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The third largest island in the
Caribbean after Cuba and Hispaniola
- Capital: Kingston (pop. 748,000, est. 1991)
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- Area: 11,469 sq km (4,411 sq miles), Jamaica takes its name from the Arawak ‘Xaymaca’ - meaning land of wood and water.
- Topography: The ridge of a submerged mountain range, the land rises to 2,221m (7,402ft) at Blue Mountain Peak, and has an indented coastline with many good natural bays. Fine sandy beaches occur mostly on the north and west coasts. Small fast-flowing rivers, prone to flash flooding, run in forested gullies.
- Climate: Tropical at the coast (22-34 C, or 70-90 F), with fresh sea breezes, and markedly cooler in the mountains. Rainfall ranges from 1,500mm (60in) in Kingston to 3,850mm (154in) in Port Antonio. Jamaica lies in the hurricane zone and suffered extensive devastation from Hurricane Gilbert in 1988.
- Vegetation: Jamaica’s luxuriant tropical and, at higher altitude, subtropical vegetation is probably the richest in the region.
- Main towns: Kingston (pop. 748,000, est. 2000),Spanish Town (110,000), Montego Bay (112,000), May Pen, Ocho Rios.
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- Population: 2,665,636 (2001 est.); population density, 220 per sq km; birth rate 18.12 per 1,000 (2001); life expectancy 75.42 years (1993); rate of population growth 0.51% (2001). The population is mixed, predominantly of African descent, with European, East Indian and Chinese.
- Age Structure: Age structure: 0-14 years: 29.7% (male 405,189; female 386,555)
15-64 years: 63.52% (male 845,226; female 847,944)
65 years and over: 6.78% (male 80,667; female 100,055) (2001 est.)
- Religion: Protestant Christianity predominates, with Rastafarian, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Baha’i communities.
- Language: English and local patois.
- Education: The system is based on British systems of the post-war period. Free primary education is followed, subject to passing the ‘Common Entrance’ (11-plus) exam, by free secondary education leading to CXC (Caribbean Examination Certificate) and A-level courses. University admission is by competition. The University of the West Indies has its principal campus at Mona. Medical degrees from the University College Hospital are widely recognised abroad. The University of Technology (Utech) offers degree-level courses in science and technology.
- Health: Hospital services and government medical care are subsidised. Sickle cell disease occurs among some native-born Jamaicans; in other respects, epidemiology is similar to that of developed countries. One doctor per 2,000 inhabitants (1993).
- Employment: The labour force was 1,134,300 persons, 47% of them women, in 1998. Official unemployment was 16% (2000), but there is substantial underemployment in tourism and agriculture. Emigration has led to a severe shortage of skilled labour.
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- Media: National dailies are The Daily Gleaner and The Daily Observer all with weekend editions,The Star. There are eight radio
broadcasting stations, seven on FM and two on AM frequencies: Radio Jamaica(FM/AM), Radio 2 (FM/AM), FAME FM (FM),
KLAS (FM), Radio Waves (FM), Power 106 (FM), Love (FM)- a religious station and Irie (FM)-a reggae music station. TV services by Jamaica TV and CVM-TV.
- Post: Wide network of post offices.
- Telecoms: Full telephone IDD (code 1-876) available; fax in most hotels and offices, telex and telegram facilities also widespread.
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- Road: 4,740km (2,944 miles) of main roads, 11,695km (7,264 miles) of subsidiary roads, and 1,497km (930 miles) of road in the Kingston metropolitan area. There are frequent bus services in Kingston (private minibus) and Montego Bay; and less regular services elsewhere. Coach and minibus tours operate from hotels. Taxis are frequently un-metered. Car hire facilities are at hotels, airports and in towns.
- Sea: Kingston Harbour (11 berths at Newport West) handles most imports and has dedicated sufferance wharves for bulk cargoes of petroleum, flour, cement, gypsum and lumber. Exports of sugar, bananas, bauxite/alumina and other products are handled at other ports. Zim Israeli, Carol Consortium, Evergreen and Sealand are the main shipping lines.
- Air: Passenger movement is largely by air, through Norman Manley (near Kingston) or Sangster' (at Montego Bay), the two international airports. Air Jamaica, the country’s official carrier, and a number of international airlines operate scheduled services.
