200 million dollars of Suriname’s cash reserve disappeared
Rudie Kagie and Steven Coutinho
Steven Coutinho, director of the Bank of Suriname, made global headlines early this year with his observation that 200 million U.S. dollars had disappeared from his country’s Central Bank cash reserve. The New York Times recently called him a “philosopher-banker who’s shaking up a nation. ‘Money has been stolen from the people,’ Coutinho exclaimed on Surinamese radio. ‘This mess has to stop sometime.’
For a while his direct attack on government policy seemed to shake his position, but after demonstrations in which the bank staff and the Board of Commissioners rallied behind him (‘Steven must stay!’), he grew into the national symbol of the opposition to the Bouterse regime that had brought the country to the brink of collapse. The fact that the NDP, Bouterse’s party, lost in the May 26, 2020 elections is widely believed to be a result of the financial scandal that Coutinho addressed.
The president’s attempt to secure Suriname’s currency and national food supply ahead of the elections by drawing on the cash reserve backfired and contributed to his downfall.