U.S. Department of State 
Background Notes: Jamaica, March 1998
Released by the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs. 


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 (July 1995 est.): 2,574,291.
Annual growth rate (1995 est.): 0.78%.
Ethnic groups: African 90.9 %, East Indian 1.3%, Chinese 0.2%, White 
0.2%, mixed 7.3%, other 0.1%.
Religions: Anglican, Baptist and other Protestant, Roman Catholic, 
Rastafarian.
Language: English.
Education: Years compulsory--to age 14. Literacy (age 15 and over)--85%.
Health (1995 est.): Infant mortality rate--16.1/1,000. Life expectancy 
(1995 est.)--74.65 yrs.
Work force (1996): 1.2 million. Industry--20%. Agriculture--23%. 
Services --57 %. 

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).
Suffrage: Universal at 18. 

Economy (1996) 

GDP: $5.5 billion.
Real growth rate: 0.5%.
Per capita GDP: $2,171.
Natural resources: Bauxite, gypsum, limestone.
Agriculture: Products--sugar, bananas, coffee, citrus fruits, allspice.
Industry: Types--bauxite and alumina, tourism, garment assembly, 
processed foods, sugar, rum, cement, metal, paper, chemical products. 
Trade: Exports--$1.4 billion: alumina, bauxite, sugar, bananas, 
garments, citrus fruits and products, rum, cocoa. Major markets--U.S. 
36.6%, U.K. 13.4%, Canada 10.8%, Norway 7.6%, The Netherlands 7.6%, 
CARICOM 4.2%. Imports--$2.8 billion: machinery, transportation and 
electrical equipment, food, fuels, fertilizer. Major suppliers--U.S. 
50.5%, CARICOM 8.7%, Japan 6.7%, U.K. 4.1%, Canada 3.6%, Venezuela 2.0%.
Official exchange rate: J$35.33=US$1. 

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 in 1992, and has met with 
President Clinton and other senior U.S. Government officials. In May 
1997, Prime Minister Patterson joined President Clinton and 14 other 
Caribbean leaders during the first-ever U.S.-regional summit in 
Bridgetown, Barbados. The summit strengthened the basis for regional 
cooperation on justice and counternarcotics issues, finance and 
development, and trade. 

The United States is Jamaica's most important trading partner: The 
bilateral trade in goods in 1995 amounted to $1.9 billion. Jamaica is a 
popular destination for American tourists--over 800,000 Americans 
visited in 1997, and the Jamaican Government hopes to increase that 
number. 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. An 
active participant in the Summit of the Americas and its follow-on 
activities, the Government of Jamaica fully supports efforts to create a 
Free Trade Area of the Americans (FTAA) by 2005. More than 80 U.S. firms 
have operations in Jamaica, and total U.S. investment is estimated at 
more than $1 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 "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. The American Chamber of Commerce, which is also available to 
assist U.S. businesses interested in Jamaica, has offices in Kingston 
and Montego Bay. 

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 First World standards in a 
number of critical health indicators, and the diversification and 
expansion of Jamaica's export base. USAID's primary objective is 
promoting economic growth, reinforcing Jamaica's commitment to the 
private sector. Other key objectives are improved environmental quality 
and natural resource protection, as well as smaller, better-educated 
families. In FY96, the USAID mission in Jamaica operated a $11.2 million 
program. 

The Peace Corps engages in projects designed to facilitate the growth 
and soundness of community-based organizations at the local level. 
Projects focus in one of four sectors: environment, business 
development, education/youth at risk, and health. The target groups for 
all sectors are the "poorest of the poor," i.e., women, youth, 
physically/mentally handicapped, and the unemployed/unemployable. Peace 
Corps' impact is at a grassroots-level. Over the long term, the 6,000 
volunteers who have served in Jamaica have fostered a better 
understanding between Jamaicans and Americans. Moreover, Peace Corps' 
concentration of skills transfer has improved the capacity of the 
Jamaican people with whom the volunteers have worked. 

