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CAPITAL: Kingston

FLAG: Two diagonal yellow gold bars forming a saltire divide the flag into four triangular panels. The two side panels are black, and the top and bottom panels are green.

ANTHEM: First line, "Eternal father, bless our land"

MONETARY UNIT: The Jamaican dollar (j$) of 100 cents was introduced on 8 September 1969. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, and 25 cents, and 1 dollar, and notes of 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 dollars. j$1 = us$0.01612 (or us$1 = j$62.04) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: Both metric and imperial weights and measures are used.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Labor Day, 23 May; Independence Day, 1st Monday in August; National Heroes' Day, 3rd Monday in October; Christmas, 25 December; Boxing Day, 26 December. Movable religious holidays include Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and Easter Monday.

TIME: 7 am = noon GMT.


Jamaica is an island in the Caribbean Sea situated about 145 km (90 mi) s of Cuba. It has a total area of 10,990 sq km (4,243 sq mi) and extends, at maximum, 235 km (146 mi) ns and 82 km (51 mi) ew. Comparatively, the area occupied by Jamaica is slightly smaller than the state of Connecticut. The total coastline is 1,022 km (634 mi).

Jamaica's capital city, Kingston, is located on the country's southeastern coast.


The greater part of Jamaica is a limestone plateau, with an average elevation of about 460 m (1,500 ft). The interior of the island is largely mountainous, and peaks of over 2,100 m (7,000 ft) are found in the Blue Mountains, which dominate the eastern part of the island; the highest point on the island is Blue Mountain Peak, at 2,256 m (7,402 ft) above sea level.

The coastal plains are largely alluvial, and the largest plains areas lie along the south coast. The island has numerous interior valleys. There are many rivers, but most are small, with rapids and falls that make navigation virtually impossible for any distance.

Some volcanic and seismic activity is present on the island in the form of lava cones and hot springs, some of the latter being radioactive. One of the worst earthquakes in history occurred at Port Royal (then the chief city in Jamaica) on 7 June 1692 when a large portion of the city literally sank below sea level through a series of three main quakes and several days of aftershocks; thousands of people were killed. A 1907 earthquake followed by a tidal wake destroyed the Kingston area and killed about 900 people. Lesser earthquakes, such as the 5.1 magnitude tremor felt throughout the country on 13 June 2005, have caused damage to homes and other building, but few injuries.


The climate ranges from tropical at sea level to temperate in the uplands; there is relatively little seasonal variation in temperature. The average annual temperature in the coastal lowlands is 27°c (81°f); for the Blue Mountains, 13°c (55°f).

The island has a mean annual rainfall of 198 cm (78 in), with wide variations during the year between the north and south coasts. The northeast coast and the Blue Mountains receive up to 500 cm (200 in) of rain a year in places, while some parts of the south coast receive less than 75 cm (30 in), most of it falling between May and October. The rainy seasons are May to June and September to November. The period from late August to November has occasionally been marked by destructive hurricanes.


The original forest of Jamaica has been largely cut over, but in the areas of heavy rainfall along the north and northeast coasts there are stands of bamboo, ferns, ebony, mahogany, and rosewood. Cactus and similar dry-area plants are found along the south and southwest coastal area. Parts of the west and southwest consist of grassland, with scattered stands of trees.

The wild hog is one of the few native mammals, but there are many reptiles and lizards. Birds are abundant. Jamaican waters contain considerable resources of fresh- and saltwater fish. The chief varieties of saltwater fish are kingfish, jack, mackerel, whiting, bonito, and tuna; freshwater varieties include snook, jewfish, gray and black snapper, and mullet.

As of 2002, there were at least 24 species of mammals, 75 species of birds, and over 3,300 species of plants throughout the country.


Among the government agencies charged with environmental responsibilities are the Ministry of Health and Environmental Control, the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Natural Resources Conservation Authority. The major environmental problems involve water quality and waste disposal. Jamaica has 9 cu km of renewable water resources with 77% used for agriculture and 7% used for industrial purposes. About 87% of the people living in rural areas and 98% of the city dwellers have access to pure drinking water. Coastal waters have been polluted by sewage, oil spills, and industrial wastes. Another major source of water pollution has been the mining of bauxite, which has contaminated the ground water with red-mud waste.

Another environmental problem for Jamaica is land erosion and deforestation. Forest and woodland decreased 1.5% annually between 1990 and 2000. Jamaica's coral reefs have also been damaged. Kingston has the waste disposal and vehicular pollution problems typical of a densely populated urban area.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 5 types of mammals, 12 species of birds, 8 types of reptiles, 17 species of amphibians, 12 species of fish, 5 species of invertebrates, and 208 species of plants. Endangered species in Jamaica included the tundra peregrine falcon, homerus swallowtail butterfly, green sea turtle, hawksbill turtle, and American crocodile. The Caribbean monk seal, Osborn's key mouse, and the Jamaica giant galliwasp have become extinct.


The population of Jamaica in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 2,666,000, which placed it at number 134 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 7% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 31% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 98 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 0.4%. The projected population for the year 2025 was 3,048,000. The population density was 242 per sq km (628 per sq mi), with most of the population residing in coastal regions.

The UN estimated that 52% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 1.23%. The capital city, Kingston, had a population of 575,000 in that year. Other leading cities (and their estimated populations) are Montego Bay (120,000), Spanish Town (about 92,383), and Portmore (90,138).


