Just one day after Surinam became independent on 25 November, its Prime Minister Mr. Henck?
Just one day after Surinam became independent on 25 November, its Prime Minister Mr. Henck Arron served notice that he would not allow multi-national companies to exploit its mineral wealth exclusively for the prosperity of others.
Outlining his government's policy, the Prime Minister said: "We shall no longer suffer our natural resources to serve as a means for the prosperity of others, leaving us behind in poverty".
Although the country has ample resources of minerals, timber and usable farmland, development plans so far have been incomplete.
The export economy is almost entirely based on one product, bauxite, and its derivatives.
Mining operations are carried out by the United States-owned bauxite company, Alcoa, which has been in Surinam for nearly half a century. Its operations are worth more than 100-million pounds (210-million U.S. dollars).
Alcoa produces about twelve per cent of the total world supply of bauxite. The United States takes about a quarter of its total imports of the mineral from Surinam, which ranks as the world's third largest producer.
A decade ago, the firm was persuaded to build in Surinam the first aluminium smelter in the Third World. This boosted considerably the value of the country's exports which previously left in the cheaper form of bauxite ore or as semi-processed alumina.
Earlier this year, the government increased taxes on Alcoa nearly fourfold. Observers say it is now certain that Prime Minister Arron would move to take over the company's huge operations in the country.
The large Dutch timber firm of Bruynzeel and the smaller Dutch bauxite company, Billiton, are the other dominant facts of economic life in Surinam.
About 80 per cent of the country's land area contain dense, tropical forests and vast untapped reserves of gold, uranium and other minerals are reported to exist. But because these resources are still unexploited, wages in the country are low. Roughly half the population is believed to be earning less than eight pounds sterling (seventeen U.S. dollars) a week. In addition, some one-third of the population left Surinam to take up residence in Holland before independence. They included many of the country's trained staff, increasing fears that the economy will suffer from the mass exodus.
Government officials quote unemployment as 25 per cent, but labour and industry sources put it much higher.
Nevertheless, no one seems to starve in Surinam. There are over 16-thousand farms producing rice, cassava, citrus, fruit, banana, sugar-cane and vegetable crops.
The streets of the capital, Paramaribo are noticeably free of beggars, quite unlike the streets of the more affluent capitals such as Trinidad, Port of Spain and Venezuela's Caracas, and there is still plenty of money around to finance the exclusive clubs or Surinam's wealthy residents.
SYNOPSIS: Even as the people of Surinam continued their recent independence celebrations, Prime Minister Henck Arron announced a toughening of government policies towards multinational companies. The Prime Minister said he would not allow these companies to exploit the country's mineral wealth exclusively for the prosperity of others. Although the country has ample resources of minerals, timber and usable farmland, its export economy's been based almost entirely on bauxite. Mining operations are carried out mainly by the United States-owned Alcoa bauxite company which has operated in Surinam for almost half a century.
The company produces about twelve per cent of the total world supply of bauxite and the United States takes about a quarter of all its imports of the mineral from Surinam. The country is the world's third largest bauxite producer.
Although Surinam's bauxite industry is so large, more than half of the country's population still live barely above subsistence level. They eke out a living from some sixteen thousand farms producing rice, cassava, citrus, banana, sugar-cane and vegetable crops. It's this kind of situation that has led the Prime Minister to aim for more bauxite profits to remain at home.
For a minority of the population, life is easy. But the government is determined to have a more equitable distribution of wealth. It's appealed to the people of work hard, to be economical, to make sacrifices and to work together for national development. Observers believe that with some of its natural resources such as forestry and possibly gold and uranium still untapped, Surinam can look forward to a bright future.