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Corruption is an obstacle to business in Suriname. It is especially prevalent in public procurement, in the awarding of licenses and in the customs sector. Corruption stems from a lack of regulation and legal anti-corruption measures: A legal anti-corruption framework has yet to be discussed in the National Assembly. This creates problems as it increases the risks of corruption across all sectors. Suriname is not a party to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption but has ratified the Inter American Convention Against Corruption.
Last updated: August 2016
Corruption is a moderate risk in Suriname’s judiciary. Irregular payments are sometimes exchanged to obtain favorable judicial decisions (GCR 2014-2015). The unresolved trial of current President Bouterse’s involvement in killings in 1982 calls into question the independence of Suriname’s judicial system (Daily Mail, June 2015). Nonetheless, while political interference may occur at times, it is not a systemic obstacle for businesses (FitW 2015; ICS 2016). Judges are generally impartial, although there is a shortage of judges and personnel, resulting in slow judicial processes (ICS 2016). Enforcing a contract takes an average of 1,715 days, the longest in the world (DB 2016). Overall, businesses find that the legal framework for settling disputes and challenging regulations lacks efficiency (GCR 2014-2015).
Suriname is not a party to the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (ICSID).
There are no reports of corruption specific to the police. The police force in Suriname can be relied upon to uphold law and order, but businesses do face costs due to crime and violence (GCR 2015-2016). Civilian authorities maintain control over the military and the police, and allegations of abuse of office are generally investigated and prosecuted, although there are some instances of perceived impunity (HRR 2015).
Encountering corruption when acquiring public services is a moderate risk. Bribes or undocumented extra payments are sometimes requested when acquiring utilities (GCR 2014-2015). Additionally, complying with public administration requirements such as permits and reporting is quite a burdensome process (GCR 2014-2015). Starting a business, for example, takes 84 days on average, almost three times longer than the regional average (DB 2016).
There are no credible reports of corruption in Suriname’s land administration. Overall, property rights are well enforced. Nevertheless, there is a lack of transparency in terms of what land has clear title (ICS 2016). There is neither a publically accessible land title office nor a serious effort by the government to identify property owners and register land titles (ICS 2016). Accordingly, registering property in Suriname is more time-consuming and costly compared to regional averages (DB 2016). Dealing with construction permits takes approximately 220 days (DB 2016).
Corruption in Suriname’s tax administration is a moderate risk. Bribes in relation to annual tax payments are sometimes exchanged (GCR 2014-2015). Preparing, filing and paying taxes takes less time than it does elsewhere in the region, and the total tax rate is significantly lower (DB 2016). Nonetheless, tax rates put a significant burden on the formal economy, while there is also a large informal economy that does not contribute to tax revenue and threatens a fair and competitive economy (ICS 2016).
There exists a high risk of corruption when dealing with Suriname’s customs administration. Bribery occurs in relation to imports and exports (GCR 2014-2015). Nonetheless, trading across borders has become easier for businesses as Suriname recently implemented an automated customs data management system (DB 2016). The lack of transparency and legal anti-corruption measures has resulted in increased drug and human trafficking (FitW 2015).
Businesses should note a very high risk of corruption when dealing with public procurement in Suriname. Public funds are often diverted, and officials often favor well-connected firms and individuals when deciding upon policies and contracts (GCR 2014-2015). Further, irregular payments in connection with awarding public contracts and licenses are widespread (GCR 2014-2015). As in other sectors, a lack of transparency makes the procurement system opaque (ICS 2016).
Companies are generally recommended to use a specialized public procurement due diligence tool to mitigate the risk associated with procurement in Suriname.
Companies operating in Suriname’s natural resource sector face a high risk of corruption. Gold is the main export from Suriname, but gold mining lacks regulations, resulting in a substantial informal economy (Vice, Jan. 2016). It is estimated that illegal mining accounts for over two-thirds of gold extraction in the country (Vice, Jan. 2016). Reportedly, 30,000-40,000 illegal gold miners are active in Suriname’s interior, and this is seemingly tolerated by the government (Vice, Jan. 2016). The lack of regulations and a consequent lack of transparency gives way to corruption and serious environmental damage that, in turn, threatens public health (Vice, Jan. 2016).
Suriname’s has no adequate anti-corruption legislation in place. The Ministry of Justice and Police is in charge of combating corruption, but such efforts are limited by the lack of anti-corruption laws (FitW 2015). The only existing legal framework comes from the Penal Code, but this is very outdated and new draft laws are not being discussed in the National Assembly (ICS 2015). Similarly, the government does not require companies to establish policies or internal controls, heightening the risk foreign companies becoming involved in corrupt practices (ICS 2016). There are also no financial disclosure laws for public officials (HRR 2015).
Suriname is not a party to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) but has ratified the Inter American Convention Against Corruption.
Freedoms of speech and press are guaranteed under the constitution and are generally respected (FitW 2015). Nonetheless, strict criminal defamation laws stipulate jail sentences of up to seven years for expressing “enmity, hatred or contempt” towards the government (FotP 2015). Otherwise, Suriname has a diverse media landscape with various outlets (FotP 2015). Overall, the media environment in Suriname is considered “free” (FotP 2015).
Freedom of assembly is provided for by law and respected in practice (FitW 2015). Various independent domestic nongovernmental groups operate without government restriction and report generally positive relationships with government officials, even though officials are not always responsive to their views and input (HRR 2015).
- World Bank: Doing Business 2016.
- US Department of State: Investment Climate Statement – Suriname 2016.
- Daily Mail: Court: “Murder trial against Suriname president must continue”, 9 June 2016.
- Vice: “Digging into Suriname’s Massive and Corrupt Gold Industry”, January 2016.
- World Economic Forum: The Global Competitiveness Report 2014-2015.
- US Department of State: Investment Climate Statement – Suriname 2015.
- US Department of State: Human Rights Practices Report – Suriname 2015.
- Freedom House: Freedom in the World – Suriname 2015.
- Freedom House: Freedom of the Press – Suriname 2015.