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Flag of Jamaica Coat of arms of Jamaica
Flag Coat of arms
Motto"Out of many, one people"
Anthem"Jamaica, Land We Love"
Royal anthem"God Save the Queen"
Location of Jamaica
(and largest city)
17°59′N 76°48′W / 17.983°N 76.8°W / 17.983; -76.8
Official languages English
Recognised regional languages Jamaican Patois
Ethnic groups  91.2% African, 6.2% Multiracial, 2.6% Other or Unknown[1]
Demonym Jamaican
Government Parliamentary democracy and Constitutional monarchy
 -  Monarch Elizabeth II
 -  Governor-General Patrick Allen
 -  Prime Minister Bruce Golding
 -  from the United Kingdom 6 August 1962 
 -  Total 11,100 km2 (166th)
4,444 ) sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 1.5
 -  July 2008 estimate 2,804,332 (133th)
 -  Density 252/km2 (49th)
7,000/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2007 estimate
 -  Total $20.650 billion[2] (113st)
 -  Per capita $7,688[2] (85th)
GDP (nominal) 2007 estimate
 -  Total $11.266 billion[2] 
 -  Per capita $4,194[2] 
Gini (2000) 37.9 (medium
HDI (2006) 0.771 (medium) (87th)
Currency Jamaican dollar (JMD)
Time zone (UTC-5)
Drives on the left
Internet TLD .jm
Calling code 1 876

Jamaica (pronounced /dʒəˈmeɪkə/) is an island nation of the Greater Antilles, 234 kilometres (145 mi) in length and as much as 80 kilometres (50 mi) in width situated in the Caribbean Sea. It is about 145 kilometres (90 mi) south of Cuba, and 190 kilometres (120 mi) west of the island of Hispaniola, on which Haiti and the Dominican Republic are situated. Its indigenous Arawakan-speaking Taíno inhabitants named the island Xaymaca, meaning the "Land of Wood and Water", or the "Land of Springs".[3][dead link] Formerly a Spanish possession known as Santiago, it later became the British Crown colony of Jamaica. It is the third most populous anglophone country in North America, after the United States and Canada. It remains a Commonwealth realm.



The Arawak and Taino indigenous people originating from South America settled on the island between 4000 and 1000 BC.[4] When Christopher Columbus arrived in 1494 there were over 200 villages ruled by chiefs or caciques, with the south coast of Jamaica being the most populated, especially around what is now known as Old Harbour.[5] The Tainos were still inhabiting Jamaica when the British took control of the island.[6] The Jamaican National Heritage Trust is attempting to locate and document any evidence of the Taino/Arawaks.[7]

Christopher Columbus claimed Jamaica for Spain after landing there in 1494. Columbus' probable landing point was Dry Harbour, now called Discovery Bay. St. Ann's Bay was the "Saint Gloria" of Columbus who first sighted Jamaica at this point. One mile west of St. Ann's Bay is the site of the first Spanish settlement on the island, Sevilla, which was abandoned in 1554 because of numerous pirate raids.

The capital was moved to Spanish Town, now located in the parish of St. Catherine, as early as 1534. It was then called "Villa de la Vega". Spanish Town has the oldest Cathedral in the British colonies. The Spanish were forcibly evicted by the English at Ocho Rios in St. Ann. However, it was not until 1655 that, at Tower Isle, the English took over the last Spanish fort in Jamaica. The Spaniard Don Arnoldo de Yassi kept Tower Hill (the site of Tower Isle) from the English for five years, before escaping to Cuba. The site of his departure was fittingly called "Runaway Bay", which is also in St. Ann. The name of Montego Bay, the capital of the parish of St. James, was derived from the Spanish name manteca bahía (or Bay of Lard) for the large quantity of boar used for the lard-making industry.[8]

The English Admiral William Penn (father of William Penn of Pennsylvania) and General Robert Venables seized the island in 1655. As early as the 1670s, blacks formed a majority of the population.[9] During its first 200 years of British rule, Jamaica became one of the world's leading sugar-exporting, slave-dependent nations, producing more than 77,000 tons of sugar annually between 1820 and 1824. After the abolition of the slave trade (but not slavery itself) in 1807,[10] the British imported Indian and Chinese workers as indentured servants to supplement the labour pool. Descendants of indentured servants of Asian and Chinese origin continue to reside in Jamaica today.

By the beginning of the 19th century, Jamaica's heavy reliance on slavery resulted in blacks (Africans) outnumbering whites (Europeans) by a ratio of almost 20 to 1. Even though England had outlawed the importation of slaves, some were still smuggled into the colonies. The British government drew-up laws regimenting the abolition of slavery, but they also included instructions for the improvement of the slaves' way of life. These instructions included a ban of the use of whips in the field, a ban on the flogging of women, notification that slaves were to be allowed religious instruction, a requirement that slaves be given an extra free day during the week when they could sell their produce as well as a ban of Sunday markets.

In Jamaica, however, these measures were resisted by the House of Assembly. The Assembly claimed that the slaves were content and objected to Parliament's interference in island affairs, although many slave owners feared possible revolts. Following a series of rebellions and changing attitudes in Great Britain, the nation formally abolished slavery in 1834, with full emancipation from chattel slavery declared in 1838.

