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  Introduction Back To Top

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, and 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 Back To Top

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 0.41 cu km/yr (34%/17%/49%)
per capita: 155 cu m/yr (2000)

Total renewable water resources:
9.4 cu km (2000)

Land boundaries:
0 km

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

tropical; hot, humid; temperate interior

Map references:
Central America and the Caribbean

Geographic coordinates:
18 15 N, 77 30 W

Natural resources:
bauxite, gypsum, limestone

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Blue Mountain Peak 2,256 m

mostly mountains, with narrow, discontinuous coastal plain

Geography - note:
strategic location between Cayman Trench and Jamaica Channel, the main sea lanes for the Panama Canal

total: 10,991 sq km
land: 10,831 sq km
water: 160 sq km

Caribbean, island in the Caribbean Sea, south of Cuba

1,022 km

Area - comparative:
slightly smaller than Connecticut

Irrigated land:
250 sq km (2002)

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

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

Natural hazards:
hurricanes (especially July to November)

Land use:
arable land: 15.83%
permanent crops: 10.01%
other: 74.16% (2005)

  People Back To Top

Total fertility rate:
2.3 children born/woman (2008 est.)

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 (2008 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
1.2% (2003 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
22,000 (2003 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 73.59 years
male: 71.88 years
female: 75.38 years (2008 est.)

definition: age 15 and over has ever attended school
total population: 87.9%
male: 84.1%
female: 91.6% (2003 est.)

Net migration rate:
-5.88 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Ethnic groups:
black 91.2%, mixed 6.2%, other or unknown 2.6% (2001 census)

Median age:
total: 23.4 years
male: 22.9 years
female: 24 years (2008 est.)

2,804,332 (July 2008 est.)

Education expenditures:
5.3% of GDP (2005)

Population growth rate:
0.779% (2008 est.)

English, English patois

Death rate:
6.37 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Infant mortality rate:
total: 15.57 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 16.19 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 14.92 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:
900 (2003 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 12 years
male: 11 years
female: 12 years (2003)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 32% (male 455,871/female 440,928)
15-64 years: 60.6% (male 837,241/female 861,906)
65 years and over: 7.4% (male 93,415/female 114,971) (2008 est.)

Birth rate:
20.04 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)

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)

noun: Jamaican(s)
adjective: Jamaican

  Government Back To Top

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Brenda LaGrange JOHNSON
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

National holiday:
Independence Day, 6 August (1962)

18 years of age; universal

Government type:
constitutional parliamentary democracy

Political pressure groups and leaders:
New Beginnings Movement or NBM; Rastafarians (black religious/racial cultists, pan-Africanists)

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Anthony JOHNSON
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

International organization participation:

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 are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 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

Legal system:
based on English common law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Flag description:
diagonal yellow cross divides the flag into four triangles - green (top and bottom) and black (hoist side and outer side)

6 August 1962 (from UK)

Country name (Goverment):
conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Jamaica

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]

name: Kingston
geographic coordinates: 18 00 N, 76 48 W
time difference: UTC-5 (same time as Washington, DC during Standard Time)

6 August 1962

Executive branch:
chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor General Kenneth O. HALL (since 15 February 2006)
head of government: Prime Minister Bruce GOLDING (since 11 September 2007)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister
elections: the monarch 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; the deputy prime minister is recommended by the prime minister

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

Judicial branch:
Supreme Court (judges appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister); Court of Appeal

  Economy Back To Top

Exports - partners:
US 37.2%, Canada 15%, UK 9.7%, Netherlands 9.1% (2007)

Electricity - consumption:
6.1 billion kWh (2006 est.)

Central bank discount rate:

Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2007 est.)

Current account balance:
-$2.448 billion (2008 est.)

Debt - external:
$10.38 billion (31 December 2008 est.)

Unemployment rate:
10.1% (2008 est.)

Oil - exports:
1,535 bbl/day (2005)

GDP - per capita (PPP):
$7,700 (2008 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):
34.9% of GDP (2008 est.)

Stock of domestic credit:
$6.609 billion (31 December 2007)

GDP (purchasing power parity):
$21.57 billion (2008 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):
$13.47 billion (2008 est.)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:
45.5 (2004)

Exchange rates:
Jamaican dollars (JMD) per US dollar - 72.236 (2008 est.), 69.034 (2007), 65.768 (2006), 62.51 (2005), 61.197 (2004)

GDP - real growth rate:
0.8% (2008 est.)

