Flag of Jamaica

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Jamaica gained full independence within the British Commonwealth in 1962. Deteriorating economic conditions during the 1970s led to recurrent violence and a drop off in tourism. Elections in 1980 saw the democratic socialists voted out of office. Political violence marred elections during the 1990s.


Caribbean, island in the Caribbean Sea, south of Cuba

Geographic coordinates:

18 15 N, 77 30 W


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

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 (2002)

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

Geography - note:

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


2,758,124 (July 2006 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 33.1% (male 464,297/female 449,181)
15-64 years: 59.6% (male 808,718/female 835,394)
65 years and over: 7.3% (male 90,100/female 110,434) (2006 est.)

Median age:

total: 23 years
male: 22.4 years
female: 23.5 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate:

0.8% (2006 est.)

Birth rate:

20.82 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate:

6.52 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate:

-6.27 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 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: 0.82 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 15.98 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 16.66 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 15.27 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 73.24 years
male: 71.54 years
female: 75.03 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate:

2.41 children born/woman (2006 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

1.2% (2003 est.)

people living with HIV/AIDS:

22,000 (2003 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

900 (2003 est.)


noun: Jamaican(s)
adjective: Jamaican

Ethnic groups:

black 90.9%, East Indian 1.3%, white 0.2%, Chinese 0.2%, mixed 7.3%, other 0.1%


Protestant 61.3% (Church of God 21.2%, Seventh-Day Adventist 9%, Baptist 8.8%, Pentecostal 7.6%, Anglican 5.5%, Methodist 2.7%, United Church 2.7%, Jehovah's Witness 1.6%, Brethren 1.1%, Moravian 1.1%), Roman Catholic 4%, other including some spiritual cults 34.7%


English, patois English


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

Country name:

conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Jamaica

Government type:

constitutional parliamentary democracy



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 UK)

National holiday:

Independence Day, 6 August (1962)


6 August 1962

Legal system:

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


18 years of age; universal

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 eight seats) and the House of Representatives (60 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 16 October 2002 (next to be held no later than October 2007)
election results: percent of vote by party - PNP 52%, JLP 47.3%; seats by party - PNP 34, JLP 26

Judicial branch:

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

Economy - overview:

The Jamaican economy is heavily dependent on services, which now account for 60% of GDP. The country continues to derive most of its foreign exchange from remittances, tourism, and bauxite/alumina. The global economic slowdown, particularly after the terrorist attacks in the US on 11 September 2001, stunted economic growth; the economy rebounded moderately in 2003-04, with brisk tourist seasons. But the economy faces serious long-term problems: high interest rates, increased foreign competition, exchange rate instability, a sizable merchandise trade deficit, large-scale unemployment and underemployment, and a growing stock of internal debt - the result of government bailouts to ailing sectors of the economy, most notably the financial sector in the mid-1990s. The ratio of debt to GDP is 135%. Inflation, previously a bright spot, is expected to remain in the double digits. Uncertain economic conditions have led to increased civil unrest, including gang violence fueled by the drug trade. In 2004, the government faced 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. Attempts at deficit control were derailed by Hurricane Ivan in September 2004, which required substantial government spending to repair the damage. Despite the hurricane, tourism looks set to enjoy solid growth for the foreseeable future.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$11.56 billion (2005 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):

$9.127 billion (2005 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

1.5% (2005 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$4,200 (2005 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 4.9%
industry: 33.8%
services: 61.3% (2005 est.)

Labor force:

1.2 million (2005 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 19.3%
industry: 16.6%
services: 64.1% (2004)

Unemployment rate:

11.5% (2005 est.)

Population below poverty line:

19.1% (2003 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:

lowest 10%: 2.7%
highest 10%: 30.3% (2000)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:

37.9 (2003)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

12.9% (2005 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):

32.4% of GDP (2005 est.)


revenues: $2.8 billion
expenditures: $3.21 billion; including capital expenditures of $180.4 million (2005 est.)

Public debt:

135% of GDP (2005 est.)

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% (2000 est.)

Electricity - production:

3.717 billion kWh (2004)

Electricity - consumption:

2.974 billion kWh (2004)

Oil - consumption:

69,000 bbl/day (2003 est.)

Current account balance:

-$509 million (2005 est.)


$1.608 billion f.o.b. (2004 est.)

Exports - commodities:

alumina, bauxite, sugar, bananas, rum, coffee, yams, beverages, chemicals, wearing apparel, mineral fuels

Exports - partners:

US 17.4%, Canada 14.8%, France 13%, China 10.5%, UK 8.7%, Netherlands 7.5%, Norway 6%, Germany 5.9% (2004)


$4.093 billion f.o.b. (2004 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 38.7%, Trinidad and Tobago 13.2%, France 5.6%, Japan 4.7% (2004)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$1.9 billion (2005 est.)

Debt - external:

$6.792 billion (2005 est.)

Economic aid - recipient:

$18.5 million; note - US aid only (2004)

Currency (code):

Jamaican dollar (JMD)

Fiscal year:

1 April - 31 March

Telephones - main lines in use:

390,700 (2004)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

2.2 million (2004)

Telephone system:

general assessment: fully automatic domestic telephone network
domestic: NA
international: country code - 1-876; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean); 3 coaxial submarine cables

Radio broadcast stations:

AM 10, FM 13, shortwave 0 (1998)

Television broadcast stations:

7 (1997)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

1,271 (2005)

Internet users:

1.067 million (2005)


35 (2005)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 11
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 4
under 914 m: 5 (2005)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 24
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 22 (2005)


total: 272 km
standard gauge: 272 km 1.435-m gauge
note: 207 of these km belonging to the Jamaica Railway Corporation had been in common carrier service until 1992 but are no longer operational; 57 km of the remaining track is privately owned and used by ALCAN to transport bauxite (2003)


total: 18,700 km
paved: 13,009 km
unpaved: 5,610 km (1999)

Merchant marine:

total: 10 ships (1000 GRT or over) 117,805 GRT/166,922 DWT
by type: bulk carrier 4, cargo 1, chemical tanker 1, petroleum tanker 1, roll on/roll off 3
foreign-owned: 10 (Germany 2, Greece 5, UAE 3) (2005)

Ports and terminals:

Kingston, Port Esquivel, Port Kaiser, Port Rhoades, Rocky Point

Military branches:

Jamaica Defense Force: Ground Forces, Coast Guard, Air Wing

Disputes - international:


Illicit drugs:

transshipment point for cocaine from South America to North America and Europe; illicit cultivation 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