Jamaica is a producer of marijuana and an increasingly significant 
cocaine transshipment country. U.S. assistance has played a vital role 
in stemming the flow of these drugs to the United States. In 1997, 
Jamaica eradicated 683 hectares of cannabis (compared to 473 hectares in 
1996), seized 24 metric tons of marijuana (compared to 53 metric tons in 
1996), and seized 414 kilograms of cocaine (compared to 236 kilograms in 
1996). Effective cooperation between the DEA's Kingston country office 
and Jamaican law enforcement contributed to more than 3,350 drug arrests 
in 1997. In March 1998, the U.S. and Jamaica exchanged diplomatic notes 
bringing into effect a maritime counternarcotics agreement that is 
expected to help facilitate U.S.-Jamaican counternarcotics operations.

HISTORICAL HIGHLIGHTS 

Arawaks from South America had settled in Jamaica prior to Christopher 
Columbus' first arrival to 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 and slavery 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 immigrate to the United 
States each year; another 200,000 visit annually. New York, Miami, 
Chicago, and Hartford are among the U.S. cities with significant 
Jamaican population. Remittances from the expatriate communities in the 
United States, United Kingdom, and Canada 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 five 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 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 Defence--P.J. Patterson
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade-
-Seymour Mullings
Minister of Finance and Planning--Dr. Omar Davies
Minister of Industry and Investment--Dr. Paul Robertson 
Minister of National Security and Justice--K.D. Knight
Ambassador to the United States and the Organization of American States 
(OAS)--Dr. Richard Bernal
Ambassador to the United Nations--M. Patricia Durrant 

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 866 2nd Avenue, 2 Hammarskjold Plaza, New 
York, NY 10017 (tel. 212-935-9000); and in Miami at Ingraham Building, 
Suite 842, 25 SE 2nd 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 16.2% in 1996-
-rampant underemployment, inflation, high interest rates, 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 and ganja (marijuana)--
contribute to a high level of violent crime, especially in Kingston. 

The two long-established political parties have historical links with 
two major 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). A third party, the National 
Democratic Movement (NDM), was created in October 1995; it does not have 
links with any particular trade union. 

For health reasons, Michael Manley stepped down as Prime Minister in 
March 1992 and was replaced by his long-time deputy, P.J. Patterson. 
Patterson subsequently led the PNP to victory in general elections in 
1993 and in December 1997. The 1997 victory marks the first time any 
Jamaican political party has won three consecutive general elections 
since the introduction of universal suffrage to Jamaica in 1944. The 
current composition of the lower house of Jamaica's Parliament is 50 PNP 
and 10 JLP. The NDM, a breakaway faction of the JLP, failed to win any 
seats in the 1997 election.

Following the 1993 elections, the Jamaican Government, political 
parties, and Electoral Advisory Committee have worked to enact electoral 
reform. A U.S. firm was awarded a $14 million contract to institute a 
revolutionary electronic-based voter registration system. In the 1997 
general elections, grass-roots Jamaican efforts, supplemented by 
international observers, helped reduce the violence that has tended to 
mar Jamaican elections. 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. 
The government now pledges to hold new local government elections by the 
end of June 1998.

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. A major constraint on Jamaica's economic prospects is 
a heavy foreign debt of more than $3.4 billion; debt servicing consumes 
46% of the budget. Tourist arrivals remain at record levels, but are 
increasingly affected by tourist concerns about harassment and violence. 

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. 

In an effort to moderate growth in inflation and stabilize the Jamaican 
dollar, the government has pursued a tight monetary policy, offering 
high rates of interest on government securities and requiring high 
levels of reserves in the financial sector. The Government of Jamaica 
has outlined its ambitious National Industrial Policy which has a 
horizon of 15 years and is expected to produce growth of 6% per year. 
The policy covers a wide range of sectors, including manufacturing and 
agriculture, and service industries such as tourism and 
telecommunications. The goal of the policy is to promote investment, 
increase productivity, and foster growth in sectors producing tradable 
goods and services. 

Efforts are also being made to implement a social partnership between 
government, employees, trade unions, consumers, and the private sector. 
This social partnership is intended to create a more investment-friendly 
environment through an improved industrial relations climate. 

FOREIGN RELATIONS 

Jamaica has diplomatic relations with most nations, and is a member of 
the United Nations and the Organization of American States. In the 
follow-on meetings to the December 1994 Summit of the Americas, Jamaica-
-together with Uruguay--was given the responsibility of coordinating 
discussions on Invigorating Society. Jamaica also chairs the Working 
Group on Smaller Economies. 

