The Republic of Suriname, more commonly known as Suriname or Surinam, (formerly known as Netherlands Guiana and Dutch Guiana) is a country in northern South America, in between French Guiana to the east and Guyana to the west. The southern border is shared with Brazil and the northern border is the Atlantic coast. The most southern parts of the borders with Guyana and French Guiana are disputed (upper Corantijn and Marowijne rivers—the map shows the Guyana and Guiana versions of the border).
Though Dutch traders had established several colonies in the Guiana region before, the Dutch did not get hold of what is now Suriname until the Treaty of Breda, settling the end of the Second Anglo-Dutch War.
After becoming an autonomous part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1954, independence was granted in 1975. A military regime led by Desi Bouterse ruled the country in the 1980s, until democracy was re-established in 1988.
The National Assembly elects the head of the executive branch, the president, by a two-third majority. If no candidate achieves such a majority, the president is elected by the People's Assembly, a 340 member institute consisting of the National Assembly and regional representatives.
Suriname is divided into ten districts:
Main article: Geography of Suriname
Suriname is the smallest independent country in South America. It is situated on the Guiana Shield, the highest point being the Julianatop (1,286 m above sea level). The land can be artificially divided into two parts. The northern, coastal area has been cultivated, and most of the population lives here. The southern part consists of sparsely inhabited tropical rainforest.
Lying near the equator, the climate in Suriname is tropical, and temperatures do not vary a lot throughout the year. The year has two rainy seasons, from December to early February and from late April to mid-August.
Located in the northeast portion of the country is the W.J. van Blommesteinmeer, a large reservoir lake, created in 1964 by a dam (Brokopondo project). The dam was built to provide electricity for the bauxite mining industry (which consumes about 75 percent of the output) and for domestic consumption.
The economy of Suriname is dominated by the bauxite industry, which accounts for more than 15 percent of GDP and 70 percent of export earnings. Other main export products include sugar, and Suriname has some oil and gold reserves. About a quarter of the people work in the agricultural sector. The Surinamese economy is very dependent on other countries, with its main trade partners being the Netherlands, the United States and countries in the Caribbean.
After assuming power in the fall of 1996, the Wijdenbosch government ended the structural adjustment program of the previous government, claiming it was unfair to the poorer elements of society. Tax revenues fell as old taxes lapsed and the government failed to implement new tax alternatives. By the end of 1997, the allocation of new Dutch development funds was frozen as Surinamese Government relations with the Netherlands deteriorated. Economic growth slowed in 1998, with decline in the mining, construction, and utility sectors. Rampant government expenditures, poor tax collection, a bloated civil service, and reduced foreign aid in 1999 contributed to the fiscal deficit, estimated at 11% of GDP. The government sought to cover this deficit through monetary expansion, which led to a dramatic increase in inflation and exchange rate depreciation. Suriname's economic prospects for the medium term will depend on renewed commitment to responsible monetary and fiscal policies and to the introduction of structural reforms to liberalize markets and promote competition.
The Surinamese population is made up of several minority groups. The largest part is formed by the Hindustani, descendants of 19th century immigrants from India, about 37 percent of the population. The Creole, mixed white and black form about 31 percent, while the Javanese ("imported" from the former Dutch East Indies) and Maroons (descendants of escaped African slaves) make up 15 and 10 percent, respectively. The remainder is formed by Amerindians, Chinese and whites.
Because of the great number of ethnic groups in the country, there is no main religion. Most of the Hindustani are Hindu, but Islam and Christianity are also widespread. Christianity is dominant among Creoles and Maroons.
Dutch is the official language of Suriname. The Surinamese also speak their own languages: Sranang Tongo, Javanese etc. Also, the original Carib and Arowak Amerindians of Suriname speak their own languages, as do the descendants of escaped slaves in the interior; Aucan (n'Djuga) and Saramaccan.
Due to the mix of population groups, the Surinamese culture is very diverse.
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