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 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 foreign direct investment, but numerous factors negatively impact the investment climate as a whole. 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, and January 2021. In December 2020, Malaysian national oil company Petronas and ExxonMobil announced a discovery of hydrocarbons in Suriname’s Block 52. Experts estimate that it will take 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. 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.
Public debt has increased. The government’s debt burden reached 75% of GDP in 2019, up from 43% in 2015. In November 2019, the National Assembly raised the country’s debt ceiling from 60% of GDP to 95% of GDP. In December 2019, Suriname completed a $125 million sovereign bond offering that allowed the government to take ownership of the Afobaka Hydroelectric Dam. In February 2020, the government admitted that it had taken $197 million from the Central Bank for imports, debt payments, and other unspecified purposes. This led to a steady decrease in the value of the Surinamese dollar, a reduction in foreign currency reserves, and a rise in the price of consumer goods. These developments prompted a series of downgrades from international credit rating agencies. In January 2020, Fitch downgraded Suriname’s Long-Term Foreign Currency Issuer Default Rating from B- to CCC. In April 2020, Standard & Poor lowered Suriname’s long-term sovereign credit rating from B+ to CCC+, while Moody’s changed its outlook on Suriname from stable to negative. The COVID-19 pandemic also damaged Suriname’s economy as health restrictions dampened economic activity, and a near total halt of international travel undermined a key source of foreign currency.
In May 2020, national elections brought a new political coalition to power. Assuming office in July 2020, the government of President Chandrikapersad Santokhi has sought to reverse the economic policies of his predecessor, with a particular focus on addressing the debt burden and diversifying the economy. His government opened negotiations with the International Monetary Fund to arrange a financial assistance package, while also starting talks with international bondholders to restructure Suriname’s repayment schedule. Since taking office, the Santokhi administration has depreciated the Surinamese dollar, raised taxes on fuel and high income-earners, passed a new law on foreign currency matters, amended the State Debt Act to allow the government to take on loans to address COVID-19, and begun reforms of Suriname’s large civil service sector, which constitutes one of the government’s top expenditures. Policy measures that have been announced but not yet enacted include the institution of a value-added tax and a reduction in Suriname’s generous electricity subsidies.
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
The Government of Suriname (GOS) officially supports and encourages business development through foreign and local investment. The overall investment climate favors U.S. investors with experience working in developing countries. Investment opportunities exist in mining, agriculture, the oil and gas sector, timber, fishing, financial technology and tourism.
With the exception of petroleum, Suriname has no sector-specific laws or practices that discriminate against foreign investors, including U.S. investors, by prohibiting, limiting or conditioning foreign investment. In the oil sector, the state oil company, Staatsolie, maintains sole ownership of all oil-related activities. Foreign investment is possible through exploration and product sharing contracts (PSCs) with Staatsolie. Five U.S. companies participate in PSCs as operators and/or as contract partners. A full list of PSCs can be found on Staatsolie’s website: https://www.staatsolie.com/en/staatsolie-hydrocarbon-institute/active-production-sharing-contracts/
In February 2021, the Government of Suriname announced that it will terminate its two existing investment entities, namely the Institute for Promoting Investments in Suriname (InvestSur) and the Investment and Development Corporation of Suriname (IDCS) in order to establish a new investment company. In March 2021, the National Assembly launched debate on a draft law to establish a State-owned investment company to be named the Suriname Investment Enterprise NV. The government also created an International Business Directorate at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to act as a first point of entry for foreign investors.
Suriname does not have a formal business roundtable or ombudsman aimed at investment retention or maintaining an ongoing dialogue with investors.
Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
Foreign and domestic private entities can establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity.
There are no general limits on foreign ownership or control – statutory, de facto, or otherwise. No law requires that domestic nationals own a minimum percentage of domestic companies or that foreign nationals hold seats on the board. No law caps or reduces the percentage of foreign ownership of any private business enterprise.
Except for petroleum, there are no sector-specific restrictions applied to foreign ownership and control. Within the petroleum sector, the law limits ownership to Staatsolie, the state-owned oil company, which maintains sole ownership of all petroleum-related activities. Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) countries do enjoy favored status over other sources of foreign investment, but in practice international firms from beyond the CSME are not denied investment opportunities. An Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union aims to provide European companies better access to Suriname. Suriname has not yet ratified the EPA.
