10,991 sq. km. (4,244 sq. mi.).
Cities: Capital--Kingston metro area
(pop. 628,000). Other cities--Montego Bay (96,600), Spanish Town (122,700).
Mountainous, coastal plains.
Noun and adjective--Jamaican(s).
Population: (2005 est.) 2,660,700 million.
growth rate (2005): 0.5%.
Ethnic groups: African 90.9%, East Indian 1.3%, Chinese
0.2%, White 0.2%, mixed 7.3%, other 0.1%.
Religious affiliation: Anglican,
Baptist and other Protestant, Roman Catholic, Rastafarian, Jewish.
Education: Years compulsory--to age 14. Literacy
(age 15 and over)--79.9%.
Health (2005): Infant mortality rate--19.2/1,000.
Life expectancy--female 75 yrs., male 73 yrs.
Work force (2005, 1.19
million): Industry--17.8%; agriculture--21.4%; services--60.8%.
Independence: August 6, 1962.
Branches: Executive--Governor General (chief of state, representing
British monarch), prime minister, cabinet. Legislative--bicameral Parliament
(21 appointed senators, 60 elected representatives). Judicial--Court of
Appeal and courts of original jurisdiction.
Subdivisions: 14 parishes, 60 electoral
Political parties: People's National Party (PNP), Jamaica Labour
Party (JLP), National Democratic Movement (NDM), United Peoples Party (UPP).
Universal at 18.
(2005): $9.127 billion.
Real growth rate (2005): 1.5%.
Per capita GDP (2005):
Natural resources: Bauxite, gypsum, limestone.
bananas, coffee, citrus fruits, allspice.
bauxite and alumina, garment assembly, processed foods, sugar, rum, cement, metal,
Trade (2005): Exports--$1.53 billion: alumina, bauxite,
sugar, bananas, garments, citrus fruits and products, rum, coffee. Major markets
(2000 data)--U.S. 39.1%, U.K. 11.2%, Canada 10.2%, Netherlands 22.0%, Norway 9.1%,
CARICOM 3.7%, Japan 2.3%. Imports (2005)--$4.74 billion: machinery, transportation
and electrical equipment, food, fuels, fertilizer. Major suppliers (2000)--U.S.
44.8%, Trinidad and Tobago 10.0%, Japan 6.0%, U.K. 3.1%, Canada 3.1%, Mexico 4.8%,
AND HISTORY Sugar made Jamaica one of the most valuable possessions in the world
for more than 150 years. The British Parliament abolished slavery as of August
1, 1834. After a long period of direct British colonial rule, Jamaica gained a
degree of local political control in the late 1930s, and held its first election
under full universal adult suffrage in 1944. Jamaica joined nine other U.K. territories
in the West Indies Federation in 1958 but withdrew after Jamaican voters rejected
membership in 1961. Jamaica gained independence in 1962, remaining a member of
Arawaks from South America had settled in Jamaica prior to
Christopher Columbus' first arrival at the island in 1494. During Spain's occupation
of the island, starting in 1510, the Arawaks were exterminated by disease, slavery,
and war. Spain brought the first African slaves to Jamaica in 1517. In 1655, British
forces seized the island, and in 1670, Great Britain gained formal possession.
Historically, Jamaican emigration
has been heavy. Since the United Kingdom restricted emigration in 1967, the major
flow has been to the United States and Canada. About 20,000 Jamaicans emigrate
to the United States each year; another 200,000 visit annually. New York, Miami,
Chicago, and Hartford are among the U.S. cities with a significant Jamaican population.
Remittances from the expatriate communities in the United States, United Kingdom,
and Canada, estimated at up to $800 million per year, make increasingly significant
contributions to Jamaica's economy.
GOVERNMENTParliament is composed of an appointed Senate and an
elected House of Representatives. Thirteen Senators are nominated on the advice
of the prime minister and eight on the advice of the leader of the opposition.
General elections must be held within 5 years of the forming of a new government.
The prime minister may ask the governor general to call elections sooner, however.
The Senate may submit bills, and it also reviews legislation submitted by the
1962 constitution established a parliamentary system based on the U.K. model.
As chief of state, Queen Elizabeth II appoints a governor general, on the advice
of the prime minister, as her representative in Jamaica. The governor general's
role is largely ceremonial. Executive power is vested in the cabinet, led by the
It may not delay budget bills for more than
1 month or other bills for more than 7 months. The prime minister and the cabinet
are selected from the Parliament. No fewer than two or more than four members
of the cabinet must be selected from the Senate.
judiciary also is modeled on the U.K. system. The Court of Appeals is the highest
appellate court in Jamaica. Under certain circumstances, cases may be appealed
to the Privy Council of the United Kingdom. Jamaica's parishes have elected councils
that exercise limited powers of local government.
