Suriname is one of the many nations which has taken on extensive debt from China under the guise of the belt and road initiative. Similar to nations like Sri Lanka, Suriname is now struggling with the repayment process.
Ironically, Suriname is now planning on discussing its standing debt settlement with China, while seeking investments for future projects at the same time. This is an odd juxtaposition which has come to pass between the two nations.
The Dutch speaking CARICOM nation will now look to deepen ties with the Asian powerhouse. President Chandrikapersad Santokhi alluded to as much at a ceremony on Wednesday night, celebrating the 74th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
“Based on our strategic cooperative partnership and long-standing bond of friendship, our government is confident that our countries will soon reach a mutually agreed debt restructuring agreement” read the statement.
Chandrikapersad Santokhi also spoke of this in New York, last week, stating that the Foreign Affairs Minister, Albert Ramdin, would travel to China in November to seek a solution for the debt situation.
According to reports from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Paramaribo made attempts to re-negotiate the US$545 million debt owed to China one year ago.
Santokhi was also given the opportunity to speak at the Chinese Embassy. In that speech, it was explained that Surinam wishes to establish greater cooperation in multiple areas with China. This is being pursued with the aim of gaining Chinese financing for the National Development Plan 2022-2026.
Jia Jinyi, who holds the position of Chargé d’Affaires at the Chinese Embassy, has clarified China’s position on the matter. According to them, China plans to continue its strong support for Suriname, “and we look forward to taking our cooperation to the next level”.
China has extended its support to Suriname under multiple projects which includes the Belt and Road Initiative, a global infrastructure development strategy adopted by the Chinese government in 2013. Through these initiatives, China aims to invest in over 150 nations and international organisations which it sees as assets for the promotion of China’s geopolitical agendas and goals.
Jia Jinyi mentioned the fact that in China’s perception, Suriname’s economic situation will improve with time, especially considering the recent developments in the nation’s crude oil markets.
She also stated that the current administration plans to carry forward the recent trend of strengthening relations with China, on the basis of mutual trust and respect, both bilaterally and multilaterally.
Jia Jinyi also explained that the political exchange between the two nations had improved further and that “the leaders of both countries have exchanged letters, further deepening strategic mutual trust and political guidance.”
Jia referred to the Suriname-China Investment Coordination Committee, which is responsible for facilitating Chinese investments in the nation, then said that through this initiative, the economic and trade exchanges between the two nations have improved.
The pilot project between the two nations which allows direct shipping between them, is now considered a great success. The sixth ship under this program is slated to leave the Chinese port of Tianjin for Paramaribo very soon.
“As the world’s second-largest economy, the largest manufacturing country, the largest commodity trader and the holder of the largest foreign exchange reserves, China’s economy remains resilient, with great potential and vitality,” Jia said, reinforcing the fundamentals of China’s positive long-term economic outlook.
“China is determined to deepen reform and opening-up and provide new opportunities for the development of the world with its new achievements on China’s path to modernization.”
Education is also an important part of the relationship between the two nations. Jia Jinyi explained that more than 200 Surinamese officials have already been trained in China. Beyond that, 10 scholarships have been provided in the past year to Surinamese students.