Government ministries screen inbound foreign investments intended for the sector of the economy that they oversee. Special commissions screen all necessary legal and financial documents. Screening criteria vary, but are intended to determine a proposed investment’s compliance with local law. The screening process is neither public nor transparent, and therefore could be considered a barrier to investment. The Department of International Business at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs requests that prospective investors fill out an intake form. The intake form will enable its appraisal committee to conduct a quick scan and conclude whether the FDI in question fits the development goals of the government.
The Inter-American Development Bank published a report called Framework for Private Development in Suriname in 2013.The World Bank Group published Suriname Sector Competitiveness Analysis, focusing on the agribusiness and extractive sectors in 2017.
The Santokhi administration has emphasized its desire to diversify Suriname’s economy and deepen business ties with the United States, Europe, and others. In 2020, Suriname’s new government began publishing public tenders on the website of the Ministry of Public Works. The government created a Presidential Commission on the Surinamese Diaspora in an effort to explore possibilities for raising capital and increasing business ties with the Surinamese community in the Netherlands. In March 2021, the National Assembly launched debate on a draft law to establish a State-owned investment company to be named the Suriname Investment Enterprise NV. The government also created an International Business Directorate at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to act as a first point of entry for foreign investors.
There is no online registration system. Companies must register with the local Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which provides guidance on registration procedures. At the time of registration, the company needs a local notary’s assent to ratify the company bylaws. For non-residents, the notary also sends a request to the Foreign Exchange Commission for approval. Applicants must obtain a tax number at the registration office of the tax department. Applications then go to the Ministry of Justice and Police and finally to the President for approval. The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism launched the Suriname Electronic Single Window (SESW) in September 2019. Online submission and processing of documents required for import, transit of goods, and export is now possible. The World Bank’s Doing Business report indicates starting a business requires 66 days. The local Chamber of Commerce and Industry states it can take as little as 30 days.
The Government does not promote or incentivize outward investment. Suriname’s outward investment is minimal.
The Government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad, but there are no specific mechanisms in place to promote the practice. Due to the small size of the local market, some domestic companies have expanded to CARICOM member states, such as Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago.
2. Bilateral Investment and Taxation Treaties
Suriname has signed bilateral investment protection agreements with Indonesia, Cuba, Brazil and the Netherlands.
There is no current engagement regarding a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) or Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
Suriname has not signed a bilateral investment treaty with the United States.
Suriname has signed tax treaties with the Netherlands and Indonesia.
In January 2021, the government announced its intent to implement a value-added tax by January 1, 2022. There is no indication of ongoing systematic tax disputes between the government and foreign investors.
3. Legal Regime
Transparency of the Regulatory System
Suriname does not use transparent policies and effective laws to foster competition. The previous National Assembly (2015-2020) indicated that it would vote on a draft competition law, but did not do so. The Competitiveness Unit of Suriname coordinates and monitors national competitiveness and is working towards establishing policies and suggesting legislation to foster competition. Current legislation on topics such as taxes, the environment, health, safety, and other matters are not purposely used to impede investment, but may still form obstacles. Employment protection legislation is among the most stringent in the world. Labor laws, for instance, prohibit employers from firing an employee without the permission of the Ministry of Labor once the employee has fulfilled his or her probationary period, which by law is limited to two months. Tax laws are criticized for overburdening the formal business sector, while a large informal sector goes untaxed. Public sector contracts and concessions are not always awarded in a clear and transparent manner. The current administration has announced its commitment to greater transparency in the public tendering process, and the Ministry of Public Works is publishing procurement notices on its website on a regular basis.
There are no informal regulatory processes managed by non-governmental organizations or private sector associations.
Rule-making and regulatory authority exist within relevant ministries at the national level. It is this level of regulation that is most relevant for foreign businesses. The government may consult with relevant stakeholders on regulations, but there is no required public process. The government presents draft laws and regulations to the Council of Minsters for discussion and approval. Once approved, the President’s advisory body, the State Council, considers the draft. If approved, the government presents a draft to the National Assembly for discussion, amendment, and approval, and then to the President for signature. Legislation only goes into effect with the signature of the President and after publication in the National Gazette.
Legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are often outdated and therefore not transparent nor consistent with international norms. The National Assembly passed the Act on Annual Accounts in 2017 to create more fiscal transparency by requiring all companies, including state owned enterprises, to publish annual accounts based on the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). The law went into effect in 2020 for large companies, while it went into effect for small and medium sized companies (SMEs) in 2021. Small companies can use the IFRS for SMEs.
Suriname passed new legislation in October 2018 to professionalize and institute better standards in the accountancy profession. The legislation created the Suriname Chartered Accountants Institute (SCAI) and makes membership mandatory for accountants in Suriname. The board of the SCAI has the responsibility to monitor the quality of the profession and apply disciplinary measures.
Draft bills or regulations are discussed in view of the public, and relevant stakeholders may be consulted. The National Assembly has established the email address email@example.com as a place where individuals can give their opinion on draft legislation.
There is no centralized online location similar to the Federal Register in the United States where key regulatory actions are published. However, the National Assembly publishes the actual text of adopted laws on its website.
It is unclear what the regulatory enforcement mechanisms that ensure the government follows administrative processes might be, as the processes have not been made accountable to the public. There is no public administration law. The Auditor General’s office is an independent body in charge of supervising the financial management of government funds. The Supreme Audit Institution reports to the National Assembly. The Central Accountant Service exercises control on administrative processes at the ministries and reports to the Ministry of Finance. There is no centralized online location where key regulatory actions or their summaries are published, similar to the Federal Register in the United States.
The minimum wage law was revised by State Decree on July 18, 2019. The government will determine the minimum wage biennially. Regulatory reform efforts announced in prior years have largely not been fully implemented. In January 2021, the government announced its intent to implement a value-added tax (VAT) by January 1, 2022.
Reforms such as the revised minimum wages had at most a modest impact due to inflation.
It is unclear what the regulatory enforcement mechanisms are, as the process has not been made public. Regulations are developed by ministries that have jurisdiction over the relevant area, in consultation with involved stakeholders.
The government’s executive budget proposal and enacted budget are easily accessible to the public. The previous government, led by President Desire Delano Bouterse, submitted an executive budget proposal for 2020, but the budget was not passed. The current administration, led by President Chandrikapersad Santokhi, submitted a draft amended budget for 2020, which the National Assembly passed in November 2020. Actual revenues and expenditures regularly deviate from the enacted budget, and the origin and level of accuracy of some information in the budget were not reliable. A full end-of-year report is not publicly available. The Supreme Audit Institution publishes a limited audit based on self-reporting by the ministries. The State Debt Management Office (SDMO) is responsible for the operational management of the public debt of the government. Data regarding public debt is published every three months in the Government Gazette of Suriname and on the SDMO website.
International Regulatory Considerations
As a member of CARICOM, Suriname has committed to regionally-coordinated regulatory systems.
Suriname uses national and international standards. Standards developed by other (international/regional) standardization bodies that Suriname utilizes include: ISO, Codex Alimentarius, International Electro Technical Commission, CROSQ, ASTM International, COPANT, SMIIC (Standards and Metrology Institute for Islamic Countries), NEN (Nederland Normalisatie Instituut), ETSI, GLOBAL GAP, etc..
Suriname is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) lists only one notification from Suriname in 2015.
Legal System and Judicial Independence
Suriname’s legal system is based on the Dutch civil system. Judges uphold the sanctity of contracts and enforce them in accordance with their terms. When an individual or company disputes a signed contract, they have the right to take the case to court. The judiciary consistently upholds local law, applies it, and enforces it for local and international businesses.
Laws are defined in criminal, civil, and commercial codes and verdicts are based on the judge’s interpretation of those codes. There is no specialized commercial court. The commercial codes contain commercial legislation.
Historically, the judicial system has been considered to be independent of the executive branch. Most observers consider the judicial system to be procedurally competent, fair, reliable, and free of overt government interference. Due to a shortage of judges and administrative staff, processing of civil cases can be delayed. Last year, the Court of Justice appointed seven new judges to ease the delay in court cases. The number of judges is now 30.