Governor General--Kenneth O. Hall
Prime Minister and Minister
of Defense--Portia Simpson Miller
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign
Trade--G. Anthony Hylton
Ambassador to the United States and the Organization
of American States (OAS)--Gordon Shirley
Ambassador to the United Nations--Raymond
Jamaica maintains an embassy in the United States at 1520 New Hampshire
Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036 (tel. 202-452-0660). It also has consulates in
New York at 767 3rd Avenue, New York, NY 10017 (tel. 212-935-9000); and in Miami
in the Ingraham Building, Suite 842, 25 SE 2nd Avenue, Miami, FL 33131 (tel. 305-374-8431/2).
Jamaica's political system is stable. However, the country's serious economic
problems have exacerbated social problems and have become the subject of political
debate. High unemployment--averaging 15.5%--rampant underemployment, growing debt,
and high interest rates are the most serious economic problems. Violent crime
is a serious problem, particularly in Kingston.
two major political parties have historical links with two large trade unions--the
Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) with the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) and
the People's National Party (PNP) with the National Workers Union (NWU). The center-right
National Democratic Movement (NDM) was established in 1995 and the populist United
Peoples Party (UPP) in 2001; neither has links with any particular trade union
and both are marginal movements. For health reasons, Michael Manley
stepped down as Prime Minister in March 1992 and was replaced by P.J. Patterson.
Patterson subsequently led the PNP to victory in general elections in 1993, 1997,
and in October of 2002. The 2002 victory marked the first time any Jamaican political
party has won four consecutive general elections since the introduction of universal
suffrage to Jamaica in 1944.
Upon Patterson’s retirement
on March 30, 2006, Portia Simpson Miller became the first female prime minister
in Jamaica’s history. The current composition of the lower house of Jamaica's
Parliament is 34 PNP and 26 JLP.
1993 elections, the Jamaican Government, political parties, and Electoral Advisory
Committee have worked to enact electoral reform. In the 2002 general elections,
grassroots Jamaican efforts from groups like CAFFE (Citizens Action for Free and
Fair Elections), supplemented by international observers and organizations such
as The Carter Center, helped reduce the violence that has tended to mar Jamaican
elections. Former President Carter also observed the 2002 elections and declared
them free and fair.
country faces some serious problems but has the potential for growth and modernization.
Despite over U.S. $4.4 billion in foreign direct investment over the past decade,
the economy remains relatively flat. After 4 years of negative economic growth,
Jamaica's GDP grew by 0.8% in 2000, and has grown in the 0.5% to 1.5% range, year-on-year,
since then. Inflation fell from 25% in 1995 to 6.1% in 2000 and 7.0% in 2001,
but has remained in the 10% range since then.
Jamaica has natural resources, primarily bauxite, adequate water supplies,
and climate conducive to agriculture and tourism. The discovery of bauxite in
the 1940s and the subsequent establishment of the bauxite-alumina industry shifted
Jamaica's economy from sugar and bananas. By the 1970s, Jamaica had emerged as
a world leader in export of these minerals as foreign investment increased.
periodic intervention in the market, the central bank prevents any abrupt drop
in the exchange rate. Nevertheless, the Jamaican dollar continues to slip despite
intervention, resulting in an average exchange rate of J$65.9 to the U.S. $1.00
by September 2006.
Weakness in the financial
sector, speculation, and low levels of government investment erode confidence
in the productive sector. The government is unable to channel funds into these
areas because of an overwhelming debt-to-GDP ratio, which currently stands at
approximately 135%. Over 70 cents on every dollar earned by the Jamaican government
goes to debt servicing and recurrent expenditure. Tax compliance rates also contribute
to the problem, hovering at approximately 45%. Net internal reserves, on the other
hand, remain healthy at $2.09 billion at the end of 2005.
Government economic policies encourage foreign investment in areas that earn or
save foreign exchange, generate employment, and use local raw materials. The government
provides a wide range of incentives to investors, including remittance facilities
to assist them in repatriating funds to the country of origin; tax holidays which
defer taxes for a period of years; and duty-free access for machinery and raw
materials imported for approved enterprises.
trade zones have stimulated investment in garment assembly, light manufacturing,
and data entry by foreign firms. However, over the last 5 years, the garment industry
has suffered from reduced export earnings, continued factory closures, and rising
unemployment. This can be attributed to intense international and regional competition,
exacerbated by the high costs of operations in Jamaica, including security costs
to deter drug activity, as well as the relatively high cost of labor. The Government
of Jamaica hopes to encourage economic activity through a combination of privatization,
financial sector restructuring, falling interest rates, and by boosting tourism
and related productive activities.
RELATIONS Historically, Jamaica has had close ties
with the U.K., but trade, financial, and cultural relations with the United States
are now predominant. Jamaica is linked with the other countries of the English-speaking
Caribbean through the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and more broadly through
the Association of Caribbean States (ACS). In December 2001, Jamaica completed
its 2-year term on the United Nations Security Council.