Jamaica's net loss from emigration totaled 145,800 between 1891 and 1921; after a net gain of 25,800 during 192143, losses of 195,200 were recorded from 1943 to 1960, and 265,500 from 1960 through 1970. Until the United Kingdom introduced restrictions on immigration from Commonwealth countries in 1962, a large number of Jamaican workers emigrated to Great Britain. In 1964, in an effort to curb increasing migration, Jamaica passed the Foreign Nationals and Commonwealth Citizens (Employment) Act, providing Jamaicans with easier access to the island's employment market; however, domestic unemployment continued to plague Jamaica through the 1970s. During this period, Jamaica suffered from a "brain drain," losing perhaps as much as 40% of its middle class. From 1971 through 1980, 276,200 Jamaicans left the island, 142,000 for the United States. According to the 2000 US Census, Jamaican ancestry in the United States was claimed by 736,513 people.

The great disparity between rural and urban income levels has contributed to the exodus of rural dwellers to the cities, where many of these migrants remain unemployed for lack of necessary skills. In this search for jobs, migration is so routine in Jamaica that the term "barrel children" has come to describe children whose parent have gone abroad for work and ship back necessities and goodies to their children in barrels. The US Department of State notes that 20,000 Jamaicans immigrate to the United States each year, settling mainly in New York, Miami, Chicago, and Hartford, Connecticut. In 2003, remittances to Jamaica were $1.4 billion. In 2005, the net migration rate was estimated as -4.07 migrants per 1,000 population.

Jamaica is a transit point for migrants, including asylum seekers, trying to reach the United States. The total number of migrants living in Jamaica in 2000 was 13,000.

In1999, Jamaica hosted 25 recognized refugees, most from Cuba, and had granted humanitarian status to a number of others. Asylum seekers continue to arrive from Cuba, Haiti, and other parts of the world. In 2002 six Haitians sought political asylum, having arrived by boat. Fearing their forcible return to Haiti, Amnesty International drew attention to their plight and their claims were fairly heard. In 2004, some 1,104 Jamaicans sought political asylum in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States.


About 97% of the population is of partial or total African descent. This population is comprised of blacks, mulattos, and black-East Indians or black-Chinese. Other ethnic groups include East Indians (1.3%), Chinese (0.2%), and Europeans. Nearly the whole population is native-born Jamaican. Black racial consciousness has been present in Jamaica at least since the beginnings of the Rastafarian sect, founded in 1930 and based on the ideas of Marcus Garvey.


Jamaica is an English-speaking country and British usage is followed in government and the schools. Creole is also often used.


There is freedom and equality of religion in Jamaica. Protestant churches are dominant, with various denominations comprising over 61% of the total population. The Church of God now claims the largest number of adherents, with 24% of the populace. Seventh-Day Adventists, with 11%, and Pentecostals, with 10%, are the next largest denominations. About 7% of the population are Baptist. The Church of England (Anglican), formerly the dominant religion in Jamaica, claims about 4%. Other denominations include Roman Catholics (2%), United Church (2%), Methodists (2%), Jehovah's Witnesses (2%), Moravians (1%), and Brethren (1%). Other religious groups, including Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and Rastafarians, as well as some spiritual cults, make up about 10% of the population. About 22% of the population claim no religious affiliation.

The Rastafarian movement continues to grow and is culturally influential in Jamaica and abroad. Rastas regard Africa (specifically Ethiopia) as Zion and consider their life outside Africa as an exile or captivity; the use of marijuana, or ganja, plays an important role in the movement. The government officially recognized Rastafarianism as a religion in 2003.


Jamaica has an extensive system of roads; in 2002 there were 19,000 km (11,806 mi) of roads, including 13,433 km (8,347 mi) of paved roads. In 2003 there were 115,260 licensed passenger cars and 30,100 commercial vehicles on the island. Motorbus service, which has greatly facilitated travel, is operated by the government-owned Jamaica Omnibus Services Company.

The standard-gauge rail system totals 272 km (169 mi) of track. Of that total, 207 km (129 mi) which belonged to the government-owned Jamaica Railway Corp. (JRC) are no longer operational, as of 1992. The remaining track is privately owned and used to transport bauxite.

Kingston, the main port, handles nearly all of the country's foreign imports but only a small percentage of its exports, by weight. The remaining exports are shipped through 18 other ports, which tend to specialize in particular commodities: Montego Bay and Port Antonio in bananas and sugar, for instance, and Port Esquivel and Ocho Rios in bauxite. More than 30 shipping companies provide passenger and cargo service. The port facilities of Kingston harbor are among the most modern in the Caribbean. In 2005, Jamaica's merchant marine consisted of nine vessels of 1,000 GRT or more, for a total of 74,881 GRT.

Air service is the major means of passenger transport between Jamaica and outside areas. In 2004 there were an estimated 35 airports, 11 of which had paved runways as of 2005. Control of the two modern airports, Norman Manley International Airport (Kingston) and Sangster International Airport (Montego Bay), was assigned to the Airports Authority of Jamaica in 1974. About eleven airlines provide scheduled international air transportation. Air Jamaica, the national airline, operates internationally in association with British Airways and British West Indian Airways. The government owns a controlling interest in Air Jamaica and has also invested in a domestic air carrier, Trans Jamaican Airlines. In 2003 about 1.838 million passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international flights.


Jamaica was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1494 and was settled by the Spanish in the early 16th century. The Spanish used the island as a supply base and also established a few cattle ranches. The Arawaks, who had inhabited the island since about ad 1000, were gradually exterminated and replaced by African slaves. In 1655, the island was taken over by the English, and the Spanish were expelled five years later.

