How much do natural resources contribute to the GDP of Suriname?

HOK: Minerals and energy are very important at the moment and they contribute to about 40% of GDP. In the gold sector, the alumina sector, and in the oil sector we have huge players. Staatsolie, our only oil company, is doing the oil. In the gold sector we have operations of IAMGOLD currently and Newmont is coming into production in about 2-3 years from now. Alcoa has been in Suriname for almost 100 years.

What are the best investment opportunities in Suriname for international companies?

HOK: The best investment opportunities for foreign companies would be in minerals. I mentioned gold earlier, but I would also mention other minerals such as nickel, copper, titanium, etc. Let’s not forget that we have offshore oil production, at least that’s where we’re heading to. We have some companies who are interested in the fields. Some of them, such as Repsol, already have contract with Staatsolie. Total is interested. They’re coming to Suriname and we’re going to have discussions with them on what they want to do. Other players are already busy in the oil fields in Suriname. I think they give an indication that the field is very interesting and that it looks good.

What barriers should foreign investors be aware of being going into Suriname?

HOK: I think that the barriers should not be different from those in other countries. In fact, there are a lot of opportunities in Suriname. We have a skilled population. We have a tradition with multinationals, as I mentioned, Alcoa has been in Suriname for over 100 years. We have good infrastructure, telecommunications and so on. We have a government that guarantees peace, freedom, and stability. That is what investors look for and we have a stable environment.

What are the government’s priorities for utilizing natural resources revenues?

HOK: Our government is in place since August of last year and we have this goal. We want to accelerate the development of the non-renewable sector, especially mining, to underpin the development of the renewable sectors; where we’re thinking of agriculture, fisheries, forestry, tourism, and so on. It’s generally known that, by definition, the non-renewables are not going to be there after a while and we have to look into the future. When the non-renewables are gone, we should have a new economy in place.

What is the nature of the energy relationship between Suriname and the Middle East? How can this relationship be further developed?

HOK: We are just starting off you know. Our oil industry started in the 1980s and we are still very small compared to all the other players in the field. We are developing relations and that’s one of the reasons why we are here, to get together with the big players so to speak and to interest them to look at Suriname. Staatsolie has concentrated up to now more on onshore and near-shore activities in oil production. We are now looking for oil production in deep waters. We have just got permission to extend our economic zone a further 150 miles, which means we now have a 350 mile economic zone running into deep waters. I think that the players here, some of them are more experienced in that. That’s a good reason to be here; to make contact with all the players in the field.

How significant is the fact that the World Petroleum Congress (WPC) is in the Middle East for the first time?

HOK: I must tell you that I was amazed to hear that the WPC was being held in the Middle East for the first time. I was really amazed about that because it’s such a huge oil producing region. I think it’s very important that it happened here so as to stress the importance of the Arab nations and the oil production in these surroundings and also, the fact that we should try to find a way to live with everybody in this field. Oil production and gas production is going to come from here for quite some time and I think that we better learn how to be with each other, deal with each other, and live with each other. That’s why I’m very happy that, finally, the congress came to the Middle East. It must also be very pleasing for Qatar especially as host of this congress.