page last updated on October 28, 2009
Flag of Jamaica
Location of Jamaica
 
Map of Jamaica
Introduction ::Jamaica
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
Caribbean, island in the Caribbean Sea, south of Cuba
18 15 N, 77 30 W
total: 10,991 sq km
country comparison to the world: 167
land: 10,831 sq km
water: 160 sq km
slightly smaller than Connecticut
0 km
1,022 km
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
lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Blue Mountain Peak 2,256 m
bauxite, gypsum, limestone
arable land: 15.83%
permanent crops: 10.01%
other: 74.16% (2005)
250 sq km (2002)
9.4 cu km (2000)
total: 0.41 cu km/yr (34%/17%/49%)
per capita: 155 cu m/yr (2000)
hurricanes (especially July to November)
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
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
strategic location between Cayman Trench and Jamaica Channel, the main sea lanes for the Panama Canal
People ::Jamaica
2,825,928 (July 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 138
0-14 years: 31.4% (male 451,310/female 436,466)
15-64 years: 61.1% (male 851,372/female 875,132)
65 years and over: 7.5% (male 94,833/female 116,815) (2009 est.)
total: 23.7 years
male: 23.1 years
female: 24.2 years (2009 est.)
0.755% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 142
19.68 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 104
6.43 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 149
-5.7 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 167
urban population: 53% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 0.9% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
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 (2009 est.)
total: 15.22 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 126
male: 15.81 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 14.61 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)
total population: 73.53 years
country comparison to the world: 104
male: 71.83 years
female: 75.3 years (2009 est.)
2.25 children born/woman (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 111
1.6% (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 41
27,000 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 72
1,500 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 67
noun: Jamaican(s)
adjective: Jamaican
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.)
total: 12 years
male: 11 years
female: 12 years (2003)
5.3% of GDP (2005)
country comparison to the world: 56
Government ::Jamaica
conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Jamaica
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)
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)
Independence Day, 6 August (1962)
6 August 1962
based on English common law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
18 years of age; universal
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 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
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
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)
Jamaica Labor Party or JLP [Bruce GOLDING]; People's National Party or PNP [Portia SIMPSON-MILLER]; National Democratic Movement or NDM [Michael WILLIAMS]
New Beginnings Movement or NBM; Rastafarians (black religious/racial cultists, pan-Africanists)
ACP, C, Caricom, CDB, FAO, G-15, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt (signatory), ICRM, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITSO, ITU, LAES, MIGA, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
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
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
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
Economy ::Jamaica
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. It 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.
$20.91 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 120
$21.04 billion (2007 est.)
$20.74 billion (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
$14.4 billion (2008 est.)
-0.6% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 205
1.4% (2007 est.)
2.7% (2006 est.)
$7,500 (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 123
$7,600 (2007 est.)
$7,500 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
agriculture: 5.2%
industry: 32.6%
services: 62.2% (2008 est.)
1.304 million (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 135
agriculture: 17%
industry: 19%
services: 64% (2006)
11% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 132
9.9% (2007 est.)
14.8% (2003 est.)
lowest 10%: 2.1%
highest 10%: 35.8% (2004)
45.5 (2004)
country comparison to the world: 42
37.9 (2000)
26.5% of GDP (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 41
revenues: $3.794 billion
expenditures: $4.829 billion (2008 est.)
109.6% of GDP (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 4
146.1% of GDP (2004 est.)
22% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 208
9.5% (2007 est.)
NA% (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 28
17.2% (31 December 2007)
$NA (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 107
$1.369 billion (31 December 2007)
$NA (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 83
$4.54 billion (31 December 2007)
$NA (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 94
$6.609 billion (31 December 2007)
$7.513 billion (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 72
$12.33 billion (31 December 2007)
$12.28 billion (31 December 2006)
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
-0.5% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 136
7.324 billion kWh (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 100
6.345 billion kWh (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 101
0 kWh (2008 est.)
0 kWh (2008 est.)
0 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 171
78,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 84
0 bbl/day (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 177
77,720 bbl/day (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 76
0 bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 194
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 175
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 171
0 cu m (2008)
country comparison to the world: 165
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 159
0 cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 165
$-2.893 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 149
$-1.744 billion (2007 est.)
$2.602 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 125
$2.226 billion (2007 est.)
alumina, bauxite, sugar, rum, coffee, yams, beverages, chemicals, wearing apparel, mineral fuels
US 30.8%, Canada 13.2%, Netherlands 9.8%, UK 9.2%, France 6.7%, Russia 6.6%, Germany 5.5% (2008)
$7.185 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 101
$5.789 billion (2007 est.)
food and other consumer goods, industrial supplies, fuel, parts and accessories of capital goods, machinery and transport equipment, construction materials
US 34.7%, Trinidad and Tobago 14.4%, Grenada 9.7%, Venezuela 9.5%, Brazil 4.1% (2008)
$1.77 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 112
$1.879 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
$10.2 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 84
$9.657 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Jamaican dollars (JMD) per US dollar - 72.236 (2008 est.), 69.034 (2007), 65.768 (2006), 62.51 (2005), 61.197 (2004)
Communications ::Jamaica
316,600 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 112
2.723 million (2008)
country comparison to the world: 112
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 roughly 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) (2008)
AM 10, FM 13, shortwave 0 (1998)
7 (1997)
.jm
3,961 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 137
1.54 million (2008)
country comparison to the world: 73
Transportation ::Jamaica
27 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 123
total: 12
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 3
under 914 m: 7 (2009)
total: 15
under 914 m: 15 (2009)
total: 21,552 km
country comparison to the world: 108
paved: 15,937 km (includes 33 km of expressways)
unpaved: 5,615 km (2005)
total: 20
country comparison to the world: 99
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)
Kingston, Port Esquivel, Port Kaiser, Port Rhoades, Rocky Point
Military ::Jamaica
Jamaica Defense Force: Ground Forces, Coast Guard, Air Wing (2009)
18 years of age for voluntary military service; younger recruits may be conscripted with parental consent (2001)
males age 16-49: 688,480
females age 16-49: 709,548 (2008 est.)
males age 16-49: 573,520
females age 16-49: 586,426 (2009 est.)
male: 31,833
female: 31,257 (2009 est.)
0.6% of GDP (2006 est.)
country comparison to the world: 155
Transnational Issues ::Jamaica
none
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