He arrived two and a half hours late, but Albert Ramdin has good reason. From a hotel room in The Hague, the Suriname Foreign Minister was on a conference call with China – Suriname’s largest debtor. Ramdin was not the only participant in the conversation, which was attended by more than thirty ministers from Latin America and the Caribbean. That too took a long time for his turn to come.
When China is in line, you do not go away, Ramdin explains in the hotel lobby decorated with Christmas trees. “In international diplomacy it’s not just about what you say, it’s about your attitude. It can be misunderstood to stay away as if you are not comfortable with the situation.
Suriname is expected to contribute about 70 570 million to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) this month for the next three years. After ten years of financial scandals under the former president, former dictator Desi Pouters, money is in dire need. The deal is almost over, but the IMF wants deals with Suriname’s debtors. This has not yet happened in China.
IMF support will provide relief not only economically but also politically. San Suu Kyi has been president for a year and a half, but the removal of debris after the Pouts is going slower than expected. The national debt is huge (3.5 billion euros) and poverty has not abated.
The last few days Ramdin had been in The Hague on his way back from completing an international tour. This brought him to the United Arab Emirates, among other things, as a new investor in Suriname. Diplomatic relations with the Netherlands have strengthened after ten years of radio silence. This week Ramdin is also holding a conference invitation with China’s main economic-political rival, the United States.
Large, new oil discoveries off the coast of Suriname strongly illustrate the growing foreign interest. The next election should start pouring oil from 2025. So the relatively small Suriname is trying to dance on the geopolitical stage.
What is expected of China?
“Suriname must take drastic measures in support of the IMF. At the same time, our creditors are being asked to give us extra time so that we can actually implement the recovery plan. Just as the IMF wants that commitment on paper.
Do you think you will be leaving soon?
“It’s going in the right direction. I heard we’re formally on the IMF agenda on December 22. Without support we could have implemented our recovery plan. So we do this for our creditworthiness as well.
Suriname seems to have become a geopolitical hub. Is all this curiosity an opportunity or a concern?
“I do not want to call it a concern or an opportunity. We know that natural resources attract attention. Roughly speaking, we see the interest of Russia, Europe, the United States, China and India. What we do not like is the desire for one or the other. We like.
read more: Suriname in ecstasy all the oils on the coast
Are relations with the Netherlands and the European Union being tightened by counter-pressure?
“We do not feel pressured. Our foreign policy is well thought out. Good governance, A good independent constitutional government, and so on. In the case of the European Union, the United States and the Netherlands, we had to catch up because the previous government ignored the links. But we did not do this to answer anything.
You want to do business with the UAE and talk about shared values. Doesn’t it matter?
“Nothing is right in any country. If you are looking for the right form of collaboration where everything is neat in the higher parts of the ‘plus’, you will not find it.
You once said: Suriname should become the gateway to Latin America. What is not available in other countries in Suriname?
“Location. Think of air and sea routes. We are politically very stable. We do not have natural disasters. We have somewhat developed people and enough natural resources. That does not mean everything is perfect – it’s not always. But no one has to wait until it becomes perfect, Because competition is so fierce, some can no longer go that way.If we start with oil in 2025[verkoop], We have at least twenty more years to play that important regional role. In that sense, we see little about Dubai and how that country has developed over the past fifty years.
Should Suriname become the Dubai of Latin America?
“No, it looks reloaded. Suriname is Suriname, but it needs to become a place of attraction. In my view we have been waiting a long time. For 45 years we have been focusing on three countries in Southeast Asia: China, Indonesia and India, because of cultural and historical ties. Now is the time to expand it.
These are big ambitions. Don’t you risk a big disappointment this way?
“Nothing can be achieved without ambition. We do not dream, but we believe.
According to the Danish media, HPSG is a Danish company that wants to build a hydrogen power plant in Suriname. From suspicious merchants. They were recently welcomed with all respect in Suriname.
“We always accept everyone with respect.”
This raises the question of whether Suriname has the expertise to recognize malicious intent.
Suriname has a population of 550,000. We feel that expertise will not be too much. But expertise can be found everywhere.
These traders have no experience in green energy but they do with bankrupt companies. The Danish media say they are not good.
“We can not say it hard. Companies often go bankrupt and there are some companies that prove their experience with hydrogen. However, we have heard the stories and take them very seriously. But for the sake of honesty and ownership, we have to listen to what the company has to say. The truth is, they have applied for permission. , Bought the land.Surina did not put anything in it except a good conversation.We did not run any risk.There are only agreements about the obligation to buy, but these only apply if there is a power station.
The Association of Economists in Suriname, VES, warned last week that confidence in your government was declining. Do you recognize it?
“Criticism. No government can live without hope. Borrowing is forgotten like nothing for the last ten years. Money is gone. I did not ask VES about it. We stopped using debt to pay salaries, wages and benefits within three months of coming to power. By the way, we borrowed one more time from September.As an association of economists, you should know that it is a huge improvement.
VES also believes that many family members are appointed to government. Do you share that concern?
“Yeah. I mean: I don’t want to have it, but I have no problem with that as long as those people do their job properly. Unfortunately, the pool that attracts people in Suriname is small and shallow.
You want to transform Suriname into a modern knowledge economy. Doesn’t it need a credible government?
“It simply came to our notice then. Many officers do not know what they are doing. We need to mobilize people and encourage them to think and take responsibility. In addition, many companies are weakened, including the auditors’ court, the judiciary and the public prosecution service. You can not recreate it.
So will government employees also be laid off?
“60,000 civil servants is really more than the population of 150,000 families. It should definitely be cut in half. But government service in Suriname is also a safety net. If you fire people without income and send them home, you have a social problem. We do not want to dismiss people, but give them perspective.
Will Chandoki remain president or continue in office after 2025?
“Can you imagine a government coming back to power after 2025 and running out of money, just as oil and gas supplies make millions in revenue? Then we are far away from home. The years to come will be crucial. I think we are in good shape, but after ten years of mismanagement the Surinamers were expelled. Cynical. It is not easy to regain that hope. ”
A version of this article was also published in the NRC on the morning of December 7, 2021
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