Jamaica - Tips

Jamaica Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
June 2007

Background Note: Jamaica

The Jamaica flag is a diagonal yellow cross that divides the flag into four
triangles - green (top and bottom) and black (hoist side and outer side).

PROFILE

OFFICIAL NAME:
Jamaica

Geography
Area: 10,991 sq. km. (4,244 sq. mi.).
Cities: Capital--Kingston metro area and St. Andrew (pop. 650,000). Other
cities--Montego Bay (96,000), Spanish Town (131,515).
Terrain: Mountainous, coastal plains.
Climate: Tropical.

People
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Jamaican(s).
Population (2006 est.): 2,673,800.
Annual growth rate (2006): 1.5%.
Ethnic groups: African 90.9%, East Indian 1.3%, Chinese 0.2%, White 0.2%,
mixed 7.3%, other 0.1%.
Religious affiliation: Anglican, Baptist and other Protestant, Roman
Catholic, Rastafarian, Jewish.
Languages: English, Patois.
Education: Years compulsory--to age 14. Literacy (age 15 and over)--79.9%.
Health (2005): Infant mortality rate--19.2/1,000. Life expectancy--female 75
yrs., male 73 yrs.
Work force (2006, 1.25 million): Industry--17.1%; agriculture--17.9%;
services--64.9%.

Government
Type: Constitutional parliamentary democracy.
Independence: August 6, 1962.
Constitution: August 6, 1962.
Branches: Executive--Governor General (chief of state, representing British
monarch), prime minister, cabinet. Legislative--bicameral Parliament (21
appointed senators, 60 elected representatives). Judicial--Court of Appeal
and courts of original jurisdiction.
Subdivisions: 14 parishes, 60 electoral constituencies.
Political parties: People's National Party (PNP), Jamaica Labour Party (JLP),
National Democratic Movement (NDM), United Peoples Party (UPP).
Suffrage: Universal at 18.

Economy
GDP (2005): $9.7 billion.
Real growth rate (2006): 2.5%.
Per capita GDP (2005): $3,640.
Natural resources: Bauxite, gypsum, limestone, marble, sand, silica.
Agriculture: Products--sugar, bananas, coffee, citrus fruits, condiments and
spices.
Industry: Types--tourism, bauxite and alumina, processed foods, sugar, rum,
cement, metal, chemical products.
Trade (2005): Exports--$1.5 billion: alumina, bauxite, sugar, bananas,
chemicals, citrus fruits and products, rum, coffee. Major markets (2005)
--U.S. 26.3%, U.K. 10.8%, Canada 19.6%, Trinidad and Tobago 0.6%, Japan 1.0%.
Imports (2005)--$4.7 billion: machinery, transportation and electrical
equipment, food, fuels, fertilizer. Major suppliers (2000)--U.S. 40.1%,
Trinidad and Tobago 9.0%, Japan 4.5%, U.K. 2.4%, Canada 2.3%.

PEOPLE AND HISTORY
Arawaks from South America had settled in Jamaica prior to Christopher
Columbus' first arrival at the island in 1494. During Spain's occupation of
the island, starting in 1510, the Arawaks were exterminated by disease,
slavery, and war. Spain brought the first African slaves to Jamaica in 1517.
In 1655, British forces seized the island, and in 1670, Great Britain gained
formal possession.
Sugar made Jamaica one of the most valuable possessions in the world for more
than 150 years. The British Parliament abolished slavery as of August 1,
1834. After a long period of direct British colonial rule, Jamaica gained a
degree of local political control in the late 1930s, and held its first
election under full universal adult suffrage in 1944. Jamaica joined nine
other U.K. territories in the West Indies Federation in 1958 but withdrew
after Jamaican voters rejected membership in 1961. Jamaica gained
independence in 1962, remaining a member of the Commonwealth.

