname (GOS) officially supports and encourages business development through local and foreign investment. The overall investment climate favors U.S. investors with experience working in developing countries. To attract foreign direct investment (FDI), authorities have planned to update institutional and legal frameworks to protect investors and eliminate restrictions regarding investment income transfers and control related FDI flows. However, the World Trade Organization’s 2019 Trade Policy Review concluded that Suriname’s investment regime has not changed since its last review in 2013. The report states that the overall regime, particularly the approval of FDI, may be discretionary rather than rules based.

The extractives sector has historically attracted significant FDI, but numerous factors negatively impact the investment climate. These factors include an unclear process for awarding concessions and public tenders, corruption, institutional capacity constraints, and a lack of overall transparency. In January 2020, Apache and Total announced a “significant oil discovery” off the coast of Suriname, followed by similar discoveries in April 2020, July 2020, January 2021, and February 2022. In December 2020, Malaysian national oil company Petronas and ExxonMobil announced a discovery of hydrocarbons in Suriname’s Block 52. Experts estimate that it could take as much as 5-10 years to begin offshore oil production, assuming world oil prices support it. In 2020, the CEO of state-owned oil company Staatsolie estimated that the government of Suriname could earn $10-$15 billion over the course of 20 years if production reaches similar levels as in neighboring Guyana. Exploration activities are ongoing. U.S.-based Newmont Corporation and Canada-based IAMGOLD – the two major multinational gold companies in Suriname – continue to be the key players in Suriname’s gold mining sector, generating significant revenues for the government.

Suriname’s economy has been in decline for the past seven years. To address this decline, the new government developed an economic and recovery plan to deal with these serious economic conditions. After taking office in July 2020, President Chandrikapersad Santokhi’s administration opened negotiations with the International Monetary Fund to arrange a financial assistance package and began talks with international bondholders to restructure Suriname’s repayment schedule.

On December 22, 2021, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a 36-month, $688 million Extended Fund Facility (EFF) for Suriname. The EFF will support the government’s economic recovery plan to restore fiscal sustainability, bring public debt down to sustainable levels, upgrade the monetary and exchange rate policy framework, stabilize the financial system, and strengthen institutional capacity to tackle corruption and money laundering and improve governance.

On February 14, 2021, the IMF announced that it has reached a staff level agreement with Suriname on policy measures for the completion of the first review under the EFF arrangement.

Since taking office, the Santokhi administration allowed the Surinamese dollar to float on the open market, raised taxes on fuel and high income-earners, increased prices for utilities, passed a new law on foreign currency, amended the State Debt Act to allow the government to take loans to address COVID-19, and began reforms of Suriname’s large civil service sector. The government has said it would implement a value-added tax in the future.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 87 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
Global Innovation Index 20xx x of XX N/A https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator N/A
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 20xx USD Amount https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ N/A
World Bank GNI per capita 2020 USD 4,620 https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

3. Legal Regime

4. Industrial Policies

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

7. State-Owned Enterprises

State owned enterprises (SOEs) operate in the oil, agribusiness, mining, communications, travel, energy, and financial sectors. The Ministry of Finance is currently working on developing a data base for SOEs. On the website of the Finance Ministry there is a list of 47 parastatals and 57 foundations that are state owned. According to available data from the Ministry of Finance, 22 parastatals are wholly owned. The ministry has also published some annual reports of SOEs from 2015 to 2018. There are SOEs that are governed by a director and some by a board. The Ministry is still in the process of information gathering from SOEs. According to data currently available, the number of employees is 13,789. Data regarding total assets and total net income of SOEs is not yet available.

There is no public list of SOEs.

SOEs receive advantages when competing in the domestic market. These include access to government guarantees and government loans otherwise unavailable to private enterprises. Additionally, SOEs have access to land and raw materials inaccessible to private entities.

