CIA Handbook on Jamaica   Jamaica in Wikipedia

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Government of Jamaica

One Song - Bob Marley - Jamiaca's Renown Raggae Singer

Jamaica: The Road to Sustained Growth

Security Issues Most security issues relate to rival gangs affiliated with the major political parties which have evolved into powerful organized crime networks involved in international drug smuggling and money laundering.
Economic Prosperity

Jamaica is a mixed, free-market economy with state enterprises as well as private sector businesses. Major sectors of the Jamaican economy include agriculture, mining, manufacturing, tourism and financial and insurance services. Tourism and mining are the leading foreign exchange earners.

Supported by multilateral financial institutions, Jamaica has, since the early 1980s, sought to implement structural reforms aimed at fostering private sector activity and increasing the role of market forces in resource allocation. Since 1991, the Government has followed a programme of economic liberalization and stabilization by removing exchange controls, floating the exchange rate, cutting tariffs, stabilising the Jamaican currency, reducing inflation and removing restrictions on foreign investment. Emphasis has been placed on maintaining strict fiscal discipline, greater openness to trade and financial flows, market liberalisation and reduction in the size of government. During this period, a large share of the economy was returned to private sector ownership through divestment and privatisation programmes.

The macroeconomic stabilisation programme introduced in 1991, which focused on tight fiscal and monetary policies, has contributed to a controlled reduction in the rate of inflation. The annual inflation rate has decreased from a high of 80.2% in 1991 to 7.9% in 1998. inflation for FY1998/99 was 6.2% compared to 7.2% in the corresponding period in CUU1997/98. The Government remains committed to lowering inflation, with a long-term objective of bringing it in line with that of its major trading partners. After a period of steady growth from 1985 to 1995, real GDP decreased by 1.8% and 2.4% in 1996 and 1997, respectively. The decrease in GDP in 1996 and 1997 was largely due to significant problems in the financial sector and, in 1997, a severe island-wide drought (the worst in 70 years) that drastically reduced agricultural production.

The economy in 1997 was marked by low levels of import growth, high levels of private capital inflows and relative stability in the foreign exchange market.

Recent economic performance shows the Jamaican economy is recovering. Agricultural Production, an important engine of growth increased 15.3% in third quarter of 1998 compared to the corresponding period in 1997, signaling the first positive growth rate in the sector since January 1997. Bauxite and alumina production increased 5.5% from January to December, 1998 compared to the corresponding period in 1997. January's bauxite production recorded a 7.1% increase relative to January 1998 and continued expansion of alumina production through 2009 is planned by Alcoa , which is the largest foreign exchange earner, showed improvement as well. In the third quarter of 1998, growth in tourist arrivals accelerated with an overall increase of 8.5% in tourism earnings in 1998 when compared to the corresponding period in 1997.

Jamaica has a wide variety of industrial and commercial activities. The aviation industry is able to perform most routine aircraft maintenance, except for heavy structural repairs. There is a considerable amount of technical support for transport and agricultural aviation. Jamaica has a considerable amount of industrial engineering, light manufacturing, including metal fabrication, metal roofing, and furniture manufacturing. Food and beverage processing, glassware manufacturing, computer software and data processing, printing and publishing, insurance underwriting, music and recording, and advanced education activities can be found in the larger urban areas. The Jamaican construction industry is entirely self-sufficient, with professional technical standards and guidance.

Since the first quarter of 2006, the economy of Jamaica has undergone a period of staunch growth. With inflation for the 2006 calendar year down to 6.0% and unemployment down to 8.9%, the nominal GDP grew by an unprecedented 2.9%. An investment programme in island transportation and utility infrastructure and gains in the tourism, mining, and service sectors all contributed this figure. All projections for 2007 show an even higher potential for economic growth with all estimates over 3.0% and hampered only by urban crime and public policies.

In 2006, Jamaica became part of the Caribbean Community CARICOM).ARICOM Single Market and Economy and Single Market and Economy(CSME) as one of the pioneering members.

International Trade

Exports: (1999) 1,238 billion $ (Natural resources: 55.7%, Food 19.1%, Bananas 4%, Chemicals 3.6%, Machinery 2.2%). The main export countries: USA 33.4% , United Kingdom 13.4%, France 5%, Germany 4%, Canada 14.1%, Netherlands 10.2%, Norway 5.8%, Japan 2.3%. Imports: (1999) 2,89 billion $ (Energy 50.5%, Machinery and Equipment 7.6%, Consumer goods 33.2%). The main import countries: USA 48.1%, Trinidad and Tobago 7.8%, Japan 6.9%, United Kingdom 3.7%, France 5%, Canada 3%. Exports and Imports (January 2007) Exports : (January 2007) Total Goods Exports 166,495 (US$000) (General Merchandise Exports 93.4%, Freezone Exports 2.6%, Goods Procured in Ports 4.0%) Imports: (January 2007) : Total Goods Import 511,015 (US$000); General Merchandise Imports 97.8%, Freezone Imports 0.3%, Goods Procured in Ports 1.8%)

World Trade Organizations Negotiations

From Website of Jamiaca Foreign Affairs: Following five years of negotiations, the Doha Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations were suspended on 24 July 2006, (approximately five months before it was schedule to conclude) after it became clear that deep divisions persisted among members on the extent to which farm subsidies and tariffs should be cut and the degree to which developing countries would be expected to further liberalise their markets to industrial products from developed countries.  The Round, which was launched in November 2001, has been characterised by several setbacks including missed deadlines on modalities (the methodology for tariff reduction) in Agriculture and Non- agricultural market access (NAMA) which are seen as the underpinnings of the Round.  Progress in other areas of the Round hinges on progress in Agriculture and NAMA.

The suspension of the Round has cast doubt on the Organisation’s ability to deliver on its development promises.    It can be argued the most striking feature of the Round so far has been the sidelining of the development components of the Doha Work Programme (both in terms of the mandate on S&DT and development as a crosscutting issue in all areas of the negotiation), and the pressure exerted on developing countries to make concessions that go beyond their means and capacities. Developing countries are being asked to make concessions in both the agriculture and NAMA negotiations with respect to tariff cuts which would put at risk the viability of their rural areas, jeopardise their food security and the livelihood of millions of poor farmers and exacerbate deindustrialisation and unemployment in the developing world. 

There are various speculations that it will not resume before the year end since divergences remain among members on agriculture and NAMA. 

Jamaica has used the current hiatus to emphasise that here should be:

  • no roll-back on the agreements struck at Hong Kong on issues of interests such as Special products; SSM; long- standing preferences; preference erosion in Agriculture; flexibilities for Small, Vulnerable Economies in NAMA
  • no lowering of ambitions on the development dimension and that core negotiating issues of development importance should be addressed meaningfully.
Military /Armaments The Jamaica Defence Force JDF) is the small but professional military force of Jamaica. Once chosen, officer candidates are sent to one of several British or Canadian basic officer courses depending upon which arm of service they are selected for. The Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) comprises an infantry Regiment and Reserve Corps, an Air Wing, a Coast Guard fleet and a supporting Engineering Unit. The Coast Guard conducts maritime safety and maritime law enforcement as well as defence-related operations. In recent years the JDF has been called upon to assist the nation's police, the Jamaica Constabulary Force(JCF) in fighting drug smuggling and a rising crime rate which includes one of the highest murder rates in the world. JDF units actively conduct armed patrols with the JCF in high-crime areas and known gang neighbourhoods. There has been vocal controversy as well as support of this JDF role.