Draft regulations may be reviewed by involved stakeholders and they may be given the opportunity to comment. Since October 2019, individuals have also had the option to comment on draft legislation via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is no formal, required public consultation process. Suriname has no general administrative law, so there are no special administrative tribunals. Judges of the regular courts also hear cases of administrative law.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
The overall regime, and more particularly the approval of foreign direct investment (FDI), may be discretionary rather than rules-based, leading to heightened unpredictability and uncertainty, and associated risks of favoritism and corruption.
In March 2020, the previous National Assembly passed the Foreign Exchange Act, which placed constraints on the use of foreign currency in cash transactions and established a strict exchange rate for the Surinamese dollar. It also granted the government broad authorities to enforce the law, as well as the power to halt the import of “non-essential” goods. In May 2020, a judge suspended the law over questions concerning its constitutionality. In March 2021, the Santokhi govenrment revoked the law and submitted an amended version to the National Assembly for debate.
In April 2020, the previous National Assembly passed the COVID-19 State of Emergency Law, which granted the government broad powers to enforce COVID-19-related precautionary measures. It also created a $53 million fund to assist struggling businesses, and it allowed the government to take loans and advances from local institutions and consolidate them into a single mega-loan. The new National Assembly extended the law in August 2020 and extended it once again in February 2021.
In September 2020, the new National Assembly amended the State Debt Act and the COVID-19 State of Emergency Law. The changes in these laws allow the government to take out local and international loans in order to respond to the global pandemic. In November 2019, the previous National Assembly amended the State Debt Act in order to raise the government’s debt ceiling from 60% of GDP to 95% of GDP.
In February 2021, the Foreign Exchange Commission announced three new measures regarding exchange rate policy. First, exporters will be required to repatriate all their earned export revenues to Suriname, which also means that the buyer abroad will have to pay for the purchased goods through a Surinamese commercial bank. Second, exporters and foreign exchange offices will be required to exchange 30% of their income in foreign currency to the local currency, the Surinamese Dollar (SRD). Third, importers are required to pay for their imports via Surinamese commercial banks. The stated intention of this measure is to foreclose the possibility that exporters act as illegal “cambios” to finance imports and thus make illegal profits. It is also designed to combat trade-based money laundering.
Several criminal investigations of former government officials began in 2020. In February 2020, former Central Bank Governor Robert van Trikt was arrested on fraud charges. In August 2020, the new National Assembly officially indicted ex-Minister of Finance Gillmore Hoefdraad, which allowed the Attorney General to launch an investigation into alleged financial mismanagement conducted by Hoefdraad in collaboration with the ex-Governor of the Central Bank of Suriname, Robert van Trikt. In December 2020, the new National Assembly voted to indict former Vice President (and current National Assembly member) Ashwin Adhin, which allowed the Attorney General to pursue a criminal investigation for embezzlement, fraud, and destruction of government property. The cases remain ongoing.
There is no primary one-stop-shop website for investments that provide relevant laws, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements for investors.
Competition and Antitrust Laws
There are no domestic agencies currently reviewing transactions for competition-related concerns. The previous National Assembly (2015-2020) considered draft laws on competition and consumer protection, but did not ultimately vote on them. According to the authorities, no date for enactment is foreseen. Both draft laws also cover state-owned enterprises. The CARICOM Competition Commission is based in Suriname, and it monitors potential anti-competitive practices for enterprises operating within the CARICOM Single Market and Economy.
Expropriation and Compensation
According to Article 34 of Suriname’s constitution, expropriation will take place “only for reasons of public utility” and with prior compensation. In practice, the government has no history of expropriations. However, Article 42 of Suriname’s constitution specifically refers to all natural resources as property of the nation, and states that the nation has inalienable rights to take possession of all natural resources to utilize them for the economic, social, and cultural development of Suriname.
There is no history of expropriation.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
Suriname is not a party to the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of other States (ICSID). Suriname has been a member of the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards since 1964, when the country was still a colony of the Netherlands. Upon becoming independent in 1975, Suriname automatically continued its membership in international conventions and treaties.
There is no specific domestic legislation providing enforcement of awards under the 1958 New York Convention or under the ICSID convention.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
The government is a member state of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA).
Suriname has no BIT or FTA with an investment chapter with the United States.