Historically, Jamaican emigration has been heavy. Since the United Kingdom
restricted emigration in 1967, the major flow has been to the United States
and Canada. About 20,000 Jamaicans emigrate to the United States each year;
another 200,000 visit annually. New York, Miami, Chicago, and Hartford are
among the U.S. cities with a significant Jamaican population. Remittances
from the expatriate communities in the United States, United Kingdom, and
Canada, estimated at up to $1.6 billion per year, make increasingly
significant contributions to Jamaica's economy.

GOVERNMENT
The 1962 constitution established a parliamentary system based on the U.K.
model. As chief of state, Queen Elizabeth II appoints a governor general, on
the advice of the prime minister, as her representative in Jamaica. The
governor general's role is largely ceremonial. Executive power is vested in
the cabinet, led by the prime minister.
Parliament is composed of an appointed Senate and an elected House of
Representatives. Thirteen Senators are nominated on the advice of the prime
minister and eight on the advice of the leader of the opposition. General
elections must be held within 5 years of the forming of a new government. The
prime minister may ask the governor general to call elections sooner,
however. The Senate may submit bills, and it also reviews legislation
submitted by the House.

It may not delay budget bills for more than 1 month or other bills for more
than 7 months. The prime minister and the cabinet are selected from the
Parliament. No fewer than two or more than four members of the cabinet must
be selected from the Senate.

The judiciary also is modeled on the U.K. system. The Court of Appeals is the
highest appellate court in Jamaica. Under certain circumstances, cases may be
appealed to the Privy Council of the United Kingdom. Jamaica's parishes have
elected councils that exercise limited powers of local government.

Principal Government Officials
Governor General--Kenneth O. Hall
Prime Minister and Minister of Defense--Portia Simpson Miller
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade--G. Anthony Hylton
Ambassador to the United States and the Organization of American States (OAS)
--Gordon Shirley
Ambassador to the United Nations--Raymond Wolfe

Jamaica maintains an embassy in the United States at 1520 New Hampshire
Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036 (tel. 202-452-0660). It also has consulates
in New York at 767 3rd Avenue, New York, NY 10017 (tel. 212-935-9000); and in
Miami in the Ingraham Building, Suite 842, 25 SE 2nd Avenue, Miami, FL 33131
(tel. 305-374-8431/2).

POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Jamaica's political system is stable. However, the country's serious economic
problems have exacerbated social problems and have become the subject of
political debate. High unemployment--averaging 12.5%--rampant
underemployment, growing debt, and high interest rates are the most serious
economic problems. Violent crime is a serious problem, particularly in
Kingston.

The two major political parties have historical links with the two largest
trade unions--the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) with the Bustamante Industrial
Trade Union (BITU), and the People's National Party (PNP) with the National
Workers Union (NWU). The center-right National Democratic Movement (NDM) was
established in 1995, and the populist United Peoples Party (UPP) in 2001;
neither has links with any particular trade union, and both are marginal
movements.
For health reasons, Michael Manley stepped down as Prime Minister in March
1992 and was replaced by P.J. Patterson. Patterson subsequently led the PNP
to victory in general elections in 1993, 1997, and in October of 2002. The
2002 victory marked the first time any Jamaican political party has won four
consecutive general elections since the introduction of universal suffrage in
1944.

Upon Patterson's retirement on March 30, 2006, Portia Simpson Miller became
the first female prime minister in Jamaica's history. The current composition
of the lower house of Jamaica's Parliament is 36 PNP and 24 JLP.

Since the 1993 elections, the Jamaican Government, political parties, and
Electoral Advisory Committee have worked to enact electoral reform. In the
2002 general elections, grassroots Jamaican efforts from groups like CAFFE
(Citizens Action for Free and Fair Elections), supplemented by international
observers and organizations such as The Carter Center, helped reduce the
violence that has tended to mar Jamaican elections. Former President Carter
also observed the 2002 elections and declared them free and fair.

