Suriname’s Foreign Minister Winston Lackin (L) meeting with Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu in New York last week
By Ray Chickrie
Caribbean News Now contributor
PARAMARIBO, Suriname -- Information out of Paramaribo indicates that a major push is afoot to strengthen Suriname’s political, cultural and economic ties with the Middle and Far East.
Suriname is exploring the opening of a mission in the Gulf, appointing non-resident ambassadors in the region, hosting meetings of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and bringing political and economic visitors to Paramaribo to showcase the country’s economic potential.
Five years ago when the first Arab-South America summit took place in Brazil, trade between the two regions was US$11 billion annually and, five years later, it has almost tripled to $30 billion. Today, more South American companies and embassies are present in the Gulf.
It is against this backdrop that the Bouterse administration in Suriname had decided to intensify its membership in the Arab-South America (ASPA) forum according to Suriname’s State Minister, Liakat Errol Alibux, who recently represented Suriname at the just-concluded Arab-South American Summit in Peru.
Alibux told Suriname’ daily, De Ware Tijd last week that it is the priority of his government to intensify and secure some major investments from eastern countries in areas of energy, water and infrastructure.
The two regions can complement each other to grow economically, he said. "In the field of energy, the Gulf is equipped."
The Arab League annually imports billions from the rest of the world and is willing to invest in other countries, he stated.
Besides the ASPA forum, Suriname is also a member of the OIC and the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB).
Suriname’s Foreign Minister, Winston Lackin, at a press conference on Friday, said that Suriname has settled unpaid dues to the OIC and that his government will actively participate in the organisation. He also indicated that his government is seeking the assistance of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to set up a Sovereign Wealth Fund.
Alibux also articulated the benefits from these memberships and cited the example of IsDB-funded projects such as the building of clinics in the interior of Suriname.