In the 1800s, the British established a number of botanical gardens. These included the Castleton Garden, set up in 1862 to replace the Bath Garden (created in 1779) which was subject to flooding. Bath Garden was the site for planting breadfruit brought to Jamaica from the Pacific by Captain William Bligh. Other gardens were the Cinchona Plantation founded in 1868 and the Hope Garden founded in 1874. In 1872, Kingston became the island's capital.

In 1945, Sir Horace Hector Hearne became Chief Justice and Keeper of the Records in Jamaica. He headed the Supreme Court, Kingston between 1945 and 1950/1951. He then moved to Kenya where he was appointed Chief Justice.

Jamaica slowly gained increasing independence from the United Kingdom and in 1958, it became a province in the Federation of the West Indies, a federation among the British West Indies. Jamaica attained full independence by leaving the federation in 1962.

Map of Jamaica

Strong economic growth, averaging about six percent per annum, marked the first ten years of independence under conservative governments which were led successively by Prime Ministers Alexander Bustamante, Donald Sangster and Hugh Shearer. The growth was fueled by strong investments in bauxite/alumina, tourism, manufacturing industry and, to a lesser extent, the agricultural sector. However, the optimism of the first decade was accompanied by a growing sense of inequality, and a sense that the benefits of growth were not being experienced by the urban poor. This, combined with the effects of a slowdown in the global economy in 1970, prompted the electorate to change the government, electing the PNP (People's National Party) in 1972. However, despite efforts to create more socially equitable policies in education and health, Jamaica continued to lag economically, with its gross national product having fallen in 1980 to some twenty-five percent below the 1972 level. Rising foreign and local debt, accompanied by large fiscal deficits, resulted in the invitation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) financing from the United States and others, and the imposition of IMF austerity measures (with a greater than 25% interest rate per year).

Economic deterioration continued into the mid-1980s, exacerbated by a number of factors; The first and third largest alumina producers, Alpart and Alcoa, closed and there was a significant reduction in production by the second largest producer, Alcan. In addition, tourism decreased and Reynolds Jamaica Mines, Ltd. left the Jamaican industry.

Government and politics

Jamaica is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy with the monarch being represented by a Governor-General.[11] The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who officially uses the title "Queen of Jamaica" when she visits the country or performs duties overseas on Jamaica's behalf. See Jamaican Royal Family. The Governor-General is nominated by the Prime Minister and the entire Cabinet and appointed by the monarch. All the members of the Cabinet are appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister. The monarch and the Governor-General serve largely ceremonial roles, apart from their potent reserve power to dismiss the Prime Minister or Parliament.

Jamaica's current Constitution was drafted in 1962 by a bipartisan joint committee of the Jamaican legislature. It came into force with the Jamaica Independence Act, 1962 of the United Kingdom Parliament, which gave Jamaica political exile. This was followed by a reformation of the island's national anthem.

The Parliament of Jamaica is bicameral, consisting of the House of Representatives (Lower House) and the Senate (Upper House). Members of the House (known as Members of Parliament or MPs) are directly elected, and the member of the House of Representatives who, in the Governor-General's best judgment, is best able to command the confidence of a majority of the members of that House, is appointed by the Governor-General to be the Prime Minister. Senators are appointed jointly by the Prime Minister and the parliamentary Leader of the Opposition.

Embassy of Jamaica in Washington, D.C.

In February 2006, Portia Simpson-Miller was elected by delegates of the ruling People's National Party (PNP) to replace P. J. Patterson as President of the Party. At the end of March 2006 when Patterson demitted office, Simpson-Miller became the first female Prime Minister of Jamaica. Former Prime Minister Patterson had held office since the 1992 resignation of Michael Manley. Patterson was re-elected three times, the last being in 2002.

On 3 September 2007, Bruce Golding of the Jamaica Labour Party was voted in as Prime Minister-Designate after achieving a 33 - 27 seat victory over Portia Simpson-Miller and the PNP in the 2007 Jamaican general election. Portia Simpson-Miller conceded defeat on 5 September 2007.[12] On 11 September 2007, after being sworn in by Governor-General Kenneth Hall, The Hon. Bruce Golding assumed office as Prime Minister of Jamaica.

Jamaica has traditionally had a two-party system, with power often alternating between the People's National Party and Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). However, over the past decade a new political party called the National Democratic Movement (NDM) emerged in an attempt to challenge the two-party system, though it has become largely irrelevant in this system, as it garnered only 540 votes of the over 800,000 votes cast in the 3 September elections. Jamaica is a full and participating member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).


Hanover Saint Elizabeth Saint James Trelawny Parish Westmoreland Clarendon Manchester Saint Ann Saint Catherine Saint Mary Kingston Parish Portland Saint Andrew Saint Thomas
About this image

Jamaica is divided into 14 parishes, which are grouped into three historic counties that have no administrative relevance.

Cornwall County Middlesex County Surrey County
1 Hanover 6 Clarendon 11 Kingston
2 Saint Elizabeth 7 Manchester 12 Portland
3 Saint James 8 Saint Ann 13 Saint Andrew
4 Trelawny 9 Saint Catherine 14 Saint Thomas
5 Westmoreland 10 Saint Mary


Doctor's Cave Beach Club is a popular destination in Montego Bay.
The picturesque Dunn's River Falls in Ocho Ríos.