The government does not yet adhere to the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance for SOEs. However, the government’s 2021 restructuring plan mentions that there are plans to implement policies in cooperation with international institutions such as the IDB regarding corporate governance for SOEs.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

There is a growing awareness of expectations and standards for responsible business conduct (RBC) among consumers and producers. Historically, Alcoa’s subsidiary Suralco took the lead on RBC in Suriname, and large multinationals such as Newmont continue to be the largest proponents of RBC. Some larger state-owned and local companies also model RBC, including Staatsolie, Surinam Airways, Telesur, and the Fernandes Group of Companies, which hold the distribution rights for Coca-Cola and the McDonalds franchise rights. In March 2020, several prominent local companies and business leaders established the SU4SU COVID-19 support fund, which raised money and donated medical equipment and PPE to local health authorities to assist their efforts in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government has not taken systematic measures to promote RBC. Companies are allowed to develop their own policies and standards. The government incorporates RBC in some of its partnerships and agreements with multinational firms. For example, recent agreements between Staatsolie and foreign companies for offshore drilling include stipulations regarding RBC. The government has no national point of contact or ombudsman for stakeholders to acquire information or raise concerns about RBC. The GOS has not conducted a National Action Plan on RBC or Business and Human Rights. It is not known if RBC policies are part of the government’s procurement decisions.

There have been reported instances of forced labor but none that can be indicative of systemic forced labor and none within the supply chain. Instances of child labor have been reported in agriculture, wood processing, small construction, and street vending but are most pervasive in the artisanal gold mining sector. The government continues to have land rights issues with the Indigenous and Maroon communities as there are no laws recognizing land rights. Both communities have reported cases of land issuances in their regions that have negatively impacted their way of life. There have been no reports of arrests or violence against environmental defenders.

There have been no reports of high-profile, controversial instances of private sector impact on human rights.

The Labor Inspection Department from the Ministry of Labor supervises and enforces the observance of legal regulations regarding the conditions of employment and the protection of employees performing duties. Laws were enforced only in the formal sectors. Labor inspectors did not make regular occupational safety and health inspections. The government is drafting consumer and environmental protection laws. In March 2020, the National Assembly passed an Environment Framework Law.

There is no legislation for corporate governance nor executive compensation standards to protect shareholders. The Act on Annual Accounts will require companies to publish annual accounts based on the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) starting in 2020.

The Suriname Trade and Business Association has taken the lead in promoting RBC. The Suriname Conservation Foundation initiated a Green Partnership Program in 2020 signed by 14 enterprises, 13 of which are local, to stimulate awareness about a green economy and nature preservation. So far, no incidents have been reported indicating that those monitoring and or advocating around RBC cannot work freely.

The host government has not encouraged adherence to the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chain of Minerals from Conflict-Afflicted and High-Risk Areas. In March 2019, the government adopted legislation to join the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme in order to become a member of the World Diamond Council Association.

Suriname became a member of the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative in 2017. There are no domestic transparency measures requiring the disclosure of payments made to governments and/or other RBC/BHR policies or practices.

Suriname is not a signatory of The Montreux Document on Private Military and Security companies, a supporter of the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Providers nor a participant in the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers Association (ICoCA).

9. Corruption

Suriname’s legal code penalizes corruption, but often enforcement has been sporadic. Government officials are occasionally removed from assignments, but convictions are rare. On September 1, 2017, the parliament passed anti-corruption legislation nearly 15 years after the initial draft bill was introduced to the National Assembly. An anti-corruption commission, mandated in the legislation, has not been created. In August 2020, President Santokhi established a Presidential committee to inventory executive orders and determine what steps are necessary to start the commission. Suriname ranks 94 out of 180 countries on the Corruption Index of Transparency International. Existing anti-corruption laws do not extend to family members of officials, or to political parties.

There are currently no laws or regulations to counter conflict-of-interest in awarding contracts or government procurement. The Ministry of Public Works announced that it will soon adopt stricter, but also flexible, measures for transparency in public tenders. Legal requirements for tenders are to be examined. Non-legal requirements will be adjusted and introduced shortly. Civil servants and politicians will be prohibited from taking part in tenders.

The government does not encourage or require private companies to establish internal codes of conduct prohibiting bribery of public officials. Local private companies do not use internal controls, ethics, or compliance programs to detect and prevent bribery of government officials. Multinationals follow international standards.

