Jamaica

Region: Caribbean

Capital: Kingston

Population: 2,930,050 (July 2014 CIA est.)

Surface area: 10,991 sq km

Currency: Jamaican dollar (JMD)

GDP per capita: Purchasing power parity US $9,000 (2013 CIA est.)

Background:
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.

Economy – Overview:
The Jamaican economy is heavily dependent on services, which accounted for more than 60% of GDP in 2013. 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 roughly 5%. The bauxite/alumina sector was most affected by the global downturn while the tourism industry was resilient. Tourism revenues account for roughly 5% of GDP in 2011. Jamaica’s economy faces many challenges to growth: high crime and corruption, large-scale unemployment and underemployment, and a debt-to-GDP ratio of nearly 125%. Jamaica’s onerous public debt burden is the result of government bailouts to ailing sectors of the economy, most notably to the financial sector. In early 2010, the Jamaican Government created the Jamaica Debt Exchange in order to retire high-priced domestic bonds and significantly reduce annual debt servicing. 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. Jamaica was hard hit by the effects of the global economic crisis and growth remains low. The SIMPSON-MILLER 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. The SIMPSON-MILLER government negotiated a new IMF Stand-by agreement to gain access to additional funds in 2013, although the deal will require the government to raise taxes and decrease public sector wages. (CIA, 2014)

Major Export Commodities: alumina, bauxite, sugar, bananas, rum, coffee, yams, beverages, chemicals, wearing apparel, mineral fuels

Remittances inflows: US $2,145 million (World Bank 2012 est.)

Human Development Index 2013 ranking: 85 out of 186 countries (UNDP 2013)

Official Development Assistance and Major Development Partners:
Net ODA US $21,050,000.
Major development partners include the United States, the European Community, and the United Kingdom. (OECD 2012)

Total External Debt: US $13.82 billion (31 December 2013 CIA est.)

Life Expectancy at Birth: 73.48 years (CIA 2014)

Environmental Indicators:
Endangered Species (as a % of all species):15.2
Forested Area (percentage of land area): 31.1
CO2 Emissions (tonnes per capita): 4.5
(UNDP, 2013)

United Nations membership date: 18 September 1962

New York Mission:
Permanent Mission of Jamaica to the United Nations
767 Third Avenue, 9th Floor
New York, N.Y.10017 USA
Telephone: 212-935-7509
Fax: 212-935-7607
E-mail: jamaica@un.int
Website :http://www.un.int/jamaica

Sources:
CIA World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. www.cia.gov
World Development Indicators. World Bank www.worldbank.org
Development, Recipient Aid Charts. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. www.oecd.org
Human Development Report 2013.United Nations Development Programme. www.undp.org

Updated January 2015