U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
BACKGROUND NOTES: JAMAICA
PUBLISHED BY THE BUREAU OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS
NOVEMBER 1994

Official Name:  Jamaica

PROFILE

Geography
Area:  10,991 sq. km. (4,244 sq. mi.).
Cities:  Capital--Kingston (pop. 566,200).  Other cities--Montego Bay 
(85,500), Spanish Town (112,000).
Terrain:  Mountainous.
Climate:  Tropical.

People
Nationality:  Noun and adjective--Jamaican(s).
Population (1993 est.):  2.5 million.
Annual growth rate (1975-93):  1%.
Ethnic groups:  African 77,  Afro-European 15%, East Indian and Afro-
East Indian 3%, European 3%, Chinese and Afro-Chinese 1%, other 1%.
Religions:  Anglican, Baptist and other Protestant, Roman Catholic.
Language:  English.
Education:  Years compulsory--to age 14.  Literacy (age 15 and over)--
82%.
Health:  Infant mortality rate--25/1,000.  Life expectancy--71 yrs.
Work force (1993):  1.3 million.  Industry--19%.  Agriculture--24%.  
Services--57%.

Government
Type:  Constitutional monarchy.
Independence:  August 6, 1962.
Constitution:  August 6, 1962.
Branches:  Executive--governor general (chief of state, representing 
U.K. monarch), prime minister, cabinet.  Legislative--bicameral 
parliament (21 senators, 60 representatives).  Judicial--Court of Appeal 
and courts of original jurisdiction.
Subdivisions:  14 parishes.
Political parties:  People's National Party (PNP), Jamaica Labor Party 
(JLP).  Suffrage:  Universal over 18.

Economy
GDP (1993):  $3.8 billion.
Real growth rate (1993):  1.2%.
Per capita GDP (1993):  $1,543.
Natural resources:  Bauxite, gypsum, limestone.
Agriculture:  Products--sugar, bananas, citrus fruits, coffee, allspice.
Industry:  Types--bauxite and alumina, tourism, garment assembly, 
processed foods, sugar, rum, cement, metal, paper, chemical products.
Trade (1993):  Exports--$1.1 billion:  alumina, bauxite, sugar, bananas, 
garments, citrus fruits and products, rum, cocoa.  Major markets--U.S. 
36.4%, U.K. 14.2%, Canada 10.9%, Norway 8.1%, CARICOM 5.7%.  Imports--
$2.8 billion: machinery, transportation and electrical equipment, food, 
fuels, fertilizer.  Major suppliers--U.S. 49.6%, Japan 8.4%, CARICOM 
5.3%, U.K. 4.4%, Venezuela 4.2%, Canada 4.1%.
Official exchange rate:   J$33.2=U.S.$1. 


PEOPLE

Jamaica is a multiracial society made up of people who primarily are of 
African origin, along with other diverse groups.  Generally, Jamaica has 
enjoyed harmonious racial and cultural relations.  Its national motto, 
"Out of many, one people," suggests this desire for harmony.  Class 
distinctions from the colonial period were somewhat reduced through 
increased social mobility due to education and wider ownership of 
property in the decade after independence.

Religion plays an important role in the life of most Jamaicans.  The 
Anglican Church is the largest of the established churches, followed by 
the many Baptist sects, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Methodist 
Church.  Evangelical and revivalist sects are popular.  Jamaica has 
several Muslim and Hindu groups, along with a small Jewish community.  
Although few in number, Rastafarians, who believe the late Ethiopian 
Emperor Haile Selassie is the embodiment of God, have played a 
significant role in the development of Jamaican culture.

Education, while technically free and compulsory to age 14, is beyond 
the reach of thousands of working-class and middle-class families 
through fees imposed by individual schools to pay for books, supplies, 
and repairs.  The educational system primarily consists of private 
elementary schools, which send more than half of their graduates to high 
schools.  Students rarely progress to higher education.  Technical 
school training is difficult to obtain.  

Historically, emigration by Jamaicans has been heavy.  Since the United 
Kingdom restricted immigration in 1967, the major flow has been to the 
United States and Canada.  About 13,000 Jamaicans enter the United 
States and 3,500 enter Canada each year in immigrant status.  In 
addition, about 200,000 visit the United States annually.  New York, 
Miami, Chicago, and Hartford are among the U.S. cities with significant 
Jamaican populations.