ECONOMY
Jamaica has natural resources, primarily bauxite, adequate water supplies,
and climate conducive to agriculture and tourism. The discovery of bauxite in
the 1940s and the subsequent establishment of the bauxite-alumina industry
shifted Jamaica's economy from sugar and bananas. By the 1970s, Jamaica had
emerged as a world leader in export of these minerals as foreign investment
increased.
The country faces some serious problems but has the potential for growth and
modernization. Currency reserves, remittances, tourism, agriculture, mining,
construction, and shipping all remain strong, and Jamaica has attracted over
U.S. $4.4 billion in foreign direct investment over the past decade. However,
high unemployment, burdensome debt, an alarming crime rate, and anemic growth
continue to darken the country's prospects. After 4 years of negative
economic growth, Jamaica's GDP grew by 0.8% in 2000, and has grown in the
0.5% to 2.5% range, year-on-year, since then. Inflation fell from 25% in 1995
to 6.1% in 2000 and has mostly registered single digits since then, including
calendar year 2006, which saw the lowest rate in 18 years, at 5.8%.

Through periodic intervention in the market, the central bank prevents any
abrupt drop in the exchange rate. Nevertheless, the Jamaican dollar continues
to slip despite intervention, resulting in an average exchange rate of
J$68.15 to the U.S. $1.00 by May 2007.

Weakness in the financial sector, speculation, and low levels of government
investment erode confidence in the production sector. The government is
unable to channel funds into social and physical infrastructure because of an
overwhelming debt-to-GDP ratio, which currently stands at approximately 135%.
Almost 60 cents on every dollar earned by the Jamaican Government goes to
debt servicing and recurrent expenditure. Tax compliance rates also
contribute to the problem, hovering at approximately 45%. On the other hand,
net internal reserves remain healthy, at $2.3 billion at the end of 2006.

Jamaican Government economic policies encourage foreign investment in areas
that earn or save foreign exchange, generate employment, and use local raw
materials. The government provides a wide range of incentives to investors,
including remittance facilities to assist them in repatriating funds to the
country of origin; tax holidays which defer taxes for a period of years; and
duty-free access for machinery and raw materials imported for approved
enterprises.

Free trade zones have stimulated investment in garment assembly, light
manufacturing, and data entry by foreign firms. However, over the last 5
years, the garment industry has suffered from reduced export earnings,
continued factory closures, and rising unemployment. This can be attributed
to intense international and regional competition, exacerbated by the high
costs of operations in Jamaica, including security costs to deter drug
activity, as well as the relatively high cost of labor. The Government of
Jamaica hopes to encourage economic activity through a combination of
privatization, financial sector restructuring, falling interest rates, and by
boosting tourism and related production activities.

FOREIGN RELATIONS
Jamaica has diplomatic relations with most nations and is a member of the
United Nations and the Organization of American States. It was an active
participant in the April 2001 Quebec Summit of the Americas. Jamaica is an
active member of the British Commonwealth, the Non-Aligned Movement, the
G-15, and the G-77. Jamaica is a beneficiary of the Cotonou Conventions,
through which the European Union (EU) grants trade preferences to selected
states in Asia, the Caribbean, and the Pacific.
Historically, Jamaica has had close ties with the U.K., but trade, financial,
and cultural relations with the United States are now predominant. Jamaica is
linked with the other countries of the English-speaking Caribbean through the
Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and more broadly through the Association of
Caribbean States (ACS). In December 2001, Jamaica completed its 2-year term
on the United Nations Security Council.

U.S.-JAMAICAN RELATIONS
The United States maintains close and productive relations with the
Government of Jamaica. Former Prime Minister Patterson visited Washington,
DC, several times after assuming office in 1992. In April 2001, Prime
Minister Patterson and other Caribbean leaders met with President Bush during
the Summit of the Americas in Quebec, Canada, at which a "Third Border
Initiative" was launched to deepen U.S. cooperation with Caribbean nations
and enhance economic development and integration of the Caribbean nations.
The current Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller, is expected to attend the
Conference on the Caribbean -- A 20/20 Vision in Washington in mid-June 2007.

