Sat | Oct 24, 2020

Social tensions flare in Suriname over devaluation, fuel price hike

Published:Thursday | September 24, 2020 | 10:31 AM
Contributed photo

PARAMARIBO, Suriname (CMC): There is mounting tension across Suriname following the devaluation of the Surinamese dollar by nearly 90 per cent against the US dollar.

Following the announcement on Tuesday, the price of fuel, which was subsidised by successive governments over the years, saw a dramatic increase.

The subsidy was recently abolished by the new government. 

Previously, fuel was imported on the basis of the official exchange rate with the US dollar.

The devaluation has also impacted bus fares – and although a price hike was implemented before the measure - bus owners believe the new rates are already outdated and will have to be increased again. 

Meanwhile, various sectors have announced tariff adjustments.

Immediately after the devaluation was announced, the two telecommunications companies, Digicel and Telesur, increased their rates, something that has not happened since 2016. 

Meanwhile, the Association of Surinamese Businesses has also weighed in on the issue.

The association has written to the minister of economic affairs, entrepreneurship and technological innovation asking the government to lower the price of diesel.

It warns that the effect of the increased diesel prices will lead to an enormous hike in costs for the Surinamese population, as most of the transportation sector relies on that fuel. 

Meanwhile, the trade union movement and business organisations have called for the government to immediately reverse the fuel price increase. 

The civil servant union has threatened strikes if the fuel price increase is not reversed by next week.

In addition, activists have used social media to call for the society to participate in a protest on Friday against the cost-increasing measures implemented by the government since taking office in mid-July. 

Former President Desi Bouterse’s National Democratic Party, now the main opposition party after losing May’s elections, has announced that the party will not participate in the demonstrations. 

According to analysts, the mismanagement of the Bouterse government over the past 10 years, exacerbated by the price shock on the international commodities market, has caused the Surinamese economy to fall severely. 

As a result, the national debt increased significantly, while the new government, which has been in office for less than three months, has inherited a virtually empty Treasury. 

In July, the government narrowly managed to pay civil servants’ salaries. 

That same month, Suriname was unable to repay its foreign loans, which resulted in several rating agencies revising the country’s credit rating down to default.

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