Jamaica

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The island - discovered by Christopher COLUMBUS in 1494 - was settled by the Spanish early in the 16th century. The native Taino, 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 increased its 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

Location

Caribbean, island in the Caribbean Sea, south of Cuba

Geographic coordinates

18.15° N, 77.30° W

Area 168/257

total: 10,991 sq km

land: 10,831 sq km

water: 160 sq km

Area - comparative

slightly smaller than Connecticut

Land boundaries

0 km

Coastline

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

Climate

tropical; hot, humid; temperate interior

Terrain

mostly mountains, with narrow, discontinuous coastal plain

Elevation

mean elevation:

elevation extremes:

lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m

highest point: Blue Mountain Peak 2,256 m

Natural resources

bauxite, gypsum, limestone

Land use

agricultural land: 41.4%

arable land 11.1%; permanent crops 9.2%; permanent pasture 21.1%

forest: 31.1%

other: 27.5% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

250 sq km (2012)

Total renewable water resources

9.4 cu km (2011)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)

total: 0.93 cu km/yr (32%/16%/52%)

per capita: 369.9 cu m/yr (2009)

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 from vehicle emissions

Environment - international agreements

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

Geography - note

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

People and Society

Nationality

noun: Jamaican(s)

adjective: Jamaican

Ethnic groups

black 92.1%, mixed 6.1%, East Indian 0.8%, other 0.4%, unspecified 0.7% (2011 est.)

Languages

English, English patois

Religions

Protestant 64.8% (includes Seventh Day Adventist 12.0%, Pentecostal 11.0%, Other Church of God 9.2%, New Testament Church of God 7.2%, Baptist 6.7%, Church of God in Jamaica 4.8%, Church of God of Prophecy 4.5%, Anglican 2.8%, United Church 2.1%, Methodist 1.6%, Revived 1.4%, Brethren .9%, and Moravian .7%), Roman Catholic 2.2%, Jehovah's Witness 1.9%, Rastafarian 1.1%, other 6.5%, none 21.3%, unspecified 2.3% (2011 est.)

Population 139/238

2,950,210 (July 2015 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 27.97% (male 419,725/female 405,573)

15-24 years: 21.46% (male 317,873/female 315,163)

25-54 years: 37% (male 538,173/female 553,486)

55-64 years: 5.69% (male 81,281/female 86,713)

65 years and over: 7.87% (male 103,958/female 128,265) (2015 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 48.6%

youth dependency ratio: 35%

elderly dependency ratio: 13.6%

potential support ratio: 7.4% (2015 est.)

Median age

total: 25.3 years

male: 24.8 years

female: 25.8 years (2015 est.)

Population growth rate 148/233

0.68% (2015 est.)

Birth rate 102/224

18.16 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Death rate 140/225

6.7 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Net migration rate 191/222

-4.66 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Urbanization

urban population: 54.8% of total population (2015)

rate of urbanization: 0.9% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population

KINGSTON (capital) 588,000 (2015)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.04 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.01 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 0.97 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.94 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.81 male(s)/female

total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2015 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth

21.2

note: median age at first birth among women 25-29 (2008 est.)

Maternal mortality rate 65/184

89 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)

Infant mortality rate 112/224

total: 13.37 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 13.93 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 12.78 deaths/1,000 live births (2015 est.)

Life expectancy at birth 127/224

total population: 73.55 years

male: 71.93 years

female: 75.24 years (2015 est.)

Total fertility rate 121/224

2.01 children born/woman (2015 est.)

Contraceptive prevalence rate

72.5% (2008/09)

Health expenditures 114/191

5.9% of GDP (2013)

Physicians density

0.41 physicians/1,000 population (2008)

Hospital bed density

1.7 beds/1,000 population (2012)

Drinking water source

improved:

urban: 97.5% of population

rural: 89.4% of population

total: 93.8% of population

unimproved:

urban: 2.5% of population

rural: 10.6% of population

total: 6.2% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access

improved:

urban: 79.9% of population

rural: 84.1% of population

total: 81.8% of population

unimproved:

urban: 20.1% of population

rural: 15.9% of population

total: 18.2% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate

1.62% (2014 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS

29,400 (2014 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

1,300 (2014 est.)

Obesity - adult prevalence rate 67/191

26.8% (2014)

Children under the age of 5 years underweight 112/138

3.2% (2010)

Education expenditures 40/173

6.3% of GDP (2013)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 12 years

male: 12 years

female: 13 years (2013)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24 20/134

total: 34%

male: 27.1%

female: 42.6% (2012 est.)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: none

conventional short form: Jamaica

etymology: from the native Taino word "haymaca" meaning "land of wood and water" or possibly "land of springs"

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)

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

Independence

6 August 1962 (from the UK)

National holiday

Independence Day, 6 August (1962)

Constitution

several previous (preindependence); latest drafted 1961-62, submitted to British Parliament 24 July 1962, entered into force 6 August 1962 (at independence); amended many times, last in 2015 (2015)