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- Based on English law, there is a Supreme Court and Court of Appeal: the Chief Justice of the former and President of the latter are appointed by the Prime Minister after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. There is provision for final appeal to the Privy Council in London.
Macro-economics and finance
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- Unit of currency: Jamaican dollar (J$), valued at J$45.90 to US$1 on 23 July 2001. There are two development banks and several commercial banks (some North American subsidiaries).
- Overview: Jamaica has a large and relatively diversified economy. It is, however, struggling with a large fiscal deficit inherited from heavy public expenditure in pursuit of social goals in the 1970s, falls in commodity prices and hurricane devastation. Servicing of external debt of US$3,678m absorbed 27% of foreign exchange in 1992. In 1995, The country successfully completed a lengthy borrowing arrangement with the International Monetary Fund, IMF.
- GNP: Jamaica is an upper-middle income country with total GNP in 1993 at US$3,362m, and per capita GNP of US$1,440. Annual per capita real growth (1980-93) averaged -0.3% p.a.
- Inflation: High in recent years, peaking at 77% in 1992. By 1994 it had dropped to an estimated 32%,by 2000 inflation had declined to een average 6%.
- Investment: Jamaica has a stock exchange and has been making substantial efforts to attract investors through a range of tax, customs and other incentives, developing its equity markets, encouraging joint ventures and privatisation, notably of hotels. The free-trade zones at Kingston, Montego Bay and Spanish Town allow duty-free importatation, tax-free profits and free repatriation of export earnings. The US, Hong Kong and Taiwan have provided most investment in these zones. Remittances from Jamaicans abroad make a significant contribution to investment and GNP.
- Trade: The US absorbs over 50% of merchandise exports. The main export products are bauxite and alumina, light industrial goods and agricultural products. Since the start of the 1990s, the economy has become more export centred; 90% of its textile production, for example, goes to the US under offshore assembly arrangements.
- Aid: Reached a record US$709m in 1991, but declined to $131.3m in 1992.
- Currency restrictions: Free import and export of foreign currency, subject to declaration.
- Regional affiliations: Jamaica is a founder member of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), the 15-country association with many shared services and working towards a common market. The main campus of the University of the West Indies is based in Jamaica, at Mona. Member of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) and Organisation of American States.
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- Agriculture: The main crop is sugar, most of which is exported to the EU. Other cash crops are bananas, cocoa, coffee, copra and grapefruit. Agriculture, forestry and fishing contribute approximately 7% of GDP (1992).
- Industry and manufacturing: Activities include processing of local raw materials, and manufacturing under offshore processing arrangements, mostly of textiles, electronics and chemicals.
- Manufacturing accounts for almost 20% of GDP (19.6% in 1992), and employs over 10% of the workforce. Products include processing of sugar, food, beverages and tobacco; manufacture of chemicals, metal products, construction materials, and textiles. Textiles and garments were one of the main growth areas in the early 1990s.
- Mining: In the 1970s, Jamaica was the world’s largest bauxite producer and bauxite (used in the manufacture of aluminum) accounted for 78% of visible exports. The 1980s recession halved earnings from bauxite, although these rose to a record US$1,145m in 1990 and then stabilised around that level. There are also deposits of Gold found and mining has already begun.
- Tourism: Now the country’s principal source of foreign exchange, with earnings of US$850m in 1992. Visitors totalled 1.5m in that year, the majority coming from the US and Canada.
- Energy: Few natural energy resources (no coal, little hydroelectric potential, oil exploration so far unsuccessful), so is heavily dependent on imported oil, with petroleum making up 18% of all imports in 1992. Electricity is generated from oil-fired plants.
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- Public holidays: New Years’s Day (1 January), Ash Wednesday (21 February), Good Friday to Easter Monday (5-8 April), Labour Day (late May), Independence Day (5 August), National Heroes’ Day (mid-October), Christmas and Boxing Day (25-26 December).
- Time: GMT minus 5hr.
- Electricity: 110 volts AC, 50Hz, American 2-pin standard.
- Driving: Vehicles keep to the left; recognised national driving licences valid for 12 months.
- Departure tax: J$500.
- Office hours: 0830-1630/1700hr, Monday to Friday.
- Business and Social conventions: Handshaking is the customary greeting. For business, business cards and appointments are normal; men usually wear a suit or, among junior civil servants, a long-sleeved shirt with tie is preferred. Women in business wear smart casual skirt or trouser ensembles. Shirt-jac (bush jacket, no tie) are widely worn in more casual work environments.