Jamaica is the third largest island in the Caribbean. The island is home to the Blue Mountains inland, and is surrounded by a narrow coastal plain. Most major towns and cities are located on the coast. Chief towns and cities include the capital Kingston, Portmore, Spanish Town, Mandeville, Ocho Ríos, Port Antonio, Negril, and Montego Bay. The Kingston Harbour is one of the largest natural harbours in the world. There are several tourist attractions scattered across the country, including Dunn's River Falls in St. Ann, YS Falls in St. Elizabeth, the Blue Lagoon in Portland, and Port Royal which is the site of an earthquake that helped form the island's Palisadoes.

The climate in Jamaica is tropical, with hot and humid weather, although higher inland regions have a more temperate climate. Some regions on the south coast, such as the Liguanea Plain and the Pedro Plains are relatively dry rain-shadow areas. Jamaica lies in the hurricane belt of the Atlantic Ocean; as a result, the island sometimes experiences significant storm damage. Hurricanes Charlie and Gilbert hit Jamaica directly in 1951 and 1988, respectively, causing major damage, destruction, and many deaths. In the 2000s, hurricanes Ivan, Dean, and Gustav also brought severe weather to the island.


Ethnic origins

According to the 2001 census, Jamaica's population mainly consists of people of African descent, comprising 91.2% of the demographics.[1] Multiracial Jamaicans make up 6.2% of the population,[1] and "other or unknown" Jamaicans (including Indian, Chinese, British, Irish, and German Jamaicans) make up 2.6% of the population.[1] Immigration has been greatly rising from China, Haiti, Cuba, Colombia, and other Latin American countries; 20,000 Latin Americans currently reside in Jamaica. 7,000 Americans also reside in Jamaica.[13][14][15]


The official language of Jamaica is English. Informally, Jamaican Patois (pronounced /pætwɑː/) is more commonly spoken by a majority of the population. Although British English or "The Queen's English" is the most obvious influence on patois, it includes words and syntax from various African languages (namely Akan, Igbo, Wolof and Twi);[16][verification needed] other European languages (Spanish, Portuguese, and French);[citation needed] Pre-Columbian Caribbean languages (Arawakan);[citation needed] and Asian languages (Hindi, Hakka and Cantonese), evidence of historical admixture.[citation needed] In general, patois differs from English in pronunciation, grammar, nominal orthography and syntax, having many intonations to indicate meaning and mood. The language's characteristics include pronouncing /θ/ as [t] and /ð/ as [d], and omitting some initial consonant sounds, principally /h/. For example, the word "there" is pronounced [ˈder or deh]. A number of linguists classify Jamaican Patois as a separate language, while others consider it to be a dialect of English.


Over the past several decades,[when?] close to a million[citation needed] Jamaicans have emigrated, especially to the United Kingdom, United States, and Canada. In the case of the United States, about 20,000 Jamaicans per year are granted permanent residence.[17]. The great number of Jamaicans living abroad has become known as the "Jamaican diaspora". There has also been emigration of Jamaicans to Cuba.[18] The scale of emigration has been widespread and similar to other Caribbean entities such as Puerto Rico, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago. Because the Jamaican population now has a birth rate about replacement level, the continuing high rate of emigration will cause the population to start falling in the next few decades.

Concentrations of expatriate Jamaicans are large in a number of cities in the United States, including New York City, Buffalo, the Miami metro area, Atlanta, Orlando, Tampa, Washington, D.C, Philadelphia, Hartford and Los Angeles. In Canada, the Jamaican population is centred in Toronto, and there are smaller communities in cities such as Hamilton, Montreal, Vancouver and Ottawa. In the United Kingdom, Jamaican communities exist in most large cities where they make up the larger part of the British-Caribbean community.


Christians make up the majority of the population, approximately 65 percent[1]. In spite of resistance by the slave owners,[19] the Christian faith spread rapidly as British Christian abolitionists and educated former slaves[20] joined local Jamaican Christian leaders[21][22][23] in the struggle against slavery. Today, the five largest denominations in Jamaica are: Church of God, Seventh-day Adventist, Baptist, Pentecostal and Anglican.[24] Other popular religions in Jamaica include Islam, Bahá'í Faith with perhaps 8000 Bahá'ís[25] and 21 Local Spiritual Assemblies,[26] Buddhism, and Hinduism.[27] There is also a small population of Jews, about 200, who describe themselves as Liberal-Conservative.[28] The first Jews in Jamaica trace their roots back to early 15th century Spain and Portugal.[29] Islam in Jamaica estimate a total Muslim population of 5,000[2].


Marcus Garvey, Father of the Back to Africa Movement and Jamaica's first National Hero.
Bob Marley, the most famous reggae artist from Jamaica.