There have been no publicly known investment disputes in the past 10 years involving a U.S person or other foreign investor. Every effort is made to settle investment disputes outside the court system or via arbitration.
Judgments of foreign arbitral awards are enforced by the local courts only if Suriname has a legal treaty of jurisprudence with the foreign country involved. If not, the foreign judgment can be brought before the Surinamese court for consideration as long as the court determines it has jurisdiction and doing so does not otherwise violate any Surinamese laws. With Suriname’s participation and membership in the Caribbean Court of Justice, judgments from this court are also binding for local courts. Cases have been successfully filed against Suriname before the Inter-American Court of Justice and the Organization of American States. Judgments from these courts have been upheld by the Surinamese legal system.
There is no known history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors.
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
Suriname’s civil law includes options for arbitration. The government reactivated the Suriname Arbitration Institute (SAI) in August 2014 to offer arbitration and mediation services. The SAI collaborates with the Dutch Arbitration Institute.
The Mediation Council, pursuant to the Labor Mediation Act of 1946, promotes the peaceful settlement of disputes concerning labor issues and the prevention of such disputes in Suriname.
Local courts only recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards if doing so is stipulated in the contract or agreement and it does not contradict local law. Foreign arbitration is an accepted means of settling disputes between private parties, but only if local alternatives are exhausted.
There have been no publicly known investment disputes in which state-owned enterprises are involved. Court processes are, in general, considered transparent and non-discriminatory.
Suriname has bankruptcy legislation. Creditors, equity shareholders, and holders of other financial contracts, including foreign contract holders, have the right to file for liquidation of debts due to insolvency. In a case where there is a loan from a commercial bank, repayment of the bank loan takes precedence. Bankruptcy, in principle, is not criminalized. However, in cases where a board of directors encouraged a company to pursue bankruptcy to avoid creditors, courts have viewed this behavior as a criminal offense. In the World Bank’s Doing Business Report, Suriname stands at 139 in the ranking of 190 economies on the ease of resolving insolvency.
4. Industrial Policies
Under current regulations, foreign investors can benefit from both tax and non-tax based incentives. Tax-based incentives include a nine-year tax holiday that can be extended by one year if the investment is at least $13 million; accelerated depreciation of assets; and tax consolidation. Under the Raw Minerals Act, the government grants an exemption of duties for the import of raw materials from CARICOM member countries. Exemptions are also granted in the food industry, the soft drink industry, and the fruit juice industry. In 2011, the government eliminated import duties on computers and related items. The law accords special consideration on investments exceeding $50 million and investments in the exploration and exploitation of bauxite, hydrocarbons, gold, and radioactive minerals. Large investments in the mining sector are subject to extensive negotiations between the government and investors. The government maintains the ability to grant incentives that depart from the provisions in the 2001 Investment Law, for example, incentives related to the provisions of infrastructure. The government does not have a practice of issuing guarantees or jointly financing foreign direct investment projects.
Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation
Suriname does not have a free trade zone ore duty free zone.
Performance and Data Localization Requirements
There are no policies that mandate hiring local employment; however, the Work Permits Act prohibits employers from employing foreigners without a work permit granted by the Ministry of Labor. Some large multinationals have specific agreements with the government mandating the hiring of local employees.
There are no policies requiring that senior management and board of directors should be Surinamese nationals.
There are no excessively onerous visa, residence, or work permit requirements inhibiting foreign investors’ mobility. Foreigners with short-term business in Suriname can apply online for an e-visa at: https://suriname.vfsevisa.com/. Business visas require a letter of introduction from the business the applicant will be working with in Suriname. Foreigners who want to work in Suriname first need to apply for a residency permit at the Ministry of Justice and Police, after which they can apply for a work permit at the Ministry of Labor. The free movement of artists, university graduates, media workers, musicians, and athletes of CARICOM origin is arranged through CSME regulations. CSME regulations also provide for the free movement for those seeking to establish or conduct business within the community.
There are no government/authority-imposed conditions on permission to invest. In practice, large foreign investments, especially in the extractives sector, require approval from the relevant Ministry.
The government does not impose forced localization policies on foreign investors.
There are no enforcement procedures for performance requirements on investors.