Spain formally ceded Jamaica to England in 1670 by the Treaty of Madrid. The island became a base for English privateers raiding the Spanish Main. A plantation economy was developed, and sugar, cocoa, and coffee became the basis of the island's economy. The abolition of the slave trade in 1807 and of slavery itself in 1834 upset Jamaica's plantation economy and society. The quarter million slaves were set free, and many became small farmers in the hill districts. Freed slaves were replaced by East Indian and Chinese contract workers.

The economy suffered from two developments in mid-century: in 1846 the British rescinded favorable terms of trade for Jamaica, and the union blockade during the US Civil War limited commercial options for the island. Bankruptcies and abandonment of plantations followed, and dissension between the white planters and black laborers led to a crisis. An uprising by black freedmen at Morant Bay in 1865 began a struggle that necessitated the imposition of martial law. Parliament established a crown colony government in 1866, and Jamaica's new governor, Sir John Peter Grant, introduced new programs, which included development of banana cultivation, improvement of internal transportation, and reorganization of government administration. Advances in education, public health, and political representation pacified the island.

These measures did not resolve Jamaica's basic problems, stemming from wide economic and social disparities, and social unrest came to the surface whenever economic reverses beset the island. The depression of the 1930s, coupled with a blight on the banana crop, produced serious disruption and demands for political reform. A royal commission investigated the island's social and economic conditions and recommended self-government for Jamaica. A Jamaica legislative council committee concurred, and in 1944, Jamaica had its first election. The contenders in that election were two recently formed political parties, the People's National Party (PNP), led by Norman W. Manley, and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), founded by Manley's cousin, Sir Alexander Bustamante.

During the 1950s, the bauxite industry and the tourist trade assumed prominent roles in the economy. The economic gains from these enterprises did little to solve Jamaica's underlying economic problems. Jamaica joined with other British Caribbean colonies in 1958 to form the Federation of the West Indies, but in a referendum in 1961 a majority of Jamaicans voted for withdrawal from the federation. The governments of the United Kingdom and Jamaica accepted the decision of the electorate, and Jamaica became an independent state on 6 August 1962, with dominion status in the Commonwealth of Nations. The PNP had supported the federation concept, so the JLP became the independence party, and Bustamante became the nation's first prime minister.

The JLP held power through the 1960s. Donald Sangster became prime minister in 1965 and was succeeded by Hugh Shearer, also of the JLP, two years later. In February 1972, the PNP regained a majority in parliament, and the late Norman Manley's son, Michael, headed a new democratic socialist government.

Manley moved to nationalize various industries, and expanded Jamaica's programs in health and education. Manley placed price controls on a number of key products and provided consumer subsidies for others. Internationally, Manley established friendly relations with Cuba, which the United States decried. Deteriorating economic conditions led to recurrent violence in Kingston and elsewhere during the mid-1970s, discouraging tourism. By 1976, Jamaica was faced with declining exports, a critical shortage of foreign exchange and investment, an unemployment rate estimated at 3040%, and rampant currency speculation.

The PNP nevertheless increased its parliamentary majority in the December elections that were held during a state of emergency. Tourism suffered another blow in January 1979 with three days of rioting in Kingston, at the height of the tourist season. Mean-while, Manley quarreled with the IMF. The IMF responded to Ja-maica's request for loan guarantees by conditioning acceptance on a set of austerity measures. Manley refused to initiate many of the market-oriented measures the IMF was demanding.

Manley called for elections in the fall of 1980. The campaign was marred by somewhere between 500 and 800 deaths, and was further inflamed by PNP claims that the CIA was attempting to destabilize its government. The opposition JLP won a landslide victory, and Edward Seaga became prime minister and minister of finance. He announced a conservative economic program that brought an immediate harvest of aid from the United States and the IMF. In October 1981, Jamaica broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba, and two years later it participated in the US-led invasion of Grenada.

In December 1983, Seaga called for elections, which the PNP boycotted, leaving the JLP with all 60 seats in the House of Representatives. Seaga then implemented an IMF plan of sharp austerity, pushing the economy into negative growth for two years. In May 1986, Seaga turned away from the IMF, announcing an expansionary budget. The JLP nevertheless suffered a sharp loss in July parish elections, with the PNP taking 12 of 13 municipalities. By January 1987, a new IMF agreement was in place, but their political position continued to slide.

The 1989 elections were a good deal less tumultuous than expected. The two parties reached an agreement to control their respective partisans, and election violence was minimal. The rhetoric was also considerably less inflammatory, as the PNP's Manley ran as a more moderate candidate. Citing the deterioration of social services under Seaga, and promising to attract foreign capital, Manley was returned to the prime ministership as the PNP took a powerful 45-seat bloc in the House of Representatives. Manley reversed many of Seaga's policies, but by 1992, inflation was on the rise and the economy slowed. Unemployment hovered around 20%. Manley retired in 1992, leaving the government to Percival J. Patterson.

Patterson moved further to the right from Seaga, encouraging more market-oriented reforms. Within a year of taking office, he called for elections, in which violence erupted anew and 11 died in campaign-related killings. The PNP increased its parliamentary margin to 528, a small consolation for a government besieged by serious political, social, and economic problems.

Political violence resurged in 1996, following the establishment in 1995 of two new political parties, the Jamaica Labour Party and the rival National Democratic Movement. Clashes between party regulars in Kingston and Spanish Town led to 10 deaths in a six-month period. Vigilante killings in response to a high crime rate were also the norm in 1995 and 1996, with police reporting 22 such killings in that span.

