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< Current local time in Suriname – Paramaribo
PARAMARIBO–President Desi Bouterse on Wednesday laughed off the headlines that were awarded to a story about his Cabinet supporting the Kwakoe Festival and said that the attention would be better spent on the real story about Suriname’s economic growth. “I would have expected everyone to be celebrating and the headlines would be reporting the real news of the day: that for the third time in a very short time span Suriname’s foreign currency rating has been upgraded,” Bouterse said.
His remarks came on the heels of reports Wednesday morning that his cabinet was bailing out the annual Kwakoe festival, ongoing now in South Amsterdam. The festival that over the years has grown into an all summer long celebration of Surinamese and other cultures, was on the verge of closing down Tuesday, when one of the main suppliers threatened to pull out, claiming it is owed €150,000. The festival had already been canceled last year because it could not raise enough money.
Then local daily De Ware Tijd reported that a spokesman for Bouterese confirmed that the Surinamese President offered to help. The story that was quickly regurgitated by Dutch media said that Bouterse would transfer 50,000 euros to the Kwakoe organisers, as Suriname’s “diaspora has supported us in difficult times and now the president will do something for the diaspora.’
Dutch politicians were quick to condemn the gift, as Bouterse is a suspect in the December 1982 killings of 15 political opponents and because he was sentenced in absentia by a Dutch court for drugs trafficking. Others in Suriname also condemned the gift, saying there were better initiatives in Suriname that could use financial support, as opposed to a party by Surinamers in Holland.
But as he prepared to travel to the Dominican Republic for the inauguration of President Leonel Fernandez, Bouterse said it was all a misunderstanding, fueled by miscommunication. “All I did regarding the support to the Kwakoe Festival was allow the organizers who approached us, to use the name of the President’s Cabinet as they looked for donations. We did not give anyone money and anyone who wants to can double check that at the Central Bank,” he said.
He said he regretted the commotion the story had caused. “I actually had hoped that people would be celebrating today, because of the news that Moody’s upgraded Suriname’s foreign currency rating.
Citing expectations for growth and fiscal management, Moody’s Investors Service on Tuesday upgraded Suriname’s foreign currency rating to Ba3 with a positive outlook. The bond credit rating institute said in a statement that Suriname’s government demonstrated prudence in fiscal management, as characterized by low budget deficits relative to its rating peers and steadily declining debt ratios. “Suriname’s Ba3 rating incorporates Moody’s assessment of the country’s robust growth, driven by gold mining, petroleum, and construction sectors,” the statement read. Previously Standard & Poor’s and Fitch also rated Suriname BB-minus with a stable outlook.
“That’s the real story. There’s economic growth in Suriname. The questions are now how to structurally use this growth to attract investors and how to make sure the economic growth is translated in social growth,” he said.