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Suriname: Overview

The smallest independent country in South America is Suriname (pop. 525,000; GDP/cap US$2,423). It is in the northern part of South America, between French Guiana and Guyana, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean. Suriname was colonized by the Dutch in the 17th century, and is commonly known as Dutch Guiana or Netherlands Guiana. It gained independence from Netherlands in 1975.

Since independence, the country has experienced coups and political warfare. Civilian government was often replaced by military government. Although democracy has been restored, it is built on weak institutions, corruption, and little economic freedom.

A plethora of government controls in pricing, licensing, and other areas leave considerable space for favoritism and corruption. Suriname is involved in territorial disputes with its neighbor, French Guiana.

Private property is not well protected. Land is state owned, although the law makes property ownership a basic right, there is always a risk that leased land might be expropriated. Settlement of ownership disputes or damage to property takes a long time. Native people assert their historical land rights.

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