Full name: Republic of Suriname
Population: 524,000 (UN, 2010)
Area: 163,265 sq km (63,037 sq miles)
Major languages: Dutch (official), English, Sranang Tongo, Hindi, Javanese
Major religions: Hinduism, Islam, Christianity
Life expectancy: 68 years (men), 74 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: Suriname dollar
Main exports: Bauxite, alumina, aluminium, crude oil, timber, shrimp and fish, rice, bananas
GNI per capita: US $5,920 (World Bank, 2009)
Internet domain: .sr
International dialling code: +597
Suriname, once known as Dutch Guiana, is one of South America's smallest countries. It enjoys a relatively high standard of living but also faces serious political and economic challenges.
Since independence from the Netherlands in 1975 Suriname has endured coups and a civil war. Former military strongman Desi Bouterse dominated politics for much of the post-independence era, but the country is now under civilian rule.
However, there is little assimilation between the different ethnic groups, which confine their contacts to the economic sphere. Similarly, most political parties are ethnically based. This acts as an obstacle to consensus-building.
Suriname has potential for tourism, boasting rainforests, abundant wildlife and colonial architecture in the capital. But the sector is undeveloped, hampered by the inaccessibility of the interior and the lack of infrastructure. So, Suriname depends heavily on mining and processing its declining reserves of bauxite and is vulnerable to falls in commodity prices.
Suriname and neighbouring Guyana have been engaged in a long-running territorial dispute over a potentially oil-rich offshore area. A UN tribunal settled the issue in 2007, redrawing the maritime border and giving both countries access to the basin. The ruling is expected to bring a surge of exploration by major oil companies.
The issue flared up in 2000 when Surinamese patrol boats evicted a Canadian-owned rig from a concession awarded by Guyana.
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