In March 1997, former prime minister and PNP founder Michael Manley died. In the December elections that year, the PNP remained the dominant party. It was the first time a Jamaican political party had won a third consecutive legislative victory. The ruling party also swept local elections in September 1998. However, it presided over an increasingly troubled country, with continued economic contraction and an escalating crime wave, much of it attributable to rival gangs that had begun as armed militias created by the major political parties in the 1970s and later evolved into highly powerful organized crime networks engaged in international drug smuggling and other illicit activities. In the first half of 1999 alone, an estimated 500 Jamaicans had been killed in gangrelated violence. In addition, rioting followed the announcement of a 30% gasoline tax increase in April. Export revenues driven down by low prices and high costs followed in a historically cyclical pattern, while tourism was hurt by the rising violence and harsh army tactics were used to curb the crime rate.

The PNP continued to dominate Jamaican politics. In the October 2002 elections, the PNP captured 52.2% of the vote, winning 34 seats in the 60-member Assembly. The prime minister was PNP leader Percival James Patterson. Violence continued with 971 murders in 2003 and 1,145 in 2004. England imposed policies such as halting death penalty executions intended to curb crime in 2002, and in 2003 introduced visa requirements for Jamaicans entering the United Kingdom.

In addition to social and economic hardships, on 10 September 2004 Jamaica was hit hard by Hurricane Ivan. Prime Minister Patterson declared a state of emergency in the interest of public safety, as the national public power and water supplies were forced to shut down. All sectors of the economy were badly affected; the southern parishes that are the breadbasket of the country suffered a double blow, as crops were also damaged during the passage of Hurricane Charley less than a month before. By 2005 protests over price increases, such as utilities and public transportation, continued, as well as general social unrest. In the midst of prevalent gang violence, Prime Minister Patterson announced that he would step down before the legal date of October 2007. Portia Simpson-Miller was sworn in as the new prime minister on 30 March 2006, becoming the first woman to lead Jamaica's government.

Amidst the violence and poverty, the rural sections of the island, especially in and around the resort towns of Negril, Montego Bay, and Ocho Rios, remained quite safe. Furthermore, President Chavez from Venezuela made preferential agreements with Jamaica and a number of Caribbean nations to aid them with their fuel scarcity, helping boost the slowly progressing economy.


The 1962 constitution provides for a governor-general appointed by the crown, a cabinet presided over by a prime minister, and a bicameral legislature.

The Senate, the upper house, consists of 21 members appointed by the governor-general, 13 on the advice of the prime minister and 8 on the advice of the leader of the opposition. The popularly elected House of Representatives consists of 60 members (increased from 53 in 1976). The House is by far the more important of the two. The governor-general appoints both the prime minister and the leader of the opposition. The normal term of office in parliament is five years, but elections can be called at any time. Suffrage is universal at age 18.

The cabinet consists of the prime minister and at least 11 additional ministers, appointed by the governor-general on the advice of the prime minister.


Two political parties, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People's National Party (PNP), dominate Jamaican politics. Their fortunes have risen and fallen dramatically over the past thirty years. Both parties have held more than three-fourths of parliament. The JLP, founded in 1943 by Sir Alexander Bustamante, is the more conservative of the two parties. Its original political base was the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union, which Bustamante organized in 1938. The JLP held a parliamentary majority during the first 10 years of independence, and again from 198089 under Edward Seaga.

The PNP, founded by Norman W. Manley in 1938, held to a moderate socialist program and from its foundation sought responsible government and independence for Jamaica. The party formed its first government in 1972 under Michael Manley. In 1976, the PNP remained in power, increasing its majority by 10 seats in a house that had been enlarged by 7. After losing in 1980, the PNP refused to participate in the parliamentary elections called by Prime Minister Seaga for December 1983, two years ahead of schedule. The PNP draws much of its support from the National Workers' Union, Jamaica's largest trade union, and is primarily an urban, middle-class party that has moved toward the political center since its defeat in the 1980 elections. Both the JLP and PNP stand for a broad program of social reform and welfare and economic development with the participation of foreign capital. The PNP was returned to power in 1989. In 1992, its founder and longtime leader Michael Manley retired and was succeeded by Percival (P.J.) Patterson, who led the party to four consecutive parliamentary victories 19932002.

A third political party, the National Democratic Movement (NDM), was formed in October 1995 by Bruce Golding, who was the former chairman of the JLP, and who is now the main leader of the opposition. In the 2002 elections the JLP gained power as the PNP fell from 50 seats in 1997 to 34. The JLP went from winning 10 seats in 1997 to clinching 26 seats in 2002. The next elections were scheduled for October 2007.


Local government is patterned on that of the United Kingdom and the unit of local government is the parish. Responsibility for local government is vested in 12 parish councils and the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation, which represents the amalgamation of two parishes. Since 1947, all of the councils (called parochial boards until 1956) have been fully elective, although the members of the House of Representatives from each parish are ex-officio members of the councils. Elections are normally held every three years on the basis of universal adult suffrage.

Local government authorities are responsible for public health and sanitation, poor relief, water supply, minor roads, and markets and fire services. Revenues come largely from land taxes, supplemented by large grants from the central government.


The judicial system follows British practice, with some local variations. Cases may be brought in the first instance before a lay magistrate (justice of the peace), a magistrate, or a judge in the Supreme Court, according to the seriousness of the offense or the amount of property involved. The Supreme Court also has appellate jurisdiction. Final appeal rests with the seven-member Court of Appeals, appointed on the advice of the prime minister in consultation with the leader of the opposition. The attorney general, who need not be a member of parliament, is appointed by the governor-general on the advice of the prime minister.