Legal system

common law system based on the English model

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt

Citizenship

citizenship by birth: yes

citizenship by descent: yes

dual citizenship recognized: yes

residency requirement for naturalization: 4 out of the previous 5 years

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

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 Portia SIMPSON-MILLER (since 5 January 2012)

cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister

elections/appointments: the monarchy 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 majority coalition in the House of Representatives is appointed prime minister by the governor general

Legislative branch

description: bicameral Parliament consists of the Senate (21 seats; members appointed by the governor general on the recommendation of the prime minister and the minority party leader, 13 seats allocated to the ruling party, and 8 seats allocated to the minority party; members serve 5-year terms) and the House of Representatives (63 seats; members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote to serve 5-year terms)

elections: last held on 29 December 2011 (next to be held no later than December 2016)

election results: percent of vote by party - PNP 53.3%, JLP 46.6%; seats by party - PNP 41, JLP 22

Judicial branch

highest resident court(s): Court of Appeal (consists of president of the court and a minimum of 4 judges; Supreme Court (40 judges organized in specialized divisions); note - appeals beyond Jamaica's highest courts are submitted to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (in London) rather than to the Caribbean Court of Justice (the appellate court implemented for member states of the Caribbean Community)

judge selection and term of office: chief justice of the Supreme Court and president of the Court of Appeal appointed by the governor-general on the advice of the prime minister; other judges of both courts appointed by the governor-general on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission; judges of both courts serve till age 70

subordinate courts: resident magistrate courts, district courts, and petty sessions courts

Political parties and leaders

Jamaica Labor Party or JLP [Andrew HOLNESS]

People's National Party or PNP [Portia SIMPSON-MILLER]

National Democratic Movement or NDM [Michael WILLIAMS]

Political pressure groups and leaders

New Beginnings Movement or NBM

Rastafarians

International organization participation

ACP, AOSIS, C, Caricom, CDB, CELAC, FAO, G-15, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (NGOs), ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITSO, ITU, LAES, MIGA, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, Petrocaribe, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNITAR, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU (NGOs), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Flag description

diagonal yellow cross divides the flag into four triangles - green (top and bottom) and black (hoist side and fly 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

National symbol(s)

green-and-black streamertail (bird), Guaiacum officinale (Guaiacwood); national colors: green, yellow, black

National anthem

name: "Jamaica, Land We Love"

lyrics/music: Hugh Braham SHERLOCK/Robert Charles LIGHTBOURNE

note: adopted 1962

Economy

Economy - overview

The Jamaican economy is heavily dependent on services, which accounts for more than 70% of GDP. The country continues to derive most of its foreign exchange from tourism, remittances, and bauxite/alumina. Remittances and tourism each account for 30% of GDP, while bauxite/alumina exports make up roughly 5% of GDP. The bauxite/alumina sector was most affected by the global downturn while the tourism industry and remittance flow remained resilient. Jamaica's economy faces many challenges to growth: high crime and corruption, large-scale unemployment and underemployment, and a debt-to-GDP ratio of about 130%. The attendant debt servicing cost consumes a large portion of the government's budget, limiting its ability to fund the critical infrastructure and social programs required to drive growth. Jamaica's economic growth rate in the recent past has been stagnant, averaging less than 1% per year for over 20 years. Jamaica's onerous public debt burden is largely the result of government bailouts to ailing sectors of the economy, most notably to the financial sector. In early 2010, the Jamaican Government initiated the Jamaica Debt Exchange to retire high-priced domestic bonds and reduce annual debt servicing. Despite these efforts, debt continued to be a serious concern, forcing the government to negotiate and sign a new IMF agreement in May 2013 to gain access to approximately $1 billion additional funds. As a precursor, the government instigated a second National Debt Exchange in 2012. The IMF deal requires the government to reform its tax system, eliminate discretionary tax exemptions and waivers, and achieve an annual surplus of 7.5%, excluding debt payments, to reduce its debt below 100% of GDP by 2020. The SIMPSON-MILLER administration now faces the difficult prospect of having to achieve fiscal discipline 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 (purchasing power parity) 137/230

$24.6 billion (2015 est.)

$24.34 billion (2014 est.)

$24.25 billion (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$13.82 billion (2015 est.)

GDP - real growth rate 171/225

1.1% (2015 est.)

0.4% (2014 est.)

0.2% (2013 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP) 140/230

$8,800 (2015 est.)

$8,700 (2014 est.)

$8,700 (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

Gross national saving 139/179

12% of GDP (2015 est.)

12.7% of GDP (2014 est.)

12% of GDP (2013 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 84.8%

government consumption: 14.8%

investment in fixed capital: 22.2%

investment in inventories: 0.4%

exports of goods and services: 32.2%

imports of goods and services: -54.4%

(2015 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 7%

industry: 21.4%

services: 71.6% (2015 est.)

Agriculture - products

sugarcane, bananas, coffee, citrus, yams, ackees, vegetables; poultry, goats, milk; shellfish

Industries

tourism, bauxite/alumina, agricultural-processing, light manufactures, rum, cement, metal, paper, chemical products, telecommunications

Industrial production growth rate 115/202

2% (2015 est.)