The Rastafari movement was founded in Jamaica. This Back to Africa movement believes that Haile Selassie of Ethiopia was God incarnate, the returned black messiah, come to take the lost Twelve Tribes of Israel back to live with him in Holy Mount Zion in a world of perfect peace, love and harmony. Bob Marley, a convert to the faith, spread the message of Rastafari to the world. There are now estimated to be more than a million Rastafarians throughout the world. Though a small nation, Jamaica is rich in culture, and has a strong global presence. The musical genres reggae, ska, mento, rocksteady, dub, and, more recently, dancehall and ragga all originated in the island's vibrant, popular urban recording industry. Jamaica also played an important role in the development of punk rock, through reggae and ska. Reggae has also influenced American rap music, as they both share their roots as rhythmic, African styles of music. Some rappers, such as The Notorious B.I.G. and Heavy D, are of Jamaican descent. Internationally known reggae musician Bob Marley was born in Jamaica and is very respected there. Many other internationally known artists were born in Jamaica including Lee "Scratch" Perry, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Big Youth, Jimmy Cliff, Dennis Brown, Desmond Dekker, Beres Hammond, Beenie Man, Shaggy, Tami Chynn, Tessanne Chin, Grace Jones, Shabba Ranks, Supercat, Buju Banton, Sean Paul, I Wayne, Bounty Killer and many others. Famous band artist groups that came from Jamaica include Black Uhuru, Third World Band, Inner Circle, Chalice Reggae Band, Culture, Fab Five and Morgan Heritage. The genre jungle emerged from London's Jamaican diaspora. The birth of hip-hop in New York also owed much to the city's Jamaican community.

Ian Fleming, who lived in Jamaica, repeatedly used the island as a setting in the James Bond novels, including Live and Let Die, Doctor No, For Your Eyes Only, The Man with the Golden Gun and Octopussy. In addition, James Bond uses a Jamaica-based cover in Casino Royale. So far, the only Bond film to have been set in Jamaica is Doctor No. However, filming for the fictional island of San Monique in Live and Let Die took place in Jamaica.

The American film Cocktail, starring Tom Cruise, is one of the most popular films to depict Jamaica. A look at delinquent youth in Jamaica is presented in the 1970s musical crime film The Harder They Come, starring Jimmy Cliff as a frustrated (and psychopathic) reggae musician who descends into a murderous crime spree. Another popular Jamaican-based film is the 1993 comedy Cool Runnings which is loosely based on the true story of Jamaica's first bobsled team trying to make it in the Winter Olympics.

Errol Flynn lived with his third wife Patrice Wymore in Port Antonio in the 1950s. He was responsible for developing tourism to this area, popularising raft trips down rivers on bamboo rafts.[30]

The island is famous for its Jamaican jerk spice which forms a popular part of Jamaican cuisine. Jamaica is also home to the world-renowned Red Stripe Beer and Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee.

National symbols


Usain Bolt, one of Jamaica's most famous athletes.

Jamaicans, in general, have a large interest in sports. Cricket, football (soccer), athletics and horse-racing are several popular sports. The Jamaican national cricket team competes regionally, and also provides players for the West Indies. The national football team qualified for the 1998 FIFA World Cup. Jamaican athletics have been well represented at the Olympics, World Championships and other major athletics events over the years with leading athletes obtaining medals. Usain Bolt, world record holder in the 100m for men at 9.69s, and 200m for men at 19.30s is among a rich heritage of Jamaican sprinters to compete on the world stage. They have also boasted athletes such as Delloreen Ennis-London, Veronica Campbell, Brigitte Foster-Hylton and former 100m world record holder Asafa Powell. The Jamaica national bobsled team was once a serious contender in the Winter Olympics, beating many well-established teams.

There is a notable amount of golf in Jamaica, but it appears to be focused on the international tourism market.

In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Usain Bolt of Jamaica won three gold medals and broke the World Records for the 100m and 200m sprint races respectively. 400m hurdler Melaine Walker, won a gold medal and broke the Olympic record time in her event. Veronica Campbell-Brown successfully defended her 200m title when she claimed gold. Shelly-Ann Fraser won gold in the women's 100m sprint, with her team mates Kerron Stewart and Sherone Simpson coming in joint second for two silver medals. The Jamaican men's 4 x 100m relay team consisting of Asafa Powell, Usain Bolt, Michael Frater and Nesta Carter passed the finishing line in a World Record time of 37.10 seconds. This was 0.3 seconds quicker than the previous record set by the American relay team in 1992 and 1993, the margin is equivalent to three yards. Overall, the Jamaican 2008 Olympics team finished with a rank of 13 out of 204 competing nations. The 11 medals consisted of 6 golds, 3 silvers and 2 bronze.

Chess, Pocket Pool, and Basketball are widely played in Jamaica which are supported by the Jamaica Chess Federation (JCF), the Jamaica Pocket Pool Federation (JPPF), and the Jamaica Basketball Federation (JBF). Netball is also very popular on the island, with the National Netball Team called The Sunshine Girls consistently ranking in the top five in the world. During the 1980s the island produced world class athletes in Boxing as well, including the likes of Trevor Berbick and Mike McCallum.


The emancipation of the slaves heralded in the establishment of the Jamaican education system for the masses. Prior to emancipation there were few schools for educating locals. Many sent their children off to England to access quality education.

