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.
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
The Government of Suriname (GOS) supports and encourages local and foreign investment to develop its economy. The overall investment climate favors U.S. investors with experience working in developing countries. Investment opportunities exist in the oil and gas sector, mining, agriculture, timber, fishing, financial technology, and tourism.
Suriname has no sector-specific laws or practices that discriminate against foreign investors, including U.S. investors, by prohibiting, limiting, or conditioning foreign investment. The only exception is the petroleum sector. The state-owned oil company, Staatsolie, maintains sole ownership of all oil-related activities. Foreign investment is possible through exploration and production sharing contracts (PSCs) with Staatsolie. Five U.S. companies participate in PSCs as operators and/or contract partners.
In May 2021, the National Assembly approved a law to establish a State-owned investment company, Suriname Investment Enterprise NV. The Government of Suriname announced plans to disband its two existing investment entities: the Institute for Promoting Investments in Suriname (InvestSur) and the Investment and Development Corporation of Suriname (IDCS). The MFA established an International Business Directorate 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 the hydrocarbon sector, there are no sector-specific restrictions applied to foreign ownership and control. With hydrocarbons, 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 can 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.
Other Investment Policy Reviews
The World Trade Organization (WTO) last conducted an investment policy review of Suriname in 2019. 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.
There are no civil society organizations in the country that have provided useful reviews of investment policy-related concerns in the past five years.
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 Ministry of Public Works website. The government created a Presidential Commission on the Surinamese Diaspora to explore the possibilities of raising capital and increasing business ties with the Surinamese community in the Netherlands. In May 2021, the National Assembly approved a law to establish a State-owned investment company, Suriname Investment Enterprise NV. The MFA created an International Business Directorate 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 Economic Affairs and Technological Innovation 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. Due to the small size of the local market, some domestic companies have expanded to CARICOM member states, such as Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago.
3. Legal Regime
Transparency of the Regulatory System
Suriname does not have transparent policies nor 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 purposefully 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 accounting 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.
The intake form used by the division of International Business at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation does mention that companies can submit an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) if available.
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 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 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 are no centralized online locations where key regulatory actions, or their summaries, are published.
The minimum wage law was revised by State Decree on July 18, 2019.
In January 2021, the government announced its intent to implement a value-added tax (VAT) by January 01, 2022, but it has not yet been implemented. The VAT is now scheduled to be implemented July 1, 2022.
No new business rules were announced in 2021.
It is unclear what the regulatory enforcement mechanisms are, as the process has not been made public. Regulatory reform efforts announced in prior years have not been fully implemented. Regulations are developed by ministries that have jurisdiction over the relevant area, in consultation with stakeholders.
The government’s executive budget proposal and enacted budget are easily accessible to the public. Actual revenues and expenditures regularly deviate from the budget as passed, and the origin and level of accuracy of some information in the budget is unreliable. 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 international and regional standardization bodies 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 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. There are now 30 judges.
Draft regulations may be reviewed by interested 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 legal regime, and more particularly the approval of foreign direct investment (FDI), may be discretionary rather than rules based. This can lead to heightened unpredictability and uncertainty and associated risks of favoritism and corruption.
In July 2021 the National Assembly approved ratification of The Law of Accession to the Republic of Suriname to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC)
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. The National Assembly extended this law once again in August 2021, for the duration of twelve months.
In August 2021, the National Assembly approved an amendment of the turnover tax law. Turnover tax on goods, and services was increased to twelve percent.
In February 2021, the Foreign Exchange Commission announced three new measures regarding exchange rate policy. First, exporters are now required to repatriate earned export revenues to Suriname, which requires a buyer abroad to pay for purchased goods through a Surinamese commercial bank. Second, exporters and foreign exchange offices must exchange 30% of their foreign currency income into Surinamese Dollars (SRD). Third, importers are required to pay for imports via Surinamese commercial banks.
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 by Hoefdraad in collaboration with the ex-Governor of the Central Bank of Suriname, Robert van Trikt. In December 2020, the 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. In Jan 2022, both Hoefdraad and van Trikt were sentenced to twelve and eight years in prison respectively.