Jamaica has diplomatic relations with most nations and is a
member of the United Nations and the Organization of American States. It was an
active participant in the April 2001 Quebec Summit of the Americas. Jamaica is
an active member of the British Commonwealth, the Non-Aligned Movement, the G-15,
and the G-77. Jamaica is a beneficiary of the Cotonou Conventions, through which
the European Union (EU) grants trade preferences to selected states in Asia, the
Caribbean, and the Pacific.
RELATIONS The Government of
Jamaica also seeks to attract U.S. investment and supports efforts to create a
Free Trade Area of the Americans (FTAA). More than 80 U.S. firms have operations
in Jamaica, and total U.S. investment is estimated at more than $1 billion. An
office of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service, located in the embassy, actively
assists American businesses seeking trade opportunities in Jamaica. The country
is a beneficiary of the Caribbean Basin Trade Partner Act (CBTPA). The American
Chamber of Commerce, which also is available to assist U.S. business in Jamaica,
has offices in Kingston.
The United States maintains close and productive relations with
the Government of Jamaica. Former Prime Minister Patterson visited Washington,
DC, several times after assuming office in 1992. In April 2001, Prime Minister
Patterson and other Caribbean leaders met with President Bush during the Summit
of the Americas in Quebec, Canada, at which a "Third Border Initiative" was launched
to deepen U.S. cooperation with Caribbean nations and enhance economic development
and integration of the Caribbean nations. The United States is Jamaica's most
important trading partner: bilateral trade in goods in 2000 was almost $2 billion.
Jamaica is a popular destination for American tourists; more than 800,000 Americans
visited in 2000. In addition, some 10,000 American citizens, including many dual-nationals
born on the island, permanently reside in Jamaica.
Agency for International Development (USAID) assistance to Jamaica since its
independence in 1962 has contributed to reducing the population growth rate, the
attainment of higher standards in a number of critical health indicators, and
the diversification and expansion of Jamaica's export base. USAID's primary objective
is promoting sustainable economic growth. Other key objectives are improved environmental
quality and natural resource protection, strengthening democratic institutions
and respect for the rule of law, as well as family planning. In fiscal year 2002,
the USAID mission in Jamaica operated a program totaling more than $13 million
in development assistance.
The Peace Corps
has been in Jamaica continuously since 1962. Since then, more than 3,300 volunteers
have served in the country. Today, the Peace Corps works in the following projects:
Youth-at-Risk, which includes adolescent reproductive health, HIV/AIDS education,
and the needs of marginalized males; water sanitation, which includes rural waste
water solutions and municipal waste water treatment; and environmental education,
which helps address low levels of awareness and strengthens environmental nongovernmental
organizations. The Peace Corps in Jamaica fields about 70 volunteers who work
in every parish on the island, including some inner-city communities in Kingston.
Jamaica is a major transit point for South
American cocaine en route to the United States. It is also the largest Caribbean
producer and exporter of marijuana. A significant increase in cocaine flow through
Jamaica was observed during 2001. Jamaica is the embarkation point for the largest
number of passengers arrested on drug charges at U.S. airports. U.S. assistance
has played a vital role in stemming the flow of drugs to the United States. In
fiscal year 2001, the Jamaican Government seized over 1,700 kilograms of cocaine.
Several large seizures in late 2001 contributed to a doubling of interdicted cocaine
during calendar year 2001 over 2000. The Jamaican Government eradicated 436 hectares
of marijuana in 2001, nearly 800 hectares short of its 1,200 hectare goal. Authorities
also seized and destroyed 72.6 metric tons of marijuana in 2001, a sizable increase
over 2000. Over 7,450 drug arrests were made in 2001, including 415 foreigners.
A bilateral maritime interdiction cooperation agreement is facilitating U.S. Coast
Guard and Jamaican military coordination.
Ambassador--Brenda La Grange
Deputy Chief of Mission--James T. Heg
Chief--Lloyd W. Moss
USAID Mission Director--Karen Turner
Chief, Military Liaison Office--Lt. Cdr. John Merli
Public Affairs Officer--Glenn Guimond
Embassy in Jamaica is at 142 Old Hope Road, Kingston 6; tel: (876) 702-6000;
fax: (876) 702-6001.
The USAID Mission
is at 2 Haining Road, Kingston (tel. 876-926-3645). The Peace Corps is at 8 Worthington
Avenue, Kingston 5 (tel. 876-929-0495). Log onto the Internet at http://kingston.usembassy.gov/
for more information about Jamaica, the U.S. Embassy and its activities, and current
U.S. Department of Commerce
Trade Information Center
14th and Constitution Avenue,
Washington, DC 20230
Tel: 800-USA-TRADE or 800-872-8723
Chamber of Commerce of Jamaica
The Jamaica Pegasus
81 Knutsford Blvd
Tel: (876) 929-7866/67
Fax: (876) 929-8597
Web site: http://www.amchamjamaica.org/
1818 N Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
Fax: (202) 822-0075
Web site: http://www.c-caa.org/
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