- Evening dress may be formal, depending on the occasion. Beachwear only at poolside or on beach. Jamaica’s is a sophisticated society, with generally helpful and efficient tourism services and lively night-life. The influence of African, British colonial and Rastafarian cultures are evident in the music, graphics and general social style. Jamaicans are hospitable and business contacts frequently offer invitations to their homes. Possession of marijuana may lead to imprisonment or deportation. Downtown areas of the capital Kingston can, like most large cities, be dangerous at night.
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- Arawak Indians may have numbered around 60,000 when Columbus landed in 1494 and claimed the island for Spain. Lacking gold, Jamaica was used mainly as a staging post. Slaves were imported; the Arawak people died out. When Britain invaded in 1655, the Spanish Governor and a party of slaves retreated into the mountains; these slaves formed the nucleus of the Maroons, who stood out against colonisation until agreements granting them liberty and property rights were concluded by 1740. Settlers and imported slaves developed the sugar, cocoa, indigo and later coffee estates, while buccaneers plundering Spanish ships developed the port of Kingston.
- Controversy over slavery raged in the 1700s, Jamaica’s Baptist missionaries, free Maroons and thousands of slaves making Jamaica a focus for the abolition movement. After the abolition of slavery in 1834, indentured Indian and Chinese labourers were introduced, but power remained in settler hands. In 1865, the rising ‘brown’ middle class and former slave classes rebelled, with a measure of success until suppressed at Morant Bay (see below).
- Jamaica’s economy then revived, until world recession in the 1930s hit the country particularly hard. Unrest spurred the growth of trade unions and new political parties. In 1938, the People’s National Party (PNP), led by Norman Manley, was formed to fight for independence. The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), led by Sir Alexander Bustamante, was founded in 1943.
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- Jamaica’s first colonial constitution gave considerable power to settlers. The Governor’s Council included senior figures such as the Bishop and Chief Justice, but the Representative Assembly was controlled by white settlers. The brutal suppression of the 1865 Morant Bay rebellion so shocked public opinion in Britain that direct Crown Colony rule was imposed, with the Governor advised only by the mainly nominated Privy Council. With amendments, this constitution was retained till 1944.
- In 1944, an Executive Council, with half its members elected by universal adult franchise, replaced the Privy Council. In 1953, Ministers from the Council took over most portfolios, and Bustamante became Chief Minister. Manley followed, in 1955. When Jamaica joined the West Indian Federation in 1958, it had full internal self-government with a Legislative Council (senate) and Legislative Assembly (holding real power). Jamaica led the break-up of the Federation, and went to independence on its own, in 1962, with Bustamante as Prime Minister. With bauxite in demand, tourism flourishing and a revival in bananas, Jamaica’s economy boomed.
- In 1972, the PNP led by Norman Manley’s son Michael, won the elections, and remained in office until 1980, when the JLP, under Edward Seaga came to power. The PNP, again under the leadership of Michael Manley, won the elections of 1989. Due to ill-health, Manley retired as Prime Minister in March 1992 and was succeeded by P J Patterson, who led the PNP to another victory at elections on 30 March 1993.
- Jamaica has a constitutional monarchy with HM Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State. She is represented by a Governor-General, currently Sir Howard Felix Cooke. The country is a parliamentary democracy on the Westminster model with a bicameral legislature and party system, based on universal adult suffrage. The 21 Senators are appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister (13) and the Opposition (eight). The House of Representatives has 60 elected members. The Governor-General appoints the Prime Minister (the MP best able to lead the majority of the House) and Leader of the Opposition. The Cabinet (Prime Minister and at least 11 Ministers) has executive responsibility.
- The Privy Council of six members (appointed by the Governor-General in consultation with the Prime Minister) advises on the Royal Prerogative of Mercy and appeals over military discipline. Elections are held every five years.
- The Constitution may be amended by simple majority of both houses except for the entrenched provisions (amendable only on two-thirds majority of both houses) and specially entrenched clauses (as above, plus ratification through referendum).
- Last elections: 1998
- Next elections: by the end of 2002
- Head of State: HM Queen Elizabeth II, represented
by Governor-General HE Sir Howard Felix Cooke
- Head of Government: The Prime Minister, the Rt
Hon P J Patterson QC
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