After emancipation the West Indian Commission granted a sum of money to establish Elementary Schools, now known as All Age Schools. Most of these schools were established by the churches.[31] This was the genesis of the modern Jamaican school system:

Presently the following categories of schools exist:

  • Early childhood – Basic, Infant and privately operated pre- school. Age cohort – 1 – 5 years.
  • Primary – Publicly and privately owned (Privately owned being called Preparatory Schools). Ages 5 – 10 years.
  • Secondary – Publicly and privately owned. Ages 10 – 18 years. The high schools in Jamaica may be either single-sex or co-educational institutions, and many schools follow the traditional English grammar school model used throughout the British West Indies.
  • Tertiary - Community Colleges, Teachers’ Colleges with The Mico Teachers' College(now The MICO University College) being the oldest founded in 1836, Vocational Training Centres, Colleges and Universities - Publicly and privately owned. There are five local universities namely: The University of the West Indies (Mona Campus); the University of Technology, Jamaica formerly The College of Art Science and Technology (CAST); the Northern Caribbean University; the University College of The Caribbean and the International University of the Caribbean. Additionally, there are many community and teacher training colleges.

Education is free from the early childhood to secondary levels. There are also opportunities for those who cannot afford further education in the vocational arena through the Human Employment and Resource Training-National Training Agency (HEART Trust-NTA) programme[32] and through an extensive scholarship network for the various universities.


Jamaica is a mixed economy with state enterprises as well as private sector businesses. Major sectors of the Jamaican economy include agriculture, mining, manufacturing, tourism and financial and insurance services. Tourism and mining are the leading foreign exchange earners.

Supported by multilateral financial institutions, Jamaica has, since the early 1980s, sought to implement structural reforms aimed at fostering private sector activity and increasing the role of market forces in resource allocation. Since 1991, the Government has followed a programme of economic liberalization and stabilization by removing exchange controls, floating the exchange rate, cutting tariffs, stabilising the Jamaican currency, reducing inflation and removing restrictions on foreign investment. Emphasis has been placed on maintaining strict fiscal discipline, greater openness to trade and financial flows, market liberalisation and reduction in the size of government. During this period, a large share of the economy was returned to private sector ownership through divestment and privatisation programmes.

The macroeconomic stabilisation programme introduced in 1991, which focused on tight fiscal and monetary policies, has contributed to a controlled reduction in the rate of inflation. The annual inflation rate has decreased from a high of 80.2% in 1991 to 7.9% in 1998. inflation for FY1998/99 was 6.2% compared to 7.2% in the corresponding period in CUU1997/98. The Government of Jamaica remains committed to lowering inflation, with a long-term objective of bringing it in line with that of its major trading partners.

After a period of steady growth from 1985 to 1995, real GDP decreased by 1.8% and 2.4% in 1996 and 1997, respectively. The decrease in GDP in 1996 and 1997 was largely due to significant problems in the financial sector and, in 1997, a severe island-wide drought (the worst in 70 years) that drastically reduced agricultural production. In 1997, nominal GDP was approximately J$220,556.2 million (US$6,198.9 million based on the average annual exchange rate of the period).

Fishing boats and bauxite cargo ships share the waterways near Alligator Pond, Jamaica

The economy in 1997 was marked by low levels of import growth, high levels of private capital inflows and relative stability in the foreign exchange market.

Recent economic performance shows the Jamaican economy is recovering. Agricultural production, an important engine of growth increased 15.3% in third quarter of 1998 compared to the corresponding period in 1997, signaling the first positive growth rate in the sector since January 1997. Bauxite and alumina production increased 5.5% from January to December, 1998 compared to the corresponding period in 1997. January's bauxite production recorded a 7.1% increase relative to January 1998 and continued expansion of alumina production through 2009 is planned by Alcoa.[33] Tourism, which is the largest foreign exchange earner, showed improvement as well. In the third quarter of 1998, growth in tourist arrivals accelerated with an overall increase of 8.5% in tourism earnings in 1998 when compared to the corresponding period in 1997. Jamaica's agricultural exports are sugar, bananas, coffee, rum,and yams.

Jamaica has a wide variety of industrial and commercial activities. The aviation industry is able to perform most routine aircraft maintenance, except for heavy structural repairs. There is a considerable amount of technical support for transport and agricultural aviation. Jamaica has a considerable amount of industrial engineering, light manufacturing, including metal fabrication, metal roofing, and furniture manufacturing. Food and beverage processing, glassware manufacturing, computer software and data processing, printing and publishing, insurance underwriting, music and recording, and advanced education activities can be found in the larger urban areas. The Jamaican construction industry is entirely self-sufficient, with professional technical standards and guidance.[34]

Since the first quarter of 2006, the economy of Jamaica has undergone a period of staunch growth. With inflation for the 2006 calendar year down to 6.0% and unemployment down to 8.9%, the nominal GDP grew by an unprecedented 2.9%.[35] An investment programme in island transportation and utility infrastructure and gains in the tourism, mining, and service sectors all contributed this figure. All projections for 2007 show an even higher potential for economic growth with all estimates over 3.0% and hampered only by urban crime and public policies.

In 2006, Jamaica became part of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) as one of the pioneering members.

International trade

Exports: (1999) 1,238 billion $ (Natural resources: 55.7%, Food 19.1%, Bananas 4%, Chemicals 3.6%, Machinery 2.2%). The main export countries: United States 33.4%, Canada 14.1%, United Kingdom 13.4%, Netherlands 10.2%, Norway 5.8%, France 5%, Germany 4%, and Japan 2.3%.

Imports: (1999) 2,89 billion $ (Energy 50.5%, Machinery and Equipment 7.6%, Consumer goods 33.2%). The main import countries: United States 48.1%, Trinidad and Tobago 7.8%, Japan 6.9%, France 5%, United Kingdom 3.7%, and Canada 3%.

