One of Suriname’s leading political scientists is contending that successive administrations have been facilitating the growth of Chinese businesses in the Dutch-speaking Caribbean trade bloc nation to deliberately help authorities break the economic clout of the Hindustani or East Indian community.
Professor Marten Schalkwijk says that the spectacular growth of investors from China was “politically and strategically motivated” in recent decades and it is no accident that they are slowly emerging as the richest group in the country, pointing to the latest infusion of hundreds of Chinese businesses in the republic in recent months.
He said that prime ministers, presidents and politicians interested in which group has the balance of power — and by extension political clout in Suriname, have succeeded in making the economic playing field much more even than it was in the past. The Chinese group now has more economic power he says.
“Who owned all the shops the Chinese have bought or are now renting? Even the incumbent administration has an open-door policy towards Chinese, but their objectives are different. Powerful China has to be befriended, keeping access to loans and grants open now that development aid from the Netherlands has dried up. This is simply a shift from economic power,” he told the De Ware Tijd daily newspaper.
The daily’s revelation is certain to have some political significance in neighboring and English-speaking Guyana where economic situation is somewhat similar and where Chinese investors have been arriving in droves, moving away from the traditional cook shops or restaurants and now into hardware, clothing and construction stores among others. Some have also ventured into the hotel and entertainment industry.
Late last year, Guyana’s former President Bharrat Jagdeo had told the country’s growing Chinese community that government will facilitate immigration papers for them and help them to qualify for citizenship, once they have lived in the, country for seven years, a development that was seen by critics and the opposition as a governing party attempt to court votes from a growing group in the future.
Professor Schalkwijk spoke as the Chinese immigrant community across the Caribbean was last Monday preparing to celebrate the New Year with varying forms of celebrations from dinners to open-air commercial expositions.
He also touched on mainland China’s deliberate policy of encouraging out-migration of its moneyed class to Latin American and the Caribbean, so that they can buy from manufacturers back home and lessen dependence on traditional markets like the U.S. Chinese banks usually bankroll these business groups.
“Because of its financial backing (from China), this group has now also achieved some sort of political influence. They finance political parties which facilitate the acquisition of industrial licenses and support from government facilities.
“The National Party of Suriname (NPS) has had a Chinese branch for years, but now the National Democratic Party (NDP) seems to invite Chinese sponsoring,” says Schalkwijk.