Area: 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).
Terrain: Mountainous, coastal plains.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Jamaican(s).
Population (2000): 2.65 million.
Annual growth rate (2000): 0.6%.
Ethnic groups: African 90.9%, East Indian 1.3%,
Chinese 0.2%, White 0.2%, mixed 7.3%, other
Religious affiliation: Anglican, Baptist and
other Protestant, Roman Catholic, Rastafarian,
Languages: English, Patois.
Education: Years compulsory--to age 14.
Literacy (age 15 and over)--79.9%.
Health (2000): Infant mortality rate--24.5/1,000.
Life expectancy--female 75 yrs., male
Work force (2000, 1.1 million): Industry--17.8%;
Type: Constitutional parliamentary
Independence: August 6, 1962.
Constitution: 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
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
GDP (2002): $7.335 billion.
Real growth rate (2002): 1.0%.
Per capita GDP (2001): $2,771.
Natural resources: Bauxite, gypsum, limestone.
Agriculture: Products--sugar, bananas,
coffee, citrus fruits, allspice.
Industry: Types--tourism, bauxite and
alumina, garment assembly, processed foods,
sugar, rum, cement, metal, chemical products.
Trade (2002): Exports--$1.14 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
(2000)--$3.191 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%,
PEOPLE AND HISTORY
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.
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 the Commonwealth.
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
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 prime minister.
Parliament 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 House.
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 nor more than
four members of the cabinet must be selected
from the Senate.
The 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.
Principal Government Officials
Governor General--Kenneth O. Hall
Prime Minister and Minister of Defense--Portia
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign
Trade--G. Anthony Hylton
Ambassador to the United States and the
Organization of American States (OAS)--Gordon
Ambassador to the United Nations--Stafford Neil
Jamaica maintains an
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
underemployment, growing debt, and high interest
rates are the most serious economic problems.
Violent crime is a serious problem, particularly
in Kingston. The 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.
Since the 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.
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.
The country faces some serious problems but
has the potential for growth and modernization.
After 4 years of negative economic growth,
Jamaica's GDP grew by 0.8% in 2000. Inflation
fell from 25% in 1995 to 6.1% in 2000 and 7.0%
in 2001. Through periodic intervention in the
market, the central bank prevented any abrupt
drop in the exchange rate. The Jamaican dollar
continued to slip despite intervention,
resulting in an average exchange rate of J$47.4
to the U.S.$1.00 by December 2001.
Weakness in the financial sector,
speculation, and low levels of investment erode
confidence in the productive sector. The
government raised $3.6 billion in new sovereign
debt in local and international financial
markets in 2001. This was used to meet its U.S.
dollar debt obligations, to mop up liquidity to
maintain the exchange rate, and to help fund the
current budget deficit. Net internal reserves
rose from $969.5 million at the beginning of
2001 to $1.8 billion at the end of the year.
Jamaican 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. Free 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. 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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Principal U.S. Officials
La Grange Johnson
Deputy Chief of Mission--Thomas "Cliff" Tighe
Economic/Political Section Chief--Mark J. Powell
USAID Mission Director--Karen Turner
Defense Attache--Cdr. Martin Hundley, USN
Chief, Military Liaison Office--Lt. Col. Vincent
Consul General--Ronald Robinson
Public Affairs Officer--Glenn Guimond
Peace Corps Director--Suchet Loois
U.S. Embassy in Jamaica is at 2 Oxford Road,
Jamaica Mutual Life Center, Kingston (tel.
876-929-4850 or 876-935-6000). The Consular
section is at 16 Oxford Road, Kingston (tel.
876-929-4850 or 876-935-6000). The USAID Mission
is at 2 Haining Road, Kingston (tel.
876-926-3645). The Peace Corps is at 1A Holborn
Road, Kingston (tel. 876-929-0495). Log onto the
http://kingston.usembassy.gov/ for more
information about Jamaica, the U.S. Embassy and
its activities, and current contact information.