Labor force 136/233

1.308 million (2015 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 17%

industry: 19%

services: 64% (2006)

Unemployment rate 148/207

14% (2015 est.)

14.2% (2014 est.)

Population below poverty line

16.5% (2009 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 2.1%

highest 10%: 35.8% (2004)

Distribution of family income - Gini index 40/144

45.5 (2004)

37.9 (2000)

Budget

revenues: $3.704 billion

expenditures: $3.818 billion (2015 est.)

Taxes and other revenues 106/219

26.8% of GDP (2015 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) 49/220

-0.8% of GDP (2015 est.)

Public debt 8/176

122.5% of GDP (2015 est.)

132.8% of GDP (2014 est.)

Fiscal year

1 April - 31 March

Inflation rate (consumer prices) 159/226

4.2% (2015 est.)

8.3% (2014 est.)

Central bank discount rate 116/156

2% (31 December 2010)

Commercial bank prime lending rate 28/184

16.5% (31 December 2015 est.)

17.22% (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of narrow money 112/192

$3.328 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$3.156 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of broad money 116/193

$7.847 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$7.519 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of domestic credit 111/191

$7.397 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$7.078 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares 84/121

$6.39 billion (31 December 2012 est.)

$7.223 billion (31 December 2011)

$6.626 billion (31 December 2010 est.)

Current account balance 106/197

-$629 million (2015 est.)

-$1.013 billion (2014 est.)

Exports 154/224

$1.192 billion (2015 est.)

$1.482 billion (2014 est.)

Exports - commodities

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

Exports - partners

US 39.5%, Canada 15.3%, Netherlands 5.7%, UK 5.2%, Russia 5.1%, Iceland 4.4% (2014)

Imports 132/223

$4.056 billion (2015 est.)

$5.2 billion (2014 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 39.3%, Venezuela 11.5%, Trinidad and Tobago 10.2%, China 6.8% (2014)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold 110/170

$2.7 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$2.473 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Debt - external 91/206

$17.3 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

$16.57 billion (31 December 2013 est.)

Exchange rates

Jamaican dollars (JMD) per US dollar -

116.8 (2015 est.)

110.94 (2014 est.)

110.94 (2013 est.)

88.75 (2012 est.)

85.89 (2011 est.)

Energy

Electricity - production 124/220

4.041 billion kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - consumption 134/219

3.008 billion kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - exports 155/218

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - imports 165/219

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity 125/214

917,500 kW (2012 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels 72/214

91.7% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels 116/214

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants 135/214

2.5% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources 54/212

5.9% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Crude oil - production 150/214

0 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Crude oil - exports 142/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - imports 67/214

24,160 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves 149/215

0 bbl (1 January 2015 est.)

Refined petroleum products - production 91/214

24,640 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption 96/212

53,000 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports 92/214

5,480 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports 95/213

32,140 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Natural gas - production 204/216

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - consumption 157/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - exports 123/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - imports 214/214

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves 153/212

0 cu m (1 January 2014 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy 95/212

12.75 million Mt (2012 est.)

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines 122/219

total subscriptions: 250,000

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 9 (2014 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular 140/217

total: 2.9 million

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 98 (2014 est.)

Telephone system

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 exceeded 110 per 100 persons in 2011

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; the ALBA-1 fiber-optic submarine cable links Jamaica, Cuba, and Venezuela; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) (2010)

Broadcast media

3 free-to-air TV stations, subscription cable services, and roughly 30 radio stations (2013)

Radio broadcast stations

AM 4, FM 24, shortwave 0 (2008)

Television broadcast stations

7 (1997)

Internet country code

.jm

Internet hosts 149/232

3,906 (2012)

Internet users 109/217

total: 1.5 million

percent of population: 49.8% (2014 est.)

Transportation

Airports 123/236

28 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 11

2,438 to 3,047 m: 2

914 to 1,523 m: 4

under 914 m: 5 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 17

914 to 1,523 m: 1

under 914 m: 16 (2013)

Roadways 104/223

total: 22,121 km (includes 44 km of expressways)

paved: 16,148 km

unpaved: 5,973 km (2011)

Merchant marine 103/156

total: 14

by type: bulk carrier 4, cargo 5, container 4, roll on/roll off 1

foreign-owned: 14 (Denmark 1, Germany 10, Greece 3) (2010)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Discovery Bay (Port Rhoades), Kingston, Montego Bay, Port Antonio, Port Esquivel, Port Kaiser, Rocky Point

container port(s) (TEUs): Kingston (1,724,928)

Military and Security

Military branches

Jamaica Defense Force: Ground Forces, Coast Guard, Air Wing (2010)

Military service age and obligation

17 1/2 is the legal minimum age for voluntary military service; no conscription (2012)

Military expenditures 111/132

0.86% of GDP (2012)

0.92% of GDP (2011)

0.86% of GDP (2010)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

none

Illicit drugs

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