The 2001 Investment Law authorizes the Minister of Finance to grant both tax and non-tax incentives for new investments and for the expansion of existing investments. Incentives for new investments are on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of the Ministry of Finance. Incentives are available for both domestic and foreign investors, but investors must apply for these incentives before the initial investment is made.
Foreign IT providers are not required to turn over source code and/or provide access to encryption.
There are no measures that prevent or unduly impede companies from freely transmitting customer or other business-related data outside the country’s territory.
There are no mechanisms used to enforce any rules on local data storage within the country.
5. Protection of Property Rights
Interest in property is enforced. Mortgages and liens are common. Mortgages are registered with the Mortgage Office. However, no effective registration system exists for other types of liens.
Non-residents can request to lease land from the government if they have established a company under Surinamese law. However, the process from application to approval is lengthy.
The percentage of land in Suriname that lacks a clear land title remains unknown. There is no sustained effort by the government to identify property owners and register land titles. Article 1-1 of the L-1 decree, Principles of Land Policy, states that “all land, to which others have not proven their right to ownership, is domain of the State.” Furthermore, Article 41 of the Surinamese constitution states that wealth and resources are property of the nation and shall be used to promote economic, social, and cultural development. There is no effective demarcation of substantial land claims by indigenous people in the interior.
Unoccupied, legally-purchased property cannot be reverted to other owners, such as squatters.
Intellectual Property Rights
Suriname is a member of the World Trade Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization; however, it has not ratified the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement. Even though Suriname is party to multiple agreements, intellectual property rights (IPR) enforcement is weak. The current legal framework mentions protection of copyright, trademarks, and patents; however, that legislation dates back to 1912 (amended in 2001). Although the National Assembly passed amendments to the Music Copyright Law of 1913 in March 2015, there is no enforcement. Infringement on rights and theft are not uncommon due to the absence of enforcement capacity. There is also no protection provided for industrial designs, utility models, geographical indications, layout designs of integrated circuits or undisclosed information.
No IPR-related laws or regulations have been enacted in the past year. A draft IPR bill had been pending under the previous National Assembly (2015-2020), but it did not receive a vote. Currently, patents and copyrights must be registered abroad due to a lack of local legislation.
In 2012, the Suriname Port Unit was established to improve port security and prevent the illegal use of sea containers in drug trafficking and transnational organized criminal activities, such as trafficking in chemicals used in the manufacture of drugs (precursors), smuggling of goods (including counterfeit goods), tax evasion, and possible terrorist acts.
Suriname is not mentioned in the United States Trade Representative’s 2021 Special 301 Report , nor is it named in its 2020 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy.
6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
The government does not promote portfolio investment.
There is a small self-regulating stock market with eleven companies registered. It meets twice a month but does not have an electronic exchange. There is no effective regulatory system to encourage and facilitate portfolio investment. At present, Suriname is facing liquidity shortfalls. Sufficient policies do exist to facilitate the free flow of financial resources.
As an IMF Article VIII member, Suriname has agreed to refrain from restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions.
Credit is allocated on market terms and at market rates. Foreign investors that establish businesses in Suriname are able to get credit on the local market, usually with a payment guarantee from the parent company. The private sector has access to a variety of credit instruments. Larger companies can obtain customized credit products. There is, however, a Central Bank regulation that limits a commercial bank’s credit exposure to a single client.
Money and Banking System
The private sector has access to a variety of credit instruments. Larger companies can obtain customized credit products
According to the IMF Article IV Consultation in 2019, the banking system faces pressing vulnerabilities.
Based on the latest (July 2019) data, the capital adequacy ratio for the banking system stood at 10.5 percent (above the 10 percent minimum requirement), but non-performing loans in the banking system remained high (12.5 percent of gross loans), and profitability was low (0.7 percent return on assets). Deposit and loan dollarization remain high.
Total estimated assets of Suriname’s largest banks:
DSB Bank (annual report, 2018): $1,007 million. DSB annual report 2019 is delayed due to COVID-19 and time needed to implement IFRS.
Hakrin Bank (annual report 28, 2019): $671.2 million
Republic Bank Limited (2020 annual report, Suriname-based assets): $396.5 million. (The Republic Bank Limited of Trinidad and Tobago acquired Royal Bank of Canada’s Suriname holdings in 2015.)
Finabank (annual report, 2019): $322.8 million
Suriname has a central bank system.
Foreign banks or branches are allowed to establish operations in Suriname. They are subject to the same measures and regulations as local banks. According to an IMF assessment in 2016, banks in Suriname are among those in the region that have lost their correspondent relationships. The IMF notes that though the loss of correspondent banking relationships has not reached systemic proportions, a critical risk still exists. According to the IMF’s Article IV Consultation report in 2019, there is a possibility of losing corresponding banking relationships given recent overseas investigations of potential money laundering via Suriname’s financial sector. The reputational risk to both local and foreign banks acting as their correspondents is substantial. In March 2021, Suriname announced that it had completed a National Risk Assessment to identify and assess its vulnerability to money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
There are no restrictions for foreigners to open a bank account. Banks require U.S. citizens to provide the information necessary to comply with the Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
There are no restrictions or limitations placed on foreign investors in converting, transferring, or repatriating funds associated with an investment, such as remittances of investment capital, earnings, loan or lease payments, or royalties. There can be shortages in the availability of U.S. cash dollars at local banks, which can affect businesses.
Funds associated with any form of investment can be freely converted into a usable currency at legal market clearing rates with the permission of the Foreign Exchange Commission. However, the criteria for obtaining permissions are opaque.
In September 2020, the Central Bank of Suriname (CBvS) announced the depreciation of the Surinamese Dollar (SRD). The previous official exchange rate was SRD7.52 to $1 dollar. The new sale rate was adjusted to SRD14.29 to $1 dollar. In March 2021, the CBvS announced that it had come to an agreement with the government to establish a minimum and maximum exchange rate for the U.S. dollar, namely that the rate must stay between SRD14.29 and SRD16.30 to $1. In addition to the official exchange rate, different rates are available unofficially in parallel exchange markets. Media reports indicate that exchange rate policy is a key component of Suriname’s negotiations with the International Monetary Fund – negotiations which began in 2020.
There are no recent changes or plans to change investment remittance policies.
The waiting period on remittances can be relatively short for dividends; return on investments, interest, and principal on private foreign debt; lease payments; royalties; and management fees. The time needed to process the requests depends on the sector and the amount transferred. Transfers through the banking system can range from same day to one week waiting times, contingent upon approval by the Foreign Exchange Commission.
Sovereign Wealth Funds
On May 4, 2017, the National Assembly passed legislation establishing a Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF). In August 2020, President Santokhi announced that the government would operationalize Suriname’s SWF, as the previous government had not instituted the necessary state decrees to do so. In December 2020, the government held talks with experts from Norway to learn more from the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund.
Suriname does not participate in the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
State owned enterprises (SOEs) operate in the oil, agribusiness, mining, communications, travel, energy, and financial sectors. SOEs provide little information regarding their operations. Only a few produce annual reports accessible to the public. Staatsolie, Suriname’s state-owned oil company, has publicly available audited accounts. As of 2020, all state-owned enterprises will be required to publish annual accounts. Several have been accused of fraud or corrupt practices. In August 2020, President Santokhi installed a Presidential Committee on the Improper Use of Public Goods. The task of the committee is to conduct an inventory of goods purchased on behalf of the government, as well as semi-governmental entities and SOEs.
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.
The GoS did announce a privatization program largely in the agricultural sector, but the only privatization was the state-owned banana company in 2014. The official governing accord of the ruling coalition states that privatization of SOEs will be considered where appropriate, while President Santokhi has indicated that some SOEs will need to be privatized. However, no such privatizations have taken place under the new government.
Foreign investors can participate in privatization programs. In 2014, the Belgium multinational, UNIVEG, acquired a 90 percent stake in the state-owned banana company through a public, international bidding process. The European Commission assisted with the bidding process. UNIVEG later pulled out of Suriname. The Government took over the remaining 90 percent shares and $15 million debt of UNIVEG and is now the only share holder. As this is the only example of privatization within Suriname, no standard privatization or public bidding processes have been established by the government.
8. Responsible Business Conduct
There is a growing awareness of expectations of 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 holds the distribution rights for Coca-Cola, and the McDonalds franchise rights. In March 2020, a number of prominent local companies and business leaders established the SU4SU COVID-19 support fund, which has 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 encourage or promote RBC. Companies are allowed to develop their own policies and standards. The government does incorporate 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 and/or Business and Human Rights. It is not known if RBC policies are part of the government’s procurement decisions.
There are no alleged/reported human or labor rights concern related to RBC.
There have been no recent high profile controversial instances of private sector impact on human rights, though indigenous land rights in the interior is an ongoing issue.
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.
Currently there is no legislation for corporate governance and 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.
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. 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, nor a supporter of the International Code of Conduct or Private Security Providers nor a participant in the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers Association (ICoCA).
Suriname’s legal code penalizes corruption, but there is virtually no enforcement. Government officials are occasionally removed from assignments, but convictions are rare. On September 1, 2017, parliament passed anti-corruption legislation nearly 15 years after the initial draft bill was introduced to the National Assembly. An anti-corruption commission, which is mandated by the legislation, has not yet been installed. In August 2020, President Santokhi installed a Presidential committee to conduct an inventory of executive orders and determine what mechanisms need to be put in place to install an anti-corruption commission. Suriname ranks on 94 out of 180 countries on the Corruption Index of Transparency International.
Existing laws that deal with corruption do not extend to family members of officials, or to political parties.
There are currently no laws or regulations to counter conflicts 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 tenders. Legal requirements for tenders will 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 control, ethics, and compliance programs to detect and prevent bribery of government officials.
Suriname has signed and ratified the Inter-American Convention against Corruption. Suriname has not yet signed and 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.
Since the conclusion of the interior war in 1992, Suriname has not seen politically motivated violence or civil disturbance.
In July 2019, illegal goldminers 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.
Although there is political polarization in Suriname, past elections were considered to be free and fair by international observers, including national elections on May 25, 2020, which brought then-opposition parties into power.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
In general, both skilled and unskilled labor is available in the local market. Foreign workers are mainly active in the extractive industries and agricultural sector. Not only Haitians, but also an influx of Cubans have entered the workforce and are active in several sectors for lower wages. Documented foreign workers are protected by labor laws. 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.
Heavy equipment operators, welders, and other skilled workers in the extractive industries are in high demand. In recent years, Suriname recruited physicians and ER nurses from the Philippines to work in hospital emergency rooms. Because of the economic downturn in 2015-2016, the majority of these workers have left the country, resulting in a shortage of nurses and medical staff. 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.
Legislation makes 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. As Suriname has no special economic zones, foreign trade zones, or free ports with alternative labor policies, all entities are subject to existing legislation.
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 freely used for mediation and arbitration.
Strikes that pose 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.
In June 2019, the National Assembly adopted the family protection law regarding maternity and paternity leave. In July 2019, the National Assembly approved an update of the Minimum Wage Act which set the minimum wage at SRD 8.40 per hour, effective July 10. Every two years, starting 2020, a National Wage Board will advise on a new minimum wage to the Minister of Labor. Pending draft bills in 2020 under the previous National Assembly (2015-2020) included the Draft Working Conditions Act of 2019, the Draft Equal Treatment Act, a draft law on violence and sexual harassment, and a draft law on working hours regulation.
12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment Insurance Programs
There are no DFC programs at this time. A DFC delegation visited Suriname on October 13, 2020 for the first time. The delegation met with representatives from the government – including President Santokhi – and the private sector in order to discuss options for financing investments.
The Peoples Republic of China provides significant investment financing in Suriname. In many cases, these projects are funded by China’s Export-Import Bank and completed by Chinese companies.
Government-funded investment opportunities are rarely publicly advertised.
Suriname signed an Investment Incentive Agreement with the United States in 1993.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source*
USG or international statistical source
USG or International
Source of Data: BEA; IMF;
Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD)
* Source for Host Country Data: Central Bank of Suriname
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.
Note: Suriname does not release foreign direct investment data publicly. The IMF’s Coordinated Direct Investment Survey (CDIS) has no information on Suriname. There are no tax haven sources of inward FDI.
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.
Note: Portfolio investment data are not available in Suriname on the IMF’s Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey. The host government does not publish portfolio investment data.
14. Contact for More Information
U.S. Embassy Paramaribo