The judiciary is independent but is overburdened and back-logged because of a lack of trained personnel. Recent increases in salaries, training programs for judicial personnel, and improvement in court facilities may eventually serve to improve efficiency and processing of cases. In 1995, to reduce the backlog of cases, the government initiated a night court, but little progress has been achieved almost eight years after the reform.

The constitution gives power to the Court of Appeals and the parliament to refer cases to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the United Kingdom. However, Jamaica was among the eight nations (Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago) whose leaders met in Kingston on 9 June 2003 to ratify a treaty to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which was inaugurated on 16 April 2005 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. It has been established as an attempt to ensure autonomy of judicial determinations in the region in order to complete the process of independence, to inspire confidence, and to ensure voluntary compliance, freeing the justice system from political manipulation.


The Jamaica Defense Force assumed responsibility for the defense of Jamaica following the withdrawal of British forces in 1962. The total defense force in 2005 numbered 2,830 active personnel with 953 reservists. The Army accounted for 2,500 personnel, the Coast Guard 190, and the air wing 140. In 2005, the defense budget totaled $57.5 million.


Jamaica was admitted to the United Nations on 18 September 1962 and is a member of ECLAC and several nonregional specialized agencies, including the FAO, IAEA, ILO, IMF, UNESCO, UNIDO, WHO, and the World Bank. Jamaica served on the UN Security Council from 200001. Although Jamaica remains a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the country's political, social, and economic ties have shifted toward participation in Latin American, Caribbean, and third-world international organizations. International memberships includes the ACP Group, CARICOM, the Caribbean Development Bank, G-15, G-77, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), Latin American Economic System (LAES), the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), and OAS.

Jamaica is a member of the Nonaligned Movement and a part of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL).

In environmental cooperation, Jamaica is part of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, CITES, the London Convention, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


The structure of the Jamaican economy has undergone extensive changes since 1945, when it was primarily dependent on tropical agricultural products such as sugar, bananas, coffee, and cocoa. The island has since become one of the world's largest producers of bauxite, though the industry suffered severely in the 1980s from high local costs and low world prices. It has also developed into a major tourist center for North Americans. Since 1983, tourism has been Jamaica's primary foreign exchange earner.

The underlying weaknesses of Jamaica's economy (including unemployment, underemployment, and unequal distribution of income) have revealed themselves as the market for bauxite has weakened. During 197280, production and foreign sales of bauxite, sugar, and bananas declined; tourism dropped because of rising social unrest; investor confidence waned; and consumer prices (197581) increased by 325%. With the change of administration in both Jamaica and the United States during 198081, more than $1 billion in IMF and other credits became available. This was enough to extricate the country from its immediate payments crisis, but weak growth continued through 1986, when per capita income was 5.6% less than in 1981.

This trend of declining growth performance continued in the 1990s as the country experienced negative growth, for the first time in nearly a decade, declining by 1.5% in 1996. Underlying this performance was a marked deterioration in manufacturing and construction which declined by 2% and 3%, respectively, and the surfacing of severe problems in the financial sector. Significant among industries showing decline was the apparel industry, second only to bauxite and aluminum in terms of export earnings, resulting in a 5% drop in apparel exports in JanuaryOctober 1996, compared to the same period of 1995. This marked a reversal of the progress for this sector, which experienced 22% growth during the same period of 1995. Competition from NAFTA caused many garment manufacturers to close, and thousands of workers to go jobless.

Following the financial crisis of 1995/96, the Jamaican government adopted tight money policies to bring down inflation, which had peaked at 80% in 1992. At 15.8% in 1995/96, inflation fell to 8.8% in 1997/98, and has remained in single digits since. However, 1997/98 was also the first of three consecutive years of contraction in part attributable to the government's financial stabilization policies. Real GDP decreased 0.4% in 1998/99 and 0.1% in 1999/2000, while inflation averaged 7.7% a year. In June 2000, the government agreed to a staff-monitored program (SMP) with the IMF for 2001/02 designed to reduce Jamaica's heavy debt servicing burden and increase the country's attractiveness for foreign investment. In 2000/01 growth returned at a weak level of 1.1%, and continued at the same low level in 2001/02 as export demand weakened and tourism declined in the global economic slowdown in 2001 and in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. Remittances to Jamaica from expatriates accounted for 13.6% of GDP in 2001. In 2002 and 2003 Jamaica was one of 23 countries on the US government's "Majors" list for being certified as a major illicit drug producer and/or drug transit country.

In 2004, the GDP growth rate was 1.3%, down from 2.3% in 2003; the economy was expected to recover in 2005, and expand by 3.3%. Inflation was on an upward spiral, expected to grow to 14.3% in 2005, from 13.6% in 2004, and 10.3% in 2003. The unemployment rate seemed to have been brought under control at around 11%.

Civil unrest, fueled by gang violence and drug wars, as well as damages caused by Hurricane Ivan hampered the governments attempts of achieving fiscal discipline and economic growth in 2004.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Jamaica's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $11.7 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $4,300. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 3.2%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 14.9%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 4.9% of GDP, industry 33.8%, and services 61.3%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $1.398 billion or about $529 per capita and accounted for approximately 18.6% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $3 million or about $1 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.0% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Jamaica totaled $5.98 billion or about $2,264 per capita based on a GDP of $7.5 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 7.4%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 24% of household consumption was spent on food, 3% on fuel, 1% on health care, and 9% on education. It was estimated that in 2002 about 19.7% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


Jamaica's labor force in 2005 was estimated at 1.2 million. As of 2003, agriculture accounted for 20.1%, with industry at 16.6%, and the services sector at 63.4%. The nation's unemployment rate in 2005 was estimated at 11.5%.

