The Suriname government says it remains confident of reaching an agreement with China to reschedule its US$537-million debt, in the wake of a similar deal announced by Paramaribo last week over its US$39-million debt to India.
“Although it is not yet the commitment we would like to have, I think China will think along with us to get this issue resolved,” said Suriname’s Minister of Finance and Planning Stanley Raghoebarsing.
The finance minister told the state-owned Suriname Communications Service that rescheduling of China’s debt would open up more prospects for doing business with the Asian powerhouse.
He also expects the executive board of the International Monetary Fund to make a decision next week on the progress of the staff-level agreement with Suriname.
Involvement of the IMF was also a condition of the creditors before debt restructuring could be negotiated, and Raghoebarsing explained that convincing the IMF about the Surinamese situation took a lot of time.
“It is not always easy, but it is important that the IMF is with us,” he said.
Raghoebarsing said that in addition to negotiations with foreign creditors, discussions are also taking place with domestic creditors that had been neglected in the past, dating back to 2001.
He said this includes the SR$350 million in fuel subsidies, overdue debts to suppliers and contractors.
The authorities said that while SR$700 million in overdue debts had been paid for 2023, there is still an outstanding amount of SR$1 billion.
The Administrator General of the Bureau of the National Debt, Malty Dwarkasing, says while there are large arrears owed to foreign countries, those debts are mainly on a bilateral basis, including Brazil, Spain and Japan.
But Raghoebarsing said the difference now is that Suriname also has to negotiate with private international creditors, the so-called bondholders, which makes the situation even more difficult as both parties have separate interests.
“We serve the interest of country and people, they serve the interest of their capitals. You have to find each other somewhere,” he said, agreeing with Dwarkasing that achieving the debt restructuring with the Oppenheimer bondholders is the first in the world to have been successful in three years.
He said also that Suriname’s debt position is better and the government is able to pay salaries from its own resources.
“Today we pay SR$8 billion to SR$9 billion in salaries on our own, SR$16 billion in social benefits, subsidies to the business community, four billion in tax exemptions. We are slowly but surely seeing results from the sacrifices. We are not there yet, but we will get there,” the finance minister said.