Stock of money:
$1.369 billion (31 December 2007)

Labor force:
1.261 million (2008 est.)

Imports - partners:
US 37.2%, Trinidad and Tobago 14.5%, Grenada 9.7%, Venezuela 8.3%, Brazil 4.2% (2007)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):
22.5% (2008 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 5.2%
industry: 32.9%
services: 61.8% (2008 est.)

Oil - imports:
71,280 bbl/day (2005)

$2.569 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.)

Natural gas - consumption:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

Currency (code):
Jamaican dollar (JMD)

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 20% of GDP and are equivalent to tourism revenues. Jamaica's economy, already saddled with the lowest economic growth in Latin America, will face increasing difficulties as the global economy slows. The economy faces serious long-term problems: a sizable merchandise trade deficit, large-scale unemployment and underemployment, and a debt-to-GDP ratio of almost 130%. Jamaica's onerous debt burden - the fourth highest per capita - is the result of government bailouts to ailing sectors of the economy, most notably the financial sector in the mid-to-late 1990s, and hinders government spending on infrastructure and social programs as debt servicing accounts for nearly half of government expenditures. Inflation rose sharply in 2008 as a result of high prices for imported food and oil and should fall in 2009 with the decline in international oil prices. High unemployment exacerbates the serious crime problem, including gang violence that is fueled by the drug trade. The GOLDING administration faces the difficult prospect of having to achieve fiscal discipline in order to maintain debt payments while simultaneously attacking a serious and growing crime problem that is hampering economic growth.

Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

Imports - commodities:
food and other consumer goods, industrial supplies, fuel, parts and accessories of capital goods, machinery and transport equipment, construction materials

tourism, bauxite/alumina, agro processing, light manufactures, rum, cement, metal, paper, chemical products, telecommunications

Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2007 est.)

Population below poverty line:
14.8% (2003 est.)

Commercial bank prime lending rate:
17.2% (31 December 2007)

Stock of quasi money:
$4.54 billion (31 December 2007)

Electricity - production:
7.04 billion kWh (2006 est.)

$7.191 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.)

Oil - proved reserves:
0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 17%
industry: 19%
services: 64% (2006)

Natural gas - proved reserves:
0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$2.05 billion (31 December 2008 est.)

Oil - consumption:
73,370 bbl/day (2006 est.)

Public debt:
124.1% of GDP (2008 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares:
$12.33 billion (31 December 2007)

Currency code:

Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2.1%
highest 10%: 35.8% (2004)

Exports - commodities:
alumina, bauxite, sugar, rum, coffee, yams, beverages, chemicals, wearing apparel, mineral fuels

Economic aid - recipient:
$35.74 million (2005)

Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 96.8%
hydro: 1.8%
nuclear: 0%
other: 1.4% (2001)

Natural gas - imports:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

revenues: $4.166 billion
expenditures: $4.838 billion (2008 est.)

Fiscal year:
1 April - 31 March

Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2005 est.)

  Communications Back To Top

Internet users:
1.5 million (2007)

Telephones - main lines in use:
342,000 (2006)

460,000 (1997)

Internet country code:

Radio broadcast stations:
AM 10, FM 13, shortwave 0 (1998)

1.215 million (1997)

Telephones - mobile cellular:
2.495 million (2006)

Television broadcast stations:
7 (1997)

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 now exceeds 100 per 100 persons
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) (2006)

Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
21 (2000)

Internet hosts:
1,292 (2008)

  Transportation Back To Top

Ports and terminals:
Kingston, Port Esquivel, Port Kaiser, Port Rhoades, Rocky Point

Merchant marine:
total: 20
by type: bulk carrier 6, cargo 6, carrier 1, container 4, roll on/roll off 3
foreign-owned: 17 (Denmark 2, Germany 4, Greece 6, Hong Kong 1, Latvia 1, Russia 3) (2008)

Airports - with paved runways:
total: 11
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 4
under 914 m: 5 (2007)

total: 21,552 km
paved: 15,937 km (includes 33 km of expressways)
unpaved: 5,615 km (2005)

Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 23
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 21 (2007)

34 (2007)

  Military Back To Top

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: 688,480
females age 16-49: 709,548 (2008 est.)

Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 566,477
females age 16-49: 583,075 (2008 est.)

Military branches:
Jamaica Defense Force: Ground Forces, Coast Guard, Air Wing (2007)

Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 32,000
female: 31,428 (2008 est.)

Military expenditures:
0.6% of GDP (2006 est.)

  Transnational Issues Back To Top

Disputes - international:

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

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