The right to unionize is protected by law, and union membership accounted for 15% of those employed. The two major trade unions are closely identified with the country's two main political parties: the National Workers' Union with the PNP and the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union with the JLP. The Trade Union Congress is a third major union. The ability to strike is neither authorized nor prohibited by law and strikes do occur. The government rarely interferes with union organizing or bargaining efforts and it effectively enforces laws which prohibit discriminating against workers for their union activities.

Labor legislation covers such items as national insurance, employment of nationals, hours of work, minimum wages, employment of women and youths, apprenticeship, and welfare (workers' compensation and factory conditions). The industrial workweek is generally eight hours a day for five days with mandatory over-time pay for work in excess of eight hours. Hours in agriculture and some of the service industries vary, but are usually longer. The minimum wage was us$30 per week in 2002, but most salaried workers earn more than the minimum.


Jamaican agriculture accounts for about 7% of GDP, less than in most developing countries. Agriculture (together with forestry and fisheries) is the third-largest foreign exchange earner and the second-largest employer of labor. Attempts to offset the serious price and production problems of traditional agricultural exports by encouraging production of winter vegetables, fruits, and flowers have had limited success. Vegetable and melon production in 2004 amounted to 196,500 tons; principal varieties include pumpkin, carrot, cabbage, tomato, callaloo, and cucumber. Production of other crop groups (with leading varieties) in 2004 included: pulses (red peas, peanut, gungo peas), 5,050 tons; fruits (papaya, pineapple, watermelon), 464,404 tons; cereals (corn, rice), 1,105 tons; and roots and tubers (yams, potatoes, plantains), 212,500 tons.

Sugar, the leading export crop, is produced mainly on plantations organized around modern sugar factories that also buy cane from independent growers. Raw sugar production in 2004 was estimated at 181,042 tons, down from 290,000 tons in 1978.

Sugar is Jamaica's largest agricultural export, earning $84.9 million in 2004. Sugar is also used for the production of molasses (78,884 tons in 2004) and rum (24.7 million liters in 2004). Banana production in 2004 was 1250,000 tons. Other major export crops in 2004 included cocoa, and coffee. Blue Mountain coffee, which is primarily exported to Japan, brings in some $12 million annually in foreign exchange earnings. Jamaica also exports coconuts, pimientos, citrus fruits, ginger, tobacco, yams, papayas, dasheens, peppers, and cut flowers. Jamaica exported $266.2 million and imported $438.4 million in agricultural products during 2004.

The island's food needs are met only in part by domestic production, and foodstuffs are a major import item. The main food crops, grown primarily by small cultivators, are sweet potatoes and yams, rice, potatoes, manioc, tomatoes, and beans. Jamaica is a major producer of marijuana, which, however, remains illegal. The government participates in a US-funded campaign to eradicate marijuana trading.


Livestock has long been important in Jamaica's agricultural life, providing both fertilizer and protein for the local diet. Despite increases in the livestock population and in the production of meat, milk, and poultry, increased demand has resulted in continued imports of livestock products. Livestock holdings in 2005 included some 430,000 head of cattle, 440,000 goats, and 85,000 hogs. Livestock products in 2005 included 102,900 tons of meat (80% poultry) and 28,500 tons of cow's milk.


The fishing industry grew during the 1980s, primarily from the focus on inland fishing. Whereas the inland catch in 1982 was 129 tons, by 2003 it had risen to 3,013 tons. Nevertheless, imports exceeded exports by $31.3 million in 2003 to meet domestic needs. The total catch in 2003 was 11,671 tons.


By the late 1980s, only 185,000 hectares (457,000 acres) of Jamaica's original 1,000,000 hectares (2,500,000 acres) of forest remained. Roundwood production increased from 55,000 cu m (1.9 million cu ft) in 1981 to 220,000 cu m (7.8 million cu ft) in 1988 and to 852,500 cu m (30 million cu ft) in 2004. About 67% of the timber cut in 2004 was used as fuel wood. The Forestry Department began a reforestation program in 1963 that was scheduled to last for 30 years; the target was to plant 1,200 hectares (3,000 acres) of timber a year. During the 1990s, reforestation averaged 5,000 hectares (12,300 acres) a year.


Jamaica in 2003 was a leading producer of alumina, with 3.844 million tons, as well as of bauxite, with 13.444 million tons, gross weight dry equivalent. In 2003 Jamaica's alumina plants were operating at near full capacity. The country's bauxite ores were expected to last 100 years.

In 2003, Jamaica produced 248,558 metric tons of gypsum, up from 164,880 metric tons in 2002. Output of lime totaled 275,763 metric tons in 2003. Quality marble was found in the Blue Mountains, and silica sand, limestone, clays, salt, hydraulic cement, marl and fill, and sand and gravel were also exploited. Australia's Ausjam Mining began the first recorded gold-mining operation in Jamaica in 2000, at the Pennants gold mine, in Clarendon Parish. In 2003, the mine produced 277 kg of gold and 98 kg of silver. However, low ore grades and labor union demands forced Ausjam to close Pennants in December 2003.


Jamaica has no coal deposits proven reserves of oil, or natural gas, and very little hydroelectric potential.

Electricity is the main source of power and is almost all generated by steam from oil-burning plants. In 2002, Jamaica's electric power generating capacity stood at 1.398 million kW, of which conventional thermal accounted for 1.398 million kW of capacity and hydropower at 0.023 million kW. The total amount of electricity generated by public and private sources in 2002 totaled 6.524 billion kWh, of which 6.334 billion kWh came from conventional thermal sources and 0.093 billion kWh came from hydroelectric sources. Geothermal and other sources accounted for 0.097 billion kWh. Consumption of electricity in 2002 came to 6.067 billion kWh. As of 2002, blackouts still occurred from lack of capacity. Some large enterprises, such as the bauxite companies, and the sugar estates generate their own electricity. In 2001, US-based Mirant Corporation acquired 80% of the Jamaica Public Service Company, which had been government owned.