Exports and Imports for January 2007 -

Exports: (January 2007) Total Goods Exports 166,495 (US$000) (General Merchandise Exports 93.4%, Freezone Exports 2.6%, Goods Procured in Ports 4.0%).

Imports: (January 2007) : Total Goods Import 511,015 (US$000); General Merchandise Imports 97.8%, Freezone Imports 0.3%, Goods Procured in Ports 1.8%).



The transport infrastructure in Jamaica consists of roadways, railways ship and air transport, with roadways forming the backbone of the island's internal transport system.


The Jamaican road network consists of almost 13 049 miles (21,000 kilometres) of roads, of which over 9 321 miles (15,000 kilometres) is paved.[1] The Jamaican Government has, since the late 1990s and in cooperation with private investors, embarked on a campaign of infrastructural improvement projects, one of which includes the creation of a system of freeways, the first such access-controlled roadways of their kind on the island, connecting the main population centers of the island. This project has so far seen the completion of 21 miles (33 kilometres) of freeway.


Railways in Jamaica, as in many other countries, no longer enjoy the prominent position they once did, having been largely replaced by roadways as the primary means of transport. Of the 169 miles (272 kilometres) of railway found in Jamaica, only 35 miles (57 kilometres) remain in operation, currently used to transport bauxite.[1]

Air transport

There are two international airports in Jamaica with modern terminals, long runways, and the navigational equipment required to accommodate the large jet aircraft used in modern air travel: Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston and Sangster International Airport in the resort town of Montego Bay. Both airports are home to the country's national airline, Air Jamaica. In addition there are local commuter airports at Tinson Pen (Kingston), Port Antonio, Ocho Ríos, and Negril which cater to internal flights only. Many other small, rural centers are served by private fields on sugar estates or bauxite mines.

Ports, shipping and lighthouses

Owing to its location in the Caribbean Sea in the shipping lane to the Panama Canal and relative proximity to large markets in North America and emerging markets in Latin America, Jamaica receives high container traffic. The container terminal at the Port of Kingston has undergone large expansion in capacity in recent years to handle growth both already realised as well as that which is projected in coming years.[36] Montego Freeport in Montego Bay also handles a variety of cargo like (though more limited than) the Port of Kingston, mainly agricultural products.

There are several other ports positioned around the island, including Port Esquivel in St. Catherine (WINDALCO), Rocky Point in Clarendon, Port Kaiser in St. Elizabeth, Port Rhoades in Discovery Bay, Reynolds Pier in Ocho Rios, and Boundbrook Port in Port Antonio.

To aid the navigation of shipping, Jamaica operates nine lighthouses. For more information see Lighthouses in Jamaica.


Jamaica depends on petroleum imports to satisfy its national energy needs.[1] Many test sites have been explored for oil, but no commercially viable quantities have been found.[37] The most convenient sources of imported oil and motor fuels (diesel, gasoline, and jet fuel) are from Mexico and Venezuela.

Jamaica's electrical power is produced by diesel (bunker oil) generators located in Old Harbour. Other smaller power stations (most owned by the Jamaica Public Service Company - the island's electricity provider) support the island's electrical grid including the Hunts Bay Power Station, the Bogue Power Station, the Rockfort Power Station and small hydroelectric plants on the White River, Rio Bueno, Morant River, Black River (Maggotty) and Roaring River.[38] A wind farm, owned by the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, was established at Wigton, Manchester.[39]

Jamaica imports approximately 80,000 barrels of oil energy products per day,[37] including asphalt and lubrication products. Just 20% of imported fuels are used for road transportation, the rest being used by the bauxite industry, electricity generation, and aviation.

Jamaica produces enormous quantities of hydrous ethanol (5% water content), most of which appears to be consumed as beverages, and none of it used as motor fuel. Facilities exist to refine hydrous ethanol feedstock into anhydrous ethanol (0% water content), but the process appears to be uneconomic at this time and the facility remains idle.[40]


Jamaica has a fully digital telephone communication system with a mobile penetration of over 95%.[41]

The country’s three mobile operators - Cable and Wireless (marketed as LIME - landline Internet, Mobile and Entertainment), Digicel, and Oceanic Digital (operating as MiPhone and now known as Claro since late 2008) - have spent millions in network upgrade and expansion.Both Digicel and Oceanic Digital were granted licences in 2001 to operate mobile services in the newly liberalised telecom market that had once been the sole domain of the incumbent Cable and Wireless monopoly. Digicel opted for the more widely used GSM wireless system, while Oceanic opted for the CDMA standard. Cable and Wireless, which had begun with TDMA standard, subsequently upgraded to GSM, and currently utilises both standards on its network.

With wireless usage increasing, land lines supplied by Cable and Wireless have declined from just over half a million to roughly about three hundred thousand as of 2006.[41] In a bid to grab more market share, Cable and Wireless recently launched a new land line service called HomeFone Prepaid that would allow customers to pay for minutes they use rather than pay a set monthly fee for service, much like prepaid wireless service.

A new entrant to the Jamaican communications market, Flow Jamaica, recently laid a new submarine cable connecting Jamaica to the United States. This new cable increases the total number of submarine cables connecting Jamaica to the rest of the world to four.