The United States is Jamaica's most important trading partner: bilateral
trade in goods in 2005 was over $2 billion. Jamaica is a popular destination
for American tourists; more than 1.2 million Americans visited in 2006. In
addition, some 10,000 American citizens, including many dual-nationals born
on the island, permanently reside in Jamaica.
The Government of Jamaica also seeks to attract U.S. investment and supports
efforts to create a Free Trade Area of the Americans (FTAA). More than 80
U.S. firms have operations in Jamaica, and total U.S. investment is estimated
at more than $3 billion. An office of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial
Service, located in the embassy, actively assists American businesses seeking
trade opportunities in Jamaica. The country is a beneficiary of the Caribbean
Basin Trade Partner Act (CBTPA). The American Chamber of Commerce, which also
is available to assist U.S. business in Jamaica, has offices in Kingston.

U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) assistance to Jamaica since
its independence in 1962 has contributed to reducing the population growth
rate, the attainment of higher standards in a number of critical health
indicators, and the diversification and expansion of Jamaica's export base.
USAID's primary objective is promoting sustainable economic growth. Other key
objectives are improved environmental quality and natural resource
protection, strengthening democratic institutions and respect for the rule of
law, as well as family planning. In fiscal year 2006, the USAID mission in
Jamaica operated a program totaling more than $21 million in development
assistance.

The Peace Corps has been in Jamaica continuously since 1962. Since then, more
than 3,300 volunteers have served in the country. Today, the Peace Corps
works in the following projects: Youth-at-Risk, which includes adolescent
reproductive health, HIV/AIDS education, and the needs of marginalized males;
water sanitation, which includes rural waste water solutions and municipal
waste water treatment; and environmental education, which helps address low
levels of awareness and strengthens environmental nongovernmental
organizations. The Peace Corps in Jamaica fields about 70 volunteers who work
in every parish on the island, including some inner-city communities in
Kingston.

Jamaica is a major transit point for cocaine en route to the United States
and is also a key source of marijuana and marijuana derivative products for
the Americas. During 2006, the Government of Jamaica seized narcotics
destined for the United States, arrested key traffickers and criminal gang
leaders, and dismantled their organizations. Jamaica remains the Caribbean's
largest producer and exporter of marijuana. The efforts of the Jamaica
Constabulary Force (JCF) and Jamaica Defense Force (JDF) enabled cannabis
seizures to increase by over 200% in 2006. In 2006, the JCF arrested 5,409
persons on drug related charges, including 269 foreigners. Additionally, more
than 20,000 kilograms of marijuana were seized, and 6,300,000 marijuana
plants eradicated in 2006. In August 2006, two priority targets associated
with major cocaine trafficking organizations were arrested in Jamaica and
await extradition to the United States where they are charged with conspiracy
to import illegal drugs. Jeffrey and Gareth Lewis (father and son) allegedly
transported cocaine shipments from Colombia to the United States. Operation
Kingfish is a multinational task force (Jamaica, U.S., United Kingdom, and
Canada) for coordinating investigations leading to the arrest of major
criminals. From its October 2004 inception through December 2006, Operation
Kingfish launched 1,378 operations resulting in the seizure of 56 vehicles,
57 boats, one aircraft, 206 firearms, and two containers conveying drugs.
Kingfish was also responsible for the seizure of over 13 metric tons of
cocaine (mostly outside of Jamaica) and over 27,390 pounds of compressed
marijuana. In 2006 Operation Kingfish mounted 870 operations, compared to 607
in 2005. In 2006, through cargo scanning, the Jamaican Customs Contraband
Enforcement Team seized over 3,000 pounds of marijuana, ten kg of cocaine,
and approximately $500,000 at Jamaican air and seaports.

Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Brenda La Grange Johnson
Deputy Chief of Mission--James T. Heg
Economic/Political Section Chief--Lloyd W. Moss
USAID Mission Director--Karen Turner
Defense Attaché--CDR Randall Ramel
Chief, Military Liaison Office--LTC Matthew Faddis
Consul General--Edward Wehrli
Public Affairs Officer--Pat Attkisson
Peace Corps Director--Howard Anderson

The U.S. Embassy in Jamaica is at 142 Old Hope Road, Kingston 6; tel: (876)
702-6000; fax: (876) 702-6001.

The USAID Mission is at 2 Haining Road, Kingston (tel. 876-926-3645). The
Peace Corps is at 8 Worthington Avenue, Kingston 5 (tel. 876-929-0495). Log
onto the Internet at http://kingston.usembassy.gov/ for more information
about Jamaica, the U.S. Embassy and its activities, and current contact
information.

Other Contact Information

U.S. Department of Commerce
International Trade Administration
Trade Information Center
14th and Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20230
Tel: 800-USA-TRADE or 800-872-8723
Web site: http://trade.gov/

American Chamber of Commerce of Jamaica
The Jamaica Pegasus
81 Knutsford Blvd
Kingston 5, Jamaica
Tel: (876) 929-7866/67
Fax: (876) 929-8597
Web site: http://www.amchamjamaica.org/
E-mail: amcham@cwjamaica.com

Caribbean-Central American Action
1818 N Street, NW
Suite 500
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: (202) 466-7464
Fax: (202) 822-0075
Web site: http://www.c-caa.org

TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program advises Americans
traveling and residing abroad through Consular Information Sheets, Public
Announcements, and Travel Warnings. Consular Information Sheets exist for all
countries and include information on entry and exit requirements, currency
regulations, health conditions, safety and security, crime, political
disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.
Public Announcements are issued to disseminate information quickly about
terrorist threats and other relatively short-term conditions overseas that
pose significant risks to the security of American travelers. Travel Warnings
are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel
to a certain country because the situation is dangerous or unstable.

For the latest security information, Americans living and traveling abroad
should regularly monitor the Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet
web site at http://www.travel.state.gov, where the current Worldwide Caution,
Public Announcements, and Travel Warnings can be found. Consular Affairs
Publications, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a
safe trip abroad, are also available at http://www.travel.state.gov. For
additional information on international travel, see http://www.usa.gov/
Citizen/Topics/Travel/International.shtml.

The Department of State encourages all U.S citizens who traveling or residing
abroad to register via the State Department's travel registration website or
at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Registration will make your
presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an
emergency and will enable you to receive up-to-date information on security
conditions.

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained
by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada or the regular
toll line 1-202-501-4444 for callers outside the U.S. and Canada.

The National Passport Information Center (NPIC) is the U.S. Department of
State's single, centralized public contact center for U.S. passport
information. Telephone: 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778). Customer service
representatives and operators for TDD/TTY are available Monday-Friday, 7:00
a.m. to 12:00 midnight, Eastern Time, excluding federal holidays.

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 877-FYI-TRIP
(877-394-8747) and a web site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/index.htm give the
most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements,
and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A
booklet entitled "Health Information for International Travel" (HHS
publication number CDC-95-8280) is available from the U.S. Government
Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.

Further Electronic Information
Department of State Web Site. Available on the Internet at http://
www.state.gov, the Department of State web site provides timely, global
access to official U.S. foreign policy information, including Background
Notes and daily press briefings along with the directory of key officers of
Foreign Service posts and more. The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC)
provides security information and regional news that impact U.S. companies
working abroad through its website http://www.osac.gov

Export.gov provides a portal to all export-related assistance and market
information offered by the federal government and provides trade leads, free
export counseling, help with the export process, and more.
STAT-USA/Internet, a service of the U.S. Department of Commerce, provides
authoritative economic, business, and international trade information from
the Federal government. The site includes current and historical
trade-related releases, international market research, trade opportunities,
and country analysis and provides access to the National Trade Data Bank. ***********************************************************
See http://www.state.gov/r/pa/bgn/ for all Background notes
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