A vigorous arts and cultural movement  developed in Jamaica under active 
govern-
mental and private sponsorship.  Jamaican writers, artists, and 
performers are engaged in a search through the nation's ethnic origins, 
especially African, for a cultural identity and expression suitable for 
their multiracial society.


HISTORY

When Christopher Columbus came to Jamaica in 1494, it was inhabited by 
an indigenous people called Arawaks.  As Jamaica was settled by the 
Spanish during the early 16th century, the Arawaks eventually died from 
disease, slavery, and war.  In 1655, British forces seized the island, 
and in 1670 Great Britain gained formal possession through the Treaty of 
Madrid.

Sugar and slavery, important elements in Jamaica's history and 
development, made it one of the most valuable possessions in the world 
for more than 150 years.  Slavery was ended in 1838, years before 
emancipation in other parts of the New World.

After a long period of direct British colonial rule, Jamaica gained a 
degree of local political control in the late 1930s.  During this 
period, which was marked by social unrest and occasional violence, the 
groundwork was laid for Jamaica's major political parties, led by Norman 
Washington Manley (People's National Party--PNP) and his cousin, Sir 
Alexander Bustamante (Jamaica Labor Party--JLP).  Jamaica's first 
election with universal adult suffrage was held in 1944, and the JLP won 
a majority in the House of Representatives.  Since then, the two parties 
have alternated in majority, two terms at a time.

In 1958, Jamaica joined nine other U.K. territories in the West Indies 
Federation but withdrew when, in a 1961 referendum, Jamaican voters 
rejected membership.  Jamaica gained independence from the United 
Kingdom in 1962 and remained a member of the Commonwealth.


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 a 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 Senate members 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 five years of the 
forming of a new government (majority in the House of Representatives).  
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 one month or other bills for more than seven months.

The prime minister and the cabinet are selected from the parliament.  No 
fewer than two nor 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--Sir Howard Cooke
Prime Minister and Minister of Defense--P.J. Patterson
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture --Seymour Mullings

Ministers:
Public Service and Environment--Easton Douglas
Finance and Planning--Dr. Omar Davies
Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade--Dr. Paul Robertson
National Security and Justice--K.D. Knight

Ambassador to the United States and the Organization of American States 
(OAS)--Richard Bernal
Ambassador to the United Nations--Lucille Mair

Jamaica maintains an embassy in the United States at 1520 New Hampshire 
Ave NW, Washington, DC 20030 (tel. 202-452-0660).  It also has 
consulates in New York at 866 2d Avenue, 2 Hammarskjold Plaza, New York, 
NY 10017 (tel.  212-935-9000); and in Miami at Ingraham Building, Suite 
842, 25 SE 2d Avenue, Miami, FL 33131 (tel.  305-374-8431/34).


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 16.3% in 
1993--rampant underemployment, inflation, depreciation of the Jamaican 
dollar, and labor unrest are the most serious economic problems.  The 
migration of unemployed people to urban areas, coupled with an increase 
in the use and trafficking of narcotics--(crack cocaine, marijuana, and, 
more recently, heroin)--contribute to a high level of violent crime, 
especially in Kingston.

The two major political parties have historical links with two major 
trade unions--the Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) with the Bustamante 
Industrial Trade Union (BITU) and the People's National Party (PNP) with 
the National Workers Union (NWU).

--   The JLP emphasizes the role of the private sector, restructuring of 
the economy, reforming the government, and the need for foreign private 
investment during its most recent term in office (1980-89) under party 
leader Edward Seaga.  The JLP is affiliated with the International 
Democratic Union.

--   The PNP is a social democratic party--in government since 1989--
which has followed the same general economic policy, in some cases 
liberalizing the economy at a faster pace than did the JLP.  It is 
affiliated with the Socialist International.

Minor political parties exist but do not play a significant role in 
Jamaican politics.

For health reasons, Michael Manley stepped down as Prime Minister in 
March 1992.  P.J. Patterson won a contested race for party leader of the 
PNP in a special convention.  In the March 1993 general elections, the 
PNP won 52 seats, and the JLP won 8 in the House of Representatives.  
Major issues in the campaign included government handling of the 
economy, inflation, crime, and corruption.  The election maintained the 
Jamaican tradition of alternating, two-term governments, with the PNP 
winning a second consecutive term of office.  There was some violence 
during the election.  Afterward, widespread charges of fraud and 
malfeasance prompted broad-based public demands for electoral reform--a 
process which still is underway.

