By Ray Chickrie
PARAMARIBO, Suriname — The Director-General (DG) of the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) Abdulhamid Alkhalifa, visited Suriname September 29 to October 3 and signed two loan agreements to fund projects in the energy and health sector for a total amount of USD$ 32 million. This is part of a US$140 million package to fund the expansion and modernization of the energy and health sectors of Suriname, and a centerpiece of president Desire Bouterse re-election campaign.
It is the first high-level delegation led by the head of OFID to the Caribbean. The Director-General, Alkhalifa was accompanied by the assistant director-general, the operations officer for Suriname and a communications officer. Alkhalifa and his delegation visited the Central Market of Suriname, historical and cultural places.
The health improvement project started in 2014 with OFID funding of USD$ 26.5 million. The projects financed were the rehabilitation of the University Hospital Paramaribo (AZP) including patients sleeping areas, the operating theatres, the intensive care unit, and the construction of six Regional Health Service (RGD) outpatient clinics. Director-General of OFID saw first-hand, the new and modern intensive care unit which is part of a rehabilitated section of the hospital, and how the OFID funds are being spent in Suriname.
Suriname’s minister for health Antoine Elias said, “We will now be able to adequately equip the operating room, sterilization room, and intensive care unit.”
The US$ 32 million is part of US$ 140 million to fund several projects in the energy and health sectors of Suriname. The OFID contributed USD$ 26 million. The other funding came from the Kuwait Fund for USD$17 million, the Islamic Development Bank for USD$ 41 million, Caribbean Development Bank for USD$ 35 million and Suriname contributed USD$ 23 million. The bulk of the money will fund “large energy projects, ‘ expansion of power generation, transmission and distribution systems.”
The main goal of this project is the expansion of electricity generation and transmission from Paramaribo to Paranam and Nickerie to Clarapolder. This expansion and modernization project will support citizens and the business community as the country takes steps to ready itself for promising oil and gas discoveries.
During his visit, Alkhalifa met with the finance minister of Suriname, Gillmore Hoefdaad, and president Desi Bouterse. In their meeting, Bouterse thank the Director-General for his support and visit to Suriname and expressed his desire to continue to diversify Suriname’s economic and political partners, especially seeking more cooperation with the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. This is also another component of Bouterse foreign policy.
Additional funding of USD six million was made available to the hospital for necessary medical equipment and a patient management system.
These projects are financed through concessional loans with a grace period of four years with an interest rate of 4.6 percent.
Meanwhile, the Islamic Development Bank is already training staff for its office in Paramaribo, Suriname, and the first of its kind in the western hemisphere. More OIC countries are looking to open diplomatic offices while Guyana and Suriname are receiving global focus due to major oil and gas discoveries off the coast of Guyana.
“It is only a matter of time before Suriname makes hit, head of Suriname’s national oil company, (Staatsolie)”, Rudolf Elias, said to the media.