Suriname has signed and ratified the Inter-American Convention against Corruption.

Last November, the authorities announced that Suriname ratified the UN Convention against Corruption. Suriname is not a party to the OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery. There are no NGOs that focus exclusively on investigating corruption.

U.S. firms have identified corruption as an obstacle to FDI. Corruption is believed to be most pervasive in government procurement, the awarding of licenses and concessions, customs, and taxation.

10. Political and Security Environment

Since the conclusion of the interior war in 1992, Suriname has not experienced politically motivated violence or civil disturbance.

In July 2019, illegal gold miners damaged property at the Rosebel goldmine after the company’s security personnel fatally shot an illegal goldminer. The mine was subsequently closed for one month, and then reopened.

Political polarization has not become severe in Suriname. Elections are considered free and fair by international observers, including national elections on May 25, 2020, which brought the then-opposition parties to power.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

In general, both skilled and unskilled labor is available on the local market. Foreign workers are mainly active in the extractive industries and agricultural sector. Haitians and Cubans have entered the workforce and are active in several sectors, often at lower wages. Documented foreign workers are protected by labor laws. Labor force data shows that men are better represented in the labor market. The majority of jobseekers are women. On the Global Gender Gap Index 2021 Suriname has a score of 0.7 in the area of Economic Participation and Opportunity. According to the Statistical Bureau, the unemployment rate in 2019 was 11 percent. An estimated 15 percent of the working-age population worked in the informal economy. There is no recent data on informal employment. Outdated, limited or absent data of the labor force and employment vacancies hinder a complete description and analysis.

Heavy equipment operators, welders, and other skilled workers in the extractive industries are in high demand. Business organizations have recently indicated that there is a shortage of workers in the hospitality sector, wood processing industry, and manufacturing. In recent years, Suriname recruited physicians and ER nurses from the Philippines to work in hospital emergency rooms. Because of the economic downturn from 2015-2016, most of these workers left the country, which led to a shortage. Since 2005, Suriname has welcomed Cuban medical professionals on a rolling basis. In March 2020, Cuba sent 20 doctors and 30 nurses to Suriname to assist with the government’s COVID-19 response. In January 2021, the Minister of Public Health announced that approximately 40 of the almost 100 Cuban medical workers in Suriname had voluntarily agreed to return to Cuba.

There are no policies that require the hiring of nationals; however, the Work Permits Act prohibits employers from employing foreigners without a work permit granted by the Ministry of Labor.

Labor laws make it difficult for employers to respond to fluctuating market conditions. The Dismissal Permits Act prohibits employers from dismissing employees without permission from the Ministry of Labor. Collective redundancy for organizational or economic reasons is permitted in cases such as the closure or decline of a business. Generally, when an employee is laid off, unions negotiate with the employer regarding a package and duration of social benefits. Labor organizations sometimes object to work based on contracts as opposed to full time, ongoing employment. Labor laws are not waived to attract or retain investment. Suriname does not have special economic zones, foreign trade zones, or free ports with alternative labor policies. Collective bargaining agreements are widespread in both the private and public sector. Data regarding the percentage of the economy covered by collective bargaining agreements is unavailable. Employees of most large multi-national firms are unionized.

Labor dispute mechanisms are in place and regularly used for mediation and arbitration. Labor Strikes posing an investment risk are rare.

Suriname is a member of the International Labor Organization and recognizes international labor law in its domestic legislation. In 2018, Suriname made a moderate advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. The government ratified International Labor Organization Convention 138 concerning the minimum age for admission to employment, acceded to the Protocol to the Forced Labor Convention, and amended the Law on Labor for Children and Young People, raising the minimum age of work to 16 years.

Pending draft bills in 2021 at the National Assembly are: Draft Working Conditions Act of 2019, the Draft Equal Treatment Act, and drafts on violence and sexual harassment, working hours regulation, company consultation, and a change to the Work Permit Aliens Act.

14. Contact for More Information

Judith Dijks
Commercial Assistant
U.S. Embassy Paramaribo
165 Kristalstraat
Paramaribo, Suriname
+597-556-700
dijksjb@state.gov

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