In 2001, Jamaica stated its intention to start replacing fuel oil with natural gas as the primary energy source for its power plants and for the bauxite and alumina industry. Although Jamaica has made a few ventures into alternative sources of energy, these are still minor relative to overall demand.

In 2002, Jamaica's imports of refined and crude oil products averaged 67,860 barrels per day, with total demand for refined products averaging 67,780 barrels per day.

Imports and consumption of coal in 2002 each came to 97,000 short tons.


In 1996, the production of bauxite and aluminum, the leading export commodities, bounced back from a sharp decline in 1995, but the growth of earnings was dampened by soft conditions in aluminum markets. While bauxite and aluminum output grew by 8.9% and exports of ore and aluminum grew by 9.5%, the value added by mining and quarrying, which consists overwhelmingly of these products, grew by only 2%. In 2001, production of bauxite reached its highest level in 20 years. Alumina production fell by 1% that year, due to the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States and the temporary closure of the JAMALCO Halse Hall aluminum plant due to workers' action in October 2001.

Construction was seen as a growth sector in 2002, as was food processing (particularly poultry meat production and condensed milk). Jamaica has an oil refinery with a production capacity of 34,000 barrels per day in 2002.

Industry made up 32.7% of the economy in 2004, and it employed 16.6% of the labor force; agriculture contributed only 6.1% to the economy, but it employed a fifth of the working population; services came in first with 61.3% and 63.4% respectively.


Learned societies include the Jamaica Institution of Engineers and the Medical Association of Jamaica, both in Kingston, and the Jamaican Association of Sugar Technologists, in Mandeville. Research institutions include the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute, in Kingston, and the Sugar Industry Research Institute, in Mandeville. The Scientific Research Council, located in Kingston and founded in 1960, coordinates research efforts in Jamaica. The University of the West Indies, with a campus in Mona, has faculties of medical sciences and natural sciences. An agricultural college is located in Portland. The College of Arts, Science and Technology, founded in 1958, is located in Kingston, and the College of Agriculture, founded in 1982, is located in Portland. In 1986, the Scientific Research Council had 18 scientists and engineers and 15 technicians engaged in research and development (R&D). In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 64% of college and university enrollments. In 2002, high technology exports were valued at $1 million. For that same year, R&D spending totaled $7.843 million, or 0.08% of GDP.


Imports normally account for about one third of the goods distributed and importing is in the hands of a relatively small number of firms. Competition is limited by the acquisition of import licenses and profit margins are high. Many importers function as wholesalers and also have retail outlets. Locally produced consumer goods often are marketed through the same firms.

Retail outlets range from supermarkets and department stores, in the urban areas, to small general stores and itinerant merchants, in the rural regions. Purchases tend to be made in small quantities. Newspapers, radio, and television are the main advertising media.

Shops open weekdays between 8 and 9 am; large stores generally close at 4:30 or 5 pm, with an early closing one day a week. Food stores, drugstores, and family enterprises, however, often remain open until 9 pm or later. Most commercial establishments also have Saturday hours. They are generally closed on Sundays. Banks are normally open on weekdays from 9 am to 2 pm.


Since the discovery of bauxite deposits in the 1950s, Jamaica has become increasingly active in international trade and has gradually loosened its ties to the Commonwealth and increased commercial contacts with North America and the Caribbean. On the supply side, the Jamaican government is committed to attracting foreign investment; and on the demand side, Jamaica is a consumer

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 1,104.1 3,543.1 -2,439.0
United States 313.0 1,525.6 -1,212.6
Canada 156.9 112.6 44.3
Netherlands 135.2 24.1 111.1
United Kingdom 122.5 129.7 -7.2
Norway 93.3 93.3
China 43.7 60.4 -16.7
France-Monaco 41.8 22.2 19.6
Japan 28.6 214.9 -186.3
Ghana 24.0 24.0
Sweden 21.9 78.6 -56.7
() data not available or not significant.

oriented country that produces very little of its major necessities. The United States supplies at least 50% of Jamaica's food needs, but two-thirds of all tourists come from the United States. Jamaica has never recorded a visible trade surplus. In February 1991, the government implemented the CARICOM Common External Tariff (CET), creating the first customs union in the Caribbean.

This island's most lucrative exports are alumina and bauxite (56%), while the garment industry comes second (11%). Sugar (6.4%), rum (4.4%), and fruits (bananas) and nuts (2.5%) are the important agricultural products.

In 2004, exports reached $1.7 billion (FOBFree on Board), while imports grew to $3.6 billion (FOB). The bulk of exports went to the United States (17.4%), Canada (14.8%), France (13%), China (10.5%), the United Kingdom (8.7%), the Netherlands (7.5%), Norway (6%), and Germany (5.9%). Imports included food and other consumer goods, industrial supplies, fuel, parts and accessories of capital goods, machinery and transport equipment, and construction materials, and mainly came from the United States (38.7%), Trinidad and Tobago (13.2%), France (5.6%), and Japan (4.7%).