Two more licences were auctioned by the Jamaican government to provide mobile services on the island, including one that was previously owned by AT&T Wireless but never utilised, and one new licence. Industry analysts[who?] argue that with a near market saturation, there is very little room for new operators.[citation needed]


The Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) is the small but professional military force of Jamaica. The JDF is based upon the British military model with organisation, training, weapons and traditions closely aligned with Commonwealth realms. Once chosen, officer candidates are sent to one of several British or Canadian basic officer courses depending upon which arm of service they are selected for. Enlisted soldiers are given basic training at JDF Training Depot, Newcastle or Up Park Camp, both in St. Andrew. As on the British model, NCOs are given several levels of professional training as they rise up the ranks. Additional military schools are available for speciality training in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.

The JDF is directly descended from the British West Indies Regiment formed during the colonial era. The West Indies Regiment was used extensively by the British Empire in policing the empire from 1795 to 1926. Other units in the JDF heritage include the early colonial Jamaica Militia, the Kingston Infantry Volunteers of WWI and reorganised into the Jamaican Infantry Volunteers in World War II. The West Indies Regiment was reformed in 1958 as part of the West Indies Federation. The dissolution of the Federation resulted in the establishment of the JDF.

The Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) comprises an infantry Regiment and Reserve Corps, an Air Wing, a Coast Guard fleet and a supporting Engineering Unit. The infantry regiment contains the 1st, 2nd and 3rd (National Reserve) battalions. The JDF Air Wing is divided into three flight units, a training unit, a support unit and the JDF Air Wing (National Reserve). The Coast Guard is divided between seagoing crews and support crews. It conducts maritime safety and maritime law enforcement as well as defence-related operations. The support battalion contains a Military Police platoon as well as vehicle, armourers and supply units. The 1st Engineer Regiment provides military engineering support to the JDF. The Headquarters JDF contains the JDF Commander, Command Staff as well as Intelligence, Judge Advocate office, Administrative and Procurement sections.

In recent years the JDF has been called upon to assist the nation's police, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) in fighting drug smuggling and a rising crime rate which includes one of the highest murder rates in the world. JDF units actively conduct armed patrols with the JCF in high-crime areas and known gang neighbourhoods. There has been vocal controversy as well as support of this JDF role. In early 2005, an Opposition leader, Edward Seaga, called for the merger of the JDF and JCF. This has not garnered support in either organisation nor among the majority of citizens.


See also: Prisons in Jamaica

Some areas of Jamaica, particularly Kingston, experience high levels of crime and violence.[42]

Jamaica has had one of the highest murder rates in the world for many years according to UN estimates.[43] Jamaica's former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson described the situation as "a national challenge of unprecedented proportions".[44] In 2005, Jamaica had 1,674 murders for a murder rate of 58 per 100,000 people;[45] that year, Jamaica had the highest murder rate in the world.[43]