There is no primary one-stop-shop website for investments that provides 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 government measures alleged to be, or that could be argued to be, indirect expropriation, such as confiscatory tax regimes or regulatory actions that deprive investors of substantial economic benefits from their investments.
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 New York Convention or under the ICSID Convention.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
The country 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 another 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, including underrepresented investors such as women can benefit from both tax and non-tax 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.
The government currently does not offer incentives such as feed-in tariffs, discounts on electricity rates, or tax incentives for clean energy investments, including renewable energy, energy storage, energy efficiency, clean hydrogen, carbon sequestration, low-carbon transport and fuels, and other de-carbonization technologies.
Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation
Suriname does not have a free trade zone or duty-free zone.
Performance and Data Localization Requirements
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
Property rights are 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 proportion 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 the domain of the State.” Furthermore, Article 41 of the Surinamese constitution states that natural 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 Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). 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 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.
Suriname doesn’t track or report seizures of counterfeit goods. Statistics are not available. IPR violations are rarely produced.
Suriname is not mentioned in the 2022 United States Trade Representative’s Special 301 Report.
Suriname is not named in the 2022 Notorious Markets List.
For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/.
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 June 2020 data, the total non-performing loan ratio was 13.5 percent in June 2020, indicating an increase of 2.9 percent compared to 10.5 percent in December 2019, and is well above the internal guideline of five percent. (Source: Financial Nota 2021)
The estimated total assets of the economy’s largest banks are:
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 (semiannual report June 30, 2020): $731.8 million.
Republic Bank Limited (2021 annual report, Suriname-based assets): $395.3 million. (The Republic Bank Limited of Trinidad and Tobago acquired Royal Bank of Canada’s Suriname holdings in 2015.
Finabank (annual report, 2020): $477.4 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 November 2021, Suriname made its National Risk Assessment publicly available.
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). The process is a lengthy one.
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.
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.
The exchange rate is determined by market supply and demand. Parties trade foreign currency on the foreign exchange market through the intermediary of banks and exchange offices. The Central bank determines and publishes the weighted exchange rate three times a day based on reported volumes and transactions rates. On June 7, 2021, the Central Bank of Suriname (CBvS) eliminated the peg to the USD and allowed the Suriname Dollar to float at market rates. In addition to the official exchange rate, different rates are available unofficially in parallel exchange markets.
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 about the Norwegian SWF. 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. 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.
In 2012, the GoS announced 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, and President Santokhi has indicated that some SOEs will need to be privatized. However, no privatizations have taken place since the new government installation in July 2020.
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. Later, UNIVEG pulled out, and the Government took over the remaining 90 percent of shares and UNIVEG’s $15 million debt and is now the only share holder. This is the only example of privatization in Suriname. No standard privatization or public bidding process has been established.
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).
Department of State
Department of the Treasury
Department of Labor
In March 2020, the National Assembly approved the National Environmental Framework Act. The government sets out its policy regarding the environment in the environmental strategy as laid down in the development plan 2017-2021of Suriname and Suriname’s National Determined Contribution report.
The current government is discussing Carbon-Credit policies, but details are not yet known.
Although Suriname is carbon negative, the Environmental Authority is considering CO2 and GHG reduction regulations for the private sector.
The National Institute for Environment and Development in Suriname (NIMOS) is in the process of finalizing the first set regulations. Regulatory incentives are not yet in place.
The environmental Framework Act mentions in article 19 that an environmental fund is to be set up to co-finance the activities of the following:
- The National Environmental Authority ( NMA) within the scope of protecting, conserving and sustainable use of the environment
- Introducing incentives to reduce environmental pollution
- Stimulating research amongst others in the context of climate change and loss of biodiversity
- Increasing environmental awareness in Suriname
- Other activities for the conservation and restoration of the environment or that are beneficial to the protection of the environment that cannot be financed from other resources.
Some types of public procurement policies must follow the Environmental Framework Act, and include environmental, and green growth considerations such as resource efficiency, pollution abatement and climate resilience.
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.
Resources to Report Corruption
Contact at the government agency or agencies that are responsible for combating corruption:
Suriname Police Force (Korps Politie Suriname)
Havenlaan, Paramaribo, Suriname
The government has yet to operationalize an anti-corruption commission.
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.