The Jules Wijdenbosch Bridge in Paramaribo is a vital part of Suriname’s infrastructure. However, it is the country’s natural resources that are attracting the interest of investors. (Photo by Jody Amiet/AFP via Getty Images)

Neither the UN Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) World Investment Report 2020 nor Trading Economics paint a positive picture of Suriname’s foreign direct investment (FDI) environment.

According to UNCTAD, the country’s FDI inflows dropped from $119m in 2018 to only $7m in 2019. Trading Economics reports outflows of $132.6m in the period between January and July 2020.

However, some consider the South American country to be an FDI rising star due to its natural resources and the willingness of its government to open up more to foreign investors.

Suriname is rich in gold, bauxite and oil, which are the country’s key interests to foreign investors. More recently, palm oil has started to appear on their radar.

Traditionally, the US, Belgium and the Netherlands have been the country’s main international partners, but the government is now keen to shape deals with other foreign parties.

Suriname open to FDI

Apart from the oil sector, on which Suriname’s state oil company has a monopoly, the country does not discriminate against foreign investors and the government is committed to increasing FDI into the country.

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In 2018, it held its first ever Trade & Investment Forum. However, the country’s poor business environment makes it a less attractive FDI destination when compared with other countries in South America and the Caribbean, despite its natural resources.

Despite claims of efforts being made to improve the situation, the World Trade Organisation’s 2019 Trade Policy Review concluded that Suriname’s investment regime has not changed since its last review in 2013.

However, 2019 was a mildly promising year for Suriname in terms of greenfield project announcements. Apache and Total teamed up to develop a project around newly discovered oil reserves offshore. Suriname also announced a strategic partnership with China focusing on sectors including infrastructure, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, communications and energy, the digital economy, tourism and the ocean economy.