The U.S. Department of State reports that brutality against homosexuals, mainly by private citizens, was widespread in 2008.[46] Many Jamaicans are hostile toward LGBT and Intersex people,[42] and several mob attacks against gays have been reported.[47] [48][49] Attacks on gays are encouraged in some popular Jamaican dancehall/reggae songs that have been called murder music.[50]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g The CIA World Factbook - Jamaica Retrieved 2007-06-27.
  2. ^ a b c d "Jamaica". International Monetary Fund. http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2008/02/weodata/weorept.aspx?pr.x=45&pr.y=11&sy=2004&ey=2008&scsm=1&ssd=1&sort=country&ds=.&br=1&c=343&s=NGDPD%2CNGDPDPC%2CPPPGDP%2CPPPPC%2CLP&grp=0&a=. Retrieved on 2008-10-09. 
  3. ^ "Taíno Dictionary" (in Spanish). http://www.uctp.org/VocesIndigena.html. Retrieved on 2007-10-18. 
  4. ^ http://www.jamaicans.com/articles/primearticles/taino.shtml
  5. ^ http://www.jamaicans.com/articles/primearticles/taino.shtml
  6. ^ http://www.jamaicans.com/articles/primearticles/taino.shtml
  7. ^ Jamaican National Heritage Trust
  8. ^ Town of Montego Bay info
  9. ^ A failed settler society: marriage and demographic failure in early Jamaica, Journal of Social History, Fall, 1994, by Trevor Burnard
  10. ^ The Sugar Revolutions and Slavery, U.S. Library of Congress
  11. ^ "The Monarchy Today: Queen and Commonwealth". http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/Page4923.asp. Retrieved on 2007-06-25. 
  12. ^ "BBC News: Jamaica confirms opposition win". http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6984105.stm. Retrieved on 2007-09-09. 
  13. ^ http://www.joshuaproject.net/peopctry.php
  14. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/in_depth/brits_abroad/html/caribbean.stm
  15. ^ The Portuguese of the West Indies
  16. ^ http://www.jamaicans.com/speakja/patoisarticle/notpatoisbutjamic.shtml
  17. ^ United States immigration statistics
  18. ^ Jamaicans to Cuba
  19. ^ "Antebellum Slavery: Plantation Slave Life". http://cghs.dadeschools.net/slavery/antebellum_slavery/plantation_slave_life/diet_religion/religion.htm. Retrieved on 2007-06-22. 
  20. ^ "Antislavery Campaign in Britain". http://www.victorianweb.org/history/antislavery.html. Retrieved on 2007-12-22. 
  21. ^ "Paul Bogle, Jamaica National hero". http://www.moec.gov.jm/heroes/gordon.htm. Retrieved on 2007-06-22. 
  22. ^ "George William Gordon, Jamaica National hero". http://www.moec.gov.jm/heroes/gordon.htm. Retrieved on 2007-06-22. 
  23. ^ "Samual Sharpe, Jamaica National hero". http://www.moec.gov.jm/heroes/sharpe.htm. Retrieved on 2007-06-22. 
  24. ^ "Jamaican Census Figures". http://jamaica-guide.info/past.and.present/religion/. Retrieved on 2007-06-03. 
  25. ^ "Missionary Atlas Project - Central America, Snapshot of Jamaica", Map Source: www.worldmap.org, Online, 2007, http://www.worldmap.org/maps/other/profiles/jamaica/Jamaica%20Profile.doc 
  26. ^ Bahá'í International Community (2006-08-11), "Jamaicans celebrate 4th National Baha'i Day", Bahá'í World News Service, http://news.bahai.org/story/468 
  27. ^ religiousintelligence.co.uk, religiousfreedom.lib.virginia.edu
  28. ^ Jamaican Jews
  29. ^ Dawes, Mark (2003-06-10). publisher=Gleaner Co. "Jews hold firm Life goes on in Old Synagogue". http://www.jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20030610/mind/mind2.html/ publisher=Gleaner Co.. Retrieved on 2007-12-15. 
  30. ^ Dr. Rebecca Tortello The History of Jamaica - Captivated by Jamaica
  31. ^ "Moravian Church Contribution to Education in Jamaica". http://www.jis.gov.jm/education/html/20041212T090000-0500_4438_JIS_MORAVIAN_CHURCH_CONTRIBUTING_MUCH_TO_EDUCATION.asp. Retrieved on 2007-12-22. 
  32. ^ "Transforming the Jamaican Education System". http://www.moec.gov.jm/news/speeches/ict2003.htm. Retrieved on 2007-12-22. 
  33. ^ No gas from Trinidad, Venezuela by 2009 - Jamaica Observer.com at www.jamaicaobserver.com
  34. ^ History of Aviation in Jamaica: Part I
  35. ^ Statistical Institute of Jamaica at www.statinja.com
  36. ^ The Jamaica Observer Retrieved 27 June 2007.
  37. ^ a b "Petroleum Corp of Jamaica, Petroleum Industry Statistics". http://www.pcj.com/industry_stat.htm. Retrieved on 2007-07-21. 
  38. ^ "JPS - JPS' Power Plants". http://www.jpsco.com/site.nsf/web/powerPlants.htm. Retrieved on 2008-03-25. 
  39. ^ "Wigton Wind Farm Company". http://www.wwfja.com. Retrieved on 2008-03-25. 
  40. ^ "Petroleum Corp of Jamaica, Petrojam Ethanol". http://www.pcj.com/petrojam/associate_text.htm. Retrieved on 2007-07-21. 
  41. ^ a b Doing eBusiness in Jamaica, The Economist Intelligence Unit.
  42. ^ a b [http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travelling-and-living-overseas/travel-advice-by-country/north-central-america/jamaica# "North and Central America and Caribbean Jamaica"]. Travel advice by country. United Kingdom, Foreign & Commonwealth Office. 2009-03-20. http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travelling-and-living-overseas/travel-advice-by-country/north-central-america/jamaica#. Retrieved on 2009-03-20. 
  43. ^ a b Nationmaster Crime Stats
  44. ^ Washington Post Foreign Service
  45. ^ "Crime, violence and development: trends, costs, and policy options in the Caribbean" (PDF). United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. p. 37. http://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/Caribbean-study-en.pdf. Retrieved on 2007-12-26. 
  46. ^ "2008 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, 2008 Human Rights Report: Jamaica". United States, Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. 2009-02-25. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2008/wha/119165.htm. Retrieved on 2009-03-19. 
  47. ^ Lacey, Marc (2008-02-24). "Attacks Show Easygoing Jamaica Is Dire Place for Gays". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/24/world/americas/24jamaica.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2. Retrieved on 2009-03-19. 
  48. ^ "Jamaica: Shield Gays from Mob Attacks". Human Rights Watch. 2008-01-31. http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2008/01/31/jamaica-shield-gays-mob-attacks. Retrieved on 2009-03-19. 
  49. ^ Amnesty International (2007-04-15). Document - Jamaica: Amnesty International condemns homophobic violence. Press release. http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR38/004/2007/en/496206cb-d39d-11dd-a329-2f46302a8cc6/amr380042007en.html. Retrieved on 2009-03-19. 
  50. ^ Infantry, Ashante (2008-03-03). "'Murder music' sparks Caribbean tourism boycott call". Toronto Star. http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/Music/article/308721. Retrieved on 2009-03-19. 

Further reading

  • Chapman, V.J. 1961. The Marine Algae of Jamaica. Part 1. Myxophyceae and Chlorophyceae. Institute of Jamaica.
  • Chapman, V.J. 1963. The Marine Algae of Jamaica. Part 2. Phaeophyceas and Rhodophyceae. Institute of Jamaica.

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