Balance-of-payments deficits in the 1960s and early 1970s were directly related to the growth of the Jamaican economy and to increased imports of capital goods and raw materials. Later in the 1970s, however, the continued deficits were symptomatic of a weakened economy, declining exports, and the flight of capital. The payments picture brightened somewhat in the first half of the 1980s (despite rising debt payments and the downturn of bauxite exports), as income from tourism and remittances from Jamaicans abroad rose, while substantial international assistance enabled Jamaica to meet its payments obligations. In the 1990s, a favorable balance of payments was aided by increased tourism inflows, reduced capital outflows, significant improvement in the

Current Account -761.4
   Balance on goods -1,943.8
     Imports -3,329.4
     Exports 1,385.6
   Balance on services 564.7
   Balance on income -571.4
   Current transfers 1,189.1
Capital Account 0.1
Financial Account 312.1
   Direct investment abroad -116.3
   Direct investment in Jamaica 720.7
   Portfolio investment assets -1,105.2
   Portfolio investment liabilities 819.6
   Financial derivatives
   Other investment assets -308.8
   Other investment liabilities 302.1
Net Errors and Omissions 14.1
Reserves and Related Items 435.1
() data not available or not significant.

agricultural sector, stability in the foreign exchange rate, and the improved economic strength of the United States, Jamaica's major trading partner. The 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States negatively impacted Jamaica's balance of payments situation, which had improved in 2000.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2001 the purchasing power parity of Jamaica's exports was $1.6 billion while imports totaled $3.1 billion resulting in a trade deficit of $1.5 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2001 Jamaica had exports of goods totaling $1.45 billion and imports totaling $3.07 billion. The services credit totaled $1.9 billion and debit $1.52 billion.

Exports of goods and services reached $1.6 billion in 2004, up from $1.4 billion in 2003. Imports grew from $3.3 billion in 2003 to $3.5 billion in 2004. The resource balance was consequently negative in both years, hovering at around -$1.9 billion. The current account balance was also negative, slightly improving from -$773 million in 2003, to -$509 million in 2004. Foreign exchange reserves (excluding gold) grew to $1.8 billion in 2004, covering more than six months of imports.


The Bank of Jamaica, the central bank, acts as the government's banker and is authorized to act as agent for the government in the management of the public debt. It also issues and redeems currency, administers Jamaica's external reserves, oversees private banks, and influences the volume and conditions of the supply of credit. Financial institutions in Jamaica in 2002 included 6 commercial banks, 11 merchant banks, 2 development banks, and 59 credit unions. The financial sector accounted for 15% of GDP in 2002. Total bank assets amounted to $5.14 billion in 2001. Commercial banks include the Bank of Nova Scotia, Citibank, Union Bank, CIBC, National Commerce Bank, and Trafalgar Commercial Bank.

Various measures were introduced to restructure the liquidity profile of the banking system. In July 1992, in an attempt to reduce domestic credit and curb inflation, the minimum liquid assets ratio of the commercial banks was raised to 50% (it had been 20% in April 1991). The measure appeared to have been successful and the inflation rate fell until May 1993. However, the first half of 1994 saw a rise in the inflation rate, reflecting the government's price liberalization policies. This was contained by sustained tight monetary and fiscal policy. Reduced interest rates stimulated rapid growth in domestic credit, however, and in 1995 money supply grew by 38.5%.

Economic instability which emerged during 199596 brought into focus the relationship between the central bank and the government, and in particular, the destabilizing impact of the government's drawdown of its deposits. The government has since recommended that the central bank be given greater autonomy, and transferred its operational revenue and expenditure accounts from the central bank to commercial banks. It also froze the aggregate balance in the Bank of Jamaica at the September 1995 level in an attempt to minimize any expansionist effect of fiscal operations on money supply.

The lack of confidence in the financial sector was underlined in October 1996 when further rumors of a liquidity crisis lead to a run on Jamaica's fourth-largest financial institution, the Citizen's Bank. Despite the bank's relatively healthy assets position, hundreds of depositors were prompted to withdraw their assets over a three-day period. Following the announcement of record losses of $24.6 million at the National Commercial Bank (NCB) group in the nine months prior to June 1996, it was confirmed that the National Security Bank (NSB) and Mutual Security Bank (MSB), both subsidiaries of the NCG group, were to merge their operations, thus creating the island's largest commercial bank. The extent of the drain upon public finances caused by the precarious state of the financial sector became clear in mid-February 1997, when it was reported that net advances by the Bank of Jamaica to financial institutions had risen by $17.4 million in January alone. Several financial institutions had become dependent upon the government to solve their liquidity problems.

In January 1997, the government established the Financial Sector Adjustment Company (FINSAC) to rescue the ailing financial sector. By 1998, FINSAC had already spent $2.3 billion on the restructuring project, with annual debt financing amounting to approximately $170 million. In order to pay for its operations, FINSAC sold shares in the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, and merged Citizens, Eagle, and Island Victoria commercial banks into one entity called Union Bank. Laws were instituted to improve the solvency of Jamaican banks. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $1.2 billion. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $3.5 billion.

In September 1968 the Jamaican Stock Exchange was incorporated. Jamaica's security market merged with the stock markets in Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago in 1989. As of 2004, a total of 38 companies were listed on the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE), which had a market capitalization in the year of $14.415 billion. In 2004, the JSE rose 66.7% from the previous year to 112,655.5.


Insurance companies in Jamaica are regulated by law through the Office of the Superintendent of Insurance of the Ministry of Finance. Major life insurance companies operating in Jamaica in 2003 were Life of Jamaica, Scotia Life, and Blue Cross. General insurance companies included United General, NEM, Dyoll, and the Insurance Co. of the West Indies. In 2003, direct insurance premiums written totaled us$410 million. In Jamaica, third-party auto liