Jamaica Terrain: mostly mountains, with narrow, discontinuous coastal plain;

Natural Resources: bauxite, gypsum, limestone;

Natural Hazards: hurricanes (especially July to November);

Population: 2,889,187 (July 2012 est.)


Introduction: 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. 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.

People and Society

Population 2,889,187 (July 2012 est.)
Languages English, English patois
Religions 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)
Median Age total: 24.2 years
male: 23.7 years
female: 24.7 years (2011 est.)
Age Structure 0-14 years: 30.1% (male 438,888/female 424,383)
15-64 years: 62.3% (male 882,548/female 904,242)
65 years and over: 7.6% (male 97,717/female 120,602) (2011 est.)


Government Type constitutional parliamentary democracy and a Commonwealth realm
Capital name: Kingston
geographic coordinates: 18 00 N, 76 48 W
time difference: UTC-5 (same time as Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Legal System common law system based on the English model


Location Caribbean, island in the Caribbean Sea, south of Cuba
Area – Comparative slightly smaller than Connecticut
Area total: 10,991 sq km
land: 10,831 sq km
water: 160 sq km
Climate tropical; hot, humid; temperate interior
Terrain mostly mountains, with narrow, discontinuous coastal plain
Natural Hazards hurricanes (especially July to November)
Natural Resources bauxite, gypsum, limestone


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 15% of GDP and exports of bauxite and alumina make up about 10%. The bauxite/alumina sector was most affected by the global downturn while the tourism industry was resilient, experiencing an increase of 4% in tourist arrivals. Tourism revenues account for roughly 10% of GDP, and both arrivals and revenues grew in 2010, up 4% and 6% respectively. The Economic growth faces many challenges: high crime and corruption, large-scale unemployment and underemployment, and a debt-to-GDP ratio of more than 120%. Jamaica’s onerous public debt burden – the fourth highest in the world on a per capita basis – is the result of government bailouts to ailing sectors of the economy, most notably to the financial sector in the mid-to-late 1990s. In early 2010, the Jamaican government created the Jamaica Debt Exchange (JDX) in order to retire high-priced domestic bonds and significantly reduce annual debt servicing. The Government of Jamaica signed a $1.27 billion, 27-month Standby Agreement with the International Monetary Fund for balance of payment support in February 2010. Other multilaterals have also provided millions of dollars in loans and grants. 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. The HULNESS 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.

GDP (Official Exchange Rate) $14.7 billion (2011 est.)
Budget revenues: $3.982 billion
expenditures: $4.744 billion (2011 est.)
Current Account Balance -$2.367 billion (2011 est.)
-$986.5 million (2010 est.)
Imports – Commodities food and other consumer goods, industrial supplies, fuel, parts and accessories of capital goods, machinery and transport equipment, construction materials
Exports – Commodities alumina, bauxite, sugar, rum, coffee, yams, beverages, chemicals, wearing apparel, mineral fuels


Broadcast Media privately-owned Radio Jamaica Limited and its subsidiaries operate multiple television stations, subscription cable services, and radio stations; 2 other privately-owned television stations broadcast; roughly 70 radio stations (2007)
Internet Users 1.581 million (2009)
Internet Hosts 3,897 (2011)
Telephones – Mobile Cellular 3.103 million (2010)
Telephones – Main Lines in Use 263,100 (2010)


Airports 27 (2010)
Roadways total: 22,121 km (includes 44 km of expressways) (2008)
Ports and Terminals Discovery Bay (Port Rhoades), Kingston, Montego Bay, Port Antonio, Port Esquivel, Port Kaiser, Rocky Point
Merchant Marine total: 19
by type: bulk carrier 9, cargo 5, container 4, roll on/roll off 1
foreign-owned: 19 (Denmark 1, Germany 10, Greece 8) (2010)


Manpower Fit for Military Service males age 16-49: 590,673
females age 16-49: 596,414 (2010 est.)