Jamaica is a member of the British Commonwealth. A member of the eight-
nation Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), Jamaica has been at 
the forefront of countries calling for the return of democracy to 
Nigeria. Jamaica is a beneficiary of the Lome IV Convention 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). 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 de facto authorities from power. Jamaica contributed more than 
100 personnel to the multinational force, which restored the 
democratically elected Government of Haiti in October 1994. Jamaica is 
committed to the rebuilding of the Haitian economy and the continued 
strengthening of its democratic institutions. 

Prime Minister Patterson visited Cuba at the end of May 1997. In the 
fall of 1997, Jamaica upgraded its consulate in Havana to an embassy and 
the non-resident Jamaican ambassador to Cuba was replaced by a resident 
ambassador. 

Principal U.S. Officials 

Ambassador--Stan L. McLelland
Deputy Chief of Mission--James Cason
Economic/Political Counselor--Robert Windsor
USAID Mission Director--Carole H. Tyson
Defense Attache--Cdr. M. David Moore
Chief, Military Liaison Office--Lt. Col. James White
Consul General--Dean Welty
Public Affairs Counselor--James Foster
Peace Corps Director--Janet Simoni 

The U.S. Embassy in Jamaica is at 2 Oxford Road, Jamaica Mutual Life 
Center, Kingston (tel. 876-929-4850). The Consular section is at 16 
Oxford Road, Kingston (tel. 876-929-4850). The USAID Mission is at 2 
Haining Road, Kingston (tel. 876-926-5001). The Peace Corps is at 1A 
Holborn Road, Kingston (tel. 876-929-0495).

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

American Chamber of Commerce of Jamaica
The Wyndham Hotel
77 Knutsford Boulevard
Kingston 5, Jamaica
Tel: (876) 929-7866/67
Fax: (876) 929-8597
E-Mail: odudley@mail.toj.com
(Branch in Montego Bay)

Caribbean/Latin American Action
1818 N Street, NW
Suite 310
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: (202) 466-7464
Fax: (202) 822-0075

TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION 

The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides 
Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings are 
issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel 
to a certain country. Consular Information Sheets exist for all 
countries and include information on immigration practices, currency 
regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime and 
security, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. posts in 
the country.

Public Announcements are issued as a means to disseminate information 
quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term 
conditions overseas which pose significant risks to the security of 
American travelers. Free copies of this information are available by 
calling the Bureau of Consular Affairs at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-
on-demand system: 202-647-3000. Travel Warnings and Consular Information 
Sheets also are available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page:  
and the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). To access CABB, dial the 
modem number: (301-946-4400 (it will accommodate up to 33,600 bps), set 
terminal communications program to N-8-1 (no parity, 8 bits, 1 stop 
bit); and terminal emulation to VT100. The login is travel and the 
password is info (Note: Lower case is required). The CABB also carries 
international security information from the Overseas Security Advisory 
Council and Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Consular Affairs 
Trips for Travelers publication series, which contain information on 
obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad, can be purchased 
from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, 
P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954; telephone: 202-512-1800; fax 
202-512-2250.

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be 
obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-
5225. For after-hours emergencies, Sundays and holidays, call 202-647-
4000. 

Passport Services information can be obtained by calling the 24-hour, 7-
day a week automated system ($.35 per minute) or live operators 8 a.m. 
to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday ($1.05 per minute). The number is 1-900-
225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778). Major credit card users (for a flat rate 
of $4.95) may call 1-888-362-8668 (TDD: 1-888-498-3648).

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers 
for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 
(404) 332-4559 gives 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.

Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and 
customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to 
travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's 
embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal 
Government Officials" listing in this publication). 

U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous areas 
are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a country 
(see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" listing in this publication). 
Registering with the embassy may help you to replace lost identity 
documents or help family members contact you in case of an emergency.

Further Electronic Information: 

Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet, 
DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy 
information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; Dispatch, 
the official magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press briefings; 
Country Commercial Guides; directories of key officers of foreign 
service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at 
http://www.state.gov.

U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on an annual basis by 
the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on the 
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of 
official foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. Contact 
the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. 
Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or 
fax (202) 512-2250. 

National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of 
Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information, 
including Country Commercial Guides. It is available on the Internet 
(www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-
1986 for more information.

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