Introduction    Jamaica Top of Page
The island - discovered by Christopher COLUMBUS in 1494 - was settled by the Spanish early in the 16th century. The native Taino Indians, who had inhabited Jamaica for centuries, were gradually exterminated and replaced by African slaves. England seized the island in 1655 and established a plantation economy based on sugar, cocoa, and coffee. The abolition of slavery in 1834 freed a quarter million slaves, many of whom became small farmers. Jamaica gradually obtained increasing independence from Britain. In 1958 it joined other British Caribbean colonies in forming the Federation of the West Indies. Jamaica gained full independence when it withdrew from the Federation in 1962. Deteriorating economic conditions during the 1970s led to recurrent violence as rival gangs affiliated with the major political parties evolved into powerful organized crime networks involved in international drug smuggling and money laundering. Violent crime, drug trafficking, and poverty pose significant challenges to the government today. Nonetheless, many rural and resort areas remain relatively safe and contribute substantially to the economy.
   Geography    Jamaica Top of Page
Caribbean, island in the Caribbean Sea, south of Cuba
Geographic coordinates:
18 15 N, 77 30 W
Map references:
Central America and the Caribbean
total: 10,991 sq km
land: 10,831 sq km
water: 160 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly smaller than Connecticut
Land boundaries:
0 km
1,022 km
Maritime claims:

measured from claimed archipelagic straight baselines
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to edge of the continental margin
tropical; hot, humid; temperate interior
mostly mountains, with narrow, discontinuous coastal plain
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Blue Mountain Peak 2,256 m
Natural resources:
bauxite, gypsum, limestone
Land use:
arable land: 15.83%
permanent crops: 10.01%
other: 74.16% (2005)
Irrigated land:
250 sq km (2008)
Total renewable water resources:
9.4 cu km (2000)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 0.41 cu km/yr (34%/17%/49%)
per capita: 155 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards:
hurricanes (especially July to November)
Environment - current issues:
heavy rates of deforestation; coastal waters polluted by industrial waste, sewage, and oil spills; damage to coral reefs; air pollution in Kingston results from vehicle emissions
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note:
strategic location between Cayman Trench and Jamaica Channel, the main sea lanes for the Panama Canal
   People    Jamaica Top of Page
2,868,380 (July 2011 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 30.1% (male 438,888/female 424,383)
15-64 years: 62.3% (male 882,548/female 904,242)
65 years and over: 7.6% (male 97,717/female 120,602) (2011 est.)
Median age:
total: 24.2 years
male: 23.7 years
female: 24.7 years (2011 est.)
Population growth rate:
0.733% (2011 est.)
Birth rate:
19.2 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)
Death rate:
6.54 deaths/1,000 population (July 2011 est.)
Net migration rate:
-5.34 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)
urban population: 52% of total population (2010)
rate of urbanization: 0.6% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
Major cities - population:
KINGSTON (capital) 580,000 (2009)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.97 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.81 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2011 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 14.6 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 15.18 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 14 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 73.45 years
male: 71.79 years
female: 75.19 years (2011 est.)
Total fertility rate:
2.17 children born/woman (2011 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
1.7% (2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
32,000 (2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
1,200 (2009 est.)
Drinking water source:

urban: 98% of population
rural: 89% of population
total: 94% of population
urban: 2% of population
rural: 11% of population
total: 6% of population (2008)
Sanitation facility access:

urban: 82% of population
rural: 84% of population
total: 83% of population
urban: 18% of population
rural: 16% of population
total: 17% of population (2008)
noun: Jamaican(s)
adjective: Jamaican
Ethnic groups:
black 91.2%, mixed 6.2%, other or unknown 2.6% (2001 census)
Protestant 62.5% (Seventh-Day Adventist 10.8%, Pentecostal 9.5%, Other Church of God 8.3%, Baptist 7.2%, New Testament Church of God 6.3%, Church of God in Jamaica 4.8%, Church of God of Prophecy 4.3%, Anglican 3.6%, other Christian 7.7%), Roman Catholic 2.6%, other or unspecified 14.2%, none 20.9%, (2001 census)
English, English patois
definition: age 15 and over has ever attended school
total population: 87.9%
male: 84.1%
female: 91.6% (2003 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 14 years
male: 13 years
female: 15 years (2008)
Education expenditures:
5.8% of GDP (2009)
   Government    Jamaica Top of Page
Country name:
conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Jamaica
Government type:
constitutional parliamentary democracy and a Commonwealth realm
name: Kingston
geographic coordinates: 18 00 N, 76 48 W
time difference: UTC-5 (same time as Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions:
14 parishes; Clarendon, Hanover, Kingston, Manchester, Portland, Saint Andrew, Saint Ann, Saint Catherine, Saint Elizabeth, Saint James, Saint Mary, Saint Thomas, Trelawny, Westmoreland
note: for local government purposes, Kingston and Saint Andrew were amalgamated in 1923 into the present single corporate body known as the Kingston and Saint Andrew Corporation
6 August 1962 (from the UK)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 6 August (1962)
6 August 1962
Legal system:
common law system based on the English model
International law organization participation:
has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor General Dr. Patrick L. ALLEN (since 26 February 2009)
head of government: Prime Minister Bruce GOLDING (since 11 September 2007)
cabinet: Cabinet is appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister
(For more information visit the World Leaders website )
elections: the monarchy is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch on the recommendation of the prime minister; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition in the House of Representatives is appointed prime minister by the governor general
Legislative branch:
bicameral Parliament consists of the Senate (a 21-member body appointed by the governor general on the recommendations of the prime minister and the leader of the opposition; ruling party is allocated 13 seats, and the opposition is allocated 8 seats) and the House of Representatives (60 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held on 3 September 2007 (next to be held no later than October 2012)
election results: percent of vote by party - JLP 50.1%, PNP 49.8%; seats by party - JLP 33, PNP 27
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court (judges appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister); Court of Appeal; Privy Council in UK; member of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ)
Political parties and leaders:
Jamaica Labor Party or JLP [Bruce GOLDING]; People's National Party or PNP [Portia SIMPSON-MILLER]; National Democratic Movement or NDM [Michael WILLIAMS]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
New Beginnings Movement or NBM; Rastafarians (black religious/racial cultists, pan-Africanists)
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Audrey P. MARKS
chancery: 1520 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036
telephone: [1] (202) 452-0660
FAX: [1] (202) 452-0081
consulate(s) general: Miami, New York
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Pamela BRIDGEWATER
embassy: 142 Old Hope Road, Kingston 6
mailing address: P.O. Box 541, Kingston 5
telephone: [1] (876) 702-6000
FAX: [1] (876) 702-6001
Flag description:
diagonal yellow cross divides the flag into four triangles - green (top and bottom) and black (hoist side and outer side); green represents hope, vegetation, and agriculture, black reflects hardships overcome and to be faced, and yellow recalls golden sunshine and the island's natural resources
National anthem:

name: "Jamaica, Land We Love"
lyrics/music: Hugh Braham SHERLOCK/Robert Charles LIGHTBOURNE
note: adopted 1962
   Economy    Jamaica Top of Page
Economy - overview:
The Jamaican economy is heavily dependent on services, which now account for more than 60% of GDP. The country continues to derive most of its foreign exchange from tourism, remittances, and bauxite/alumina. Remittances account for nearly 15% of GDP and exports of bauxite and alumina make up about 10%. The bauxite/alumina sector was most affected by the global downturn while the tourism industry was resilient, experiencing an increase of 4% in tourist arrivals. Tourism revenues account for roughly 10% of GDP, and both arrivals and revenues grew in 2010, up 4% and 6% respectively. The Economic growth faces many challenges: high crime and corruption, large-scale unemployment and underemployment, and a debt-to-GDP ratio of more than 120%. Jamaica's onerous public debt burden - the fourth highest in the world on a per capita basis - is the result of government bailouts to ailing sectors of the economy, most notably to the financial sector in the mid-to-late 1990s. In early 2010, the Jamaican government created the Jamaica Debt Exchange (JDX) in order to retire high-priced domestic bonds and significantly reduce annual debt servicing. The Government of Jamaica signed a $1.27 billion, 27-month Standby Agreement with the International Monetary Fund for balance of payment support in February 2010. Other multilaterals have also provided millions of dollars in loans and grants. Despite the improvement, debt servicing costs still hinder the government's ability to spend on infrastructure and social programs, particularly as job losses rise in a shrinking economy. The GOLDING administration faces the difficult prospect of having to achieve fiscal discipline in order to maintain debt payments, while simultaneously attacking a serious crime problem that is hampering economic growth. High unemployment exacerbates the crime problem, including gang violence that is fueled by the drug trade.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$23.72 billion (2010 est.)
$23.99 billion (2009 est.)
$24.74 billion (2008 est.)
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate):
$13.69 billion (2010 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
-1.1% (2010 est.)
-3% (2009 est.)
-0.9% (2008 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$8,300 (2010 est.)
$8,500 (2009 est.)
$8,800 (2008 est.)
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 5.8%
industry: 30%
services: 64.3% (2010 est.)
Labor force:
1.317 million (2010 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 17%
industry: 19%
services: 64% (2006)
Unemployment rate:
12.9% (2010 est.) 11.4% (2009 est.)
Population below poverty line:
16.5% (2009 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2.1%
highest 10%: 35.8% (2004)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
45.5 (2004) 37.9 (2000)
Investment (gross fixed):
20.4% of GDP (2010 est.)
revenues: $3.607 billion
expenditures: $4.458 billion (2010 est.)
Taxes and other revenues:
26.3% of GDP (2010 est.)
Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-):
-6.2% of GDP (2010 est.)
Public debt:
126.5% of GDP (2010 est.) 129.7% of GDP (2009 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
12.6% (2010 est.) 9.6% (2009 est.)
Central bank discount rate:
Commercial bank prime lending rate:
16% (31 December 2010 est.) 16.43% (31 December 2009 est.)
Stock of narrow money:
$1.432 billion (31 December 2010 est.) $1.371 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
Stock of broad money:
$5.782 billion (31 December 2010 est.) $5.472 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
Stock of domestic credit:
$7.244 billion (31 December 2010 est.) $7.165 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares:
$6.201 billion (31 December 2009) $7.513 billion (31 December 2008) $12.33 billion (31 December 2007)
Agriculture - products:
sugarcane, bananas, coffee, citrus, yams, ackees, vegetables; poultry, goats, milk; crustaceans, mollusks
tourism, bauxite/alumina, agro processing, light manufactures, rum, cement, metal, paper, chemical products, telecommunications
Industrial production growth rate:
-2% (2010 est.)
Electricity - production:
7.324 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - consumption:
6.345 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2008 est.)
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2008 est.)
Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - consumption:
77,000 bbl/day (2009 est.)
Oil - exports:
0 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - imports:
77,720 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - proved reserves:
0 bbl (1 January 2010 est.)
Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - imports:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - proved reserves:
0 cu m (1 January 2010 est.)
Current account balance:
-$986.5 million (2010 est.) -$1.126 billion (2009 est.)
$1.376 billion (2010 est.) $1.388 billion (2009 est.)
Exports - commodities:
alumina, bauxite, sugar, rum, coffee, yams, beverages, chemicals, wearing apparel, mineral fuels
Exports - partners:
US 49.4%, Canada 10%, UK 9.9% (2009)
$4.581 billion (2010 est.) $4.476 billion (2009 est.)
Imports - commodities:
food and other consumer goods, industrial supplies, fuel, parts and accessories of capital goods, machinery and transport equipment, construction materials
Imports - partners:
US 37.3%, Venezuela 12.6%, Trinidad and Tobago 12.5%, China 4.6% (2009)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$2.171 billion (31 December 2010 est.) $2.076 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
Debt - external:
$12.57 billion (31 December 2010 est.) $10.77 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
Exchange rates:
Jamaican dollars (JMD) per US dollar -87.41 (2010),87.89 (2009),72.236 (2008),69.034 (2007),65.768 (2006)
   Communications    Jamaica Top of Page
Telephones - main lines in use:
302,300 (2009)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
2.971 million (2009)
Telephone system:
general assessment: fully automatic domestic telephone network
domestic: the 1999 agreement to open the market for telecommunications services resulted in rapid growth in mobile-cellular telephone usage while the number of fixed-lines in use has declined; combined mobile-cellular teledensity exceeded 110 per 100 persons in 2009
international: country code - 1-876; the Fibralink submarine cable network provides enhanced delivery of business and broadband traffic and is linked to the Americas Region Caribbean Ring System (ARCOS-1) submarine cable in the Dominican Republic; the link to ARCOS-1 provides seamless connectivity to US, parts of the Caribbean, Central America, and South America; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) (2008)
Broadcast media:
privately-owned Radio Jamaica Limited and its subsidiaries operate multiple television stations, subscription cable services, and radio stations; 2 other privately-owned television stations broadcast; roughly 70 radio stations (2007)
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 10, FM 13, shortwave 0 (1998)
Television broadcast stations:
7 (1997)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
3,099 (2010)
Internet users:
1.581 million (2009)
   Transportation    Jamaica Top of Page
27 (2010)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 12
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 3
under 914 m: 7 (2010)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 15
under 914 m: 15 (2010)
total: 21,552 km
paved: 15,937 km (includes 33 km of expressways)
unpaved: 5,615 km (2005)
Merchant marine:
total: 19
by type: bulk carrier 9, cargo 5, container 4, roll on/roll off 1
foreign-owned: 19 (Denmark 1, Germany 10, Greece 8) (2010)
Ports and terminals:
Discovery Bay (Port Rhoades), Kingston, Montego Bay, Port Antonio, Port Esquivel, Port Kaiser, Rocky Point
   Military    Jamaica Top of Page
Military branches:
Jamaica Defense Force: Ground Forces, Coast Guard, Air Wing (2010)
Military service age and obligation:
18 years of age for voluntary military service; younger recruits may be conscripted with parental consent (2001)
Manpower available for military service:
males age 16-49: 726,263
females age 16-49: 742,958 (2010 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 590,673
females age 16-49: 596,414 (2010 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 33,369
female: 32,702 (2010 est.)
Military expenditures:
0.6% of GDP (2006 est.)
   Transnational Issues    Jamaica Top of Page
Illicit drugs:
transshipment point for cocaine from South America to North America and Europe; illicit cultivation and consumption of cannabis; government has an active manual cannabis eradication program; corruption is a major concern; substantial money-laundering activity; Colombian narcotics traffickers favor Jamaica for illicit financial transactions

This page was last updated on 14 May 2009


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