Local elections were last held in 1990, when the PNP won a decisive 
victory.  Jamaican law requires that local elections be held every three 
years; elections may be delayed through legislation.  Local elections 
have been postponed to June 1995.


ECONOMY

Jamaica has natural resources, primarily bauxite, and an ideal 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.  The major constraint on Jamaica's economic prospects 
is a heavy foreign debt of more than $3.6 billion; debt servicing 
consumes 49% of the budget.  Although tourist arrivals remain near 
record levels, heavy discounting by local resorts has affected overall 
receipts.  Cruise ship patronage, meanwhile, is declining because of 
higher taxes and heavy competition with other destinations and may be 
further affected by tourist concerns about harassment and violence.  
Although bauxite prices may be returning to historic levels after a 
multi-year slump, this may be offset by price increases in  imported 
commodities.  Continuing environmental degradation also can hurt tourism 
as well as food production, fisheries, and the prospects for  sustained 
development.

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, tax holidays, 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.  The "807A" program, 
which guarantees access in the United States for garments made in 
Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) countries from textiles woven and cut 
in the United States, has opened new opportunities for investment and 
expansion in Jamaica.  More than 80 U.S. firms have operations 
in Jamaica, and total U.S. investment, including that in bauxite-
alumina, is estimated at more than $1 billion.
 
The American Chamber of Commerce promotes trade opportunities between 
Jamaica and the United States, promote Jamaican exports, attract new 
U.S. private investment to Jamaica, and provide Jamaican and American 
businesses with a forum through which to advocate public policies 
enhancing the business climate.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

Jamaica has diplomatic relations with most nations.  A wide range of 
countries and international organizations maintain missions in Kingston.  
Under the Seaga government, Jamaica severed diplomatic relations with 
Cuba in 1981, charging Cuba with interference in its internal affairs.  
The Manley government restored diplomatic ties with Cuba in 1990.  
Jamaica is active in the United Nations and in other international 
organizations.

Jamaica is a member of the Commonwealth.  Historically, Jamaica has had 
close ties with the U.K., but trade, financial, and cultural relations 
with the United States and Canada are now predominant.  Regionally, 
Jamaica is linked with the other countries of the English-speaking 
Caribbean through the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). 

As a member of CARICOM, Jamaica strongly backed efforts by the U.S. to 
implement UN Security Council Resolution 940, designed to facilitate the 
departure of Haiti's defacto authorities from power.  Jamaica 
contributed more than 100 personnel to the multinational force, which 
restored the democratically elected Government of Haiti in October 1994. 


U.S.-JAMAICAN RELATIONS

The United States maintains close and productive relations with the 
Government of Jamaica.  Prime Minister Patterson has visited Washington, 
DC, several times since assuming office and has met with President 
Clinton and other senior U.S. Government officials.

Jamaica is one of only a handful of countries that signed a Bilateral 
Investment Treaty and an Intellectual Property Rights agreement.  
Jamaica and the U.S. cooperate on narcotics control measures.  The U.S. 
State Department's Bureau for International Narcotics Matters operates a 
$600,000 assistance program, which focuses on narcotics law enforcement 
and drug abuse education.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) provided $10 
million in assistance in 1994.  USAID objectives include increasing 
foreign exchange earnings and employment, improving environmental 
quality and protecting natural resources, and promoting family planning.


Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Jerome Gary Cooper
Deputy Chief of Mission--Lacy A. Wright, Jr.
Economic/Political Counselor--John P. Riley
USAID Mission Director--Carole H. Tyson
Defense Attache--Lt. Col. Norman Wiggins
Chief, Military Liaison Office--Maj. Terry DeRouchey
Labor Attache--Janet Potash
Consul General--John Vessey III
Public Affairs Counselor--Michael Houlahan
Peace Corps Director--Janet Simoni

The U.S. embassy in Jamaica is at 2 Oxford Road, Jamaica Mutual Life 
Center, Kingston (tel. 809/929-4850).  The Consular section is at 16 
Oxford Road, Kingston (tel. 809/929-4850).  The USAID Mission is at 6B 
Oxford Road, Kingston (tel. 809/926-3645).  The Peace Corps is at 1A 
Holborn Road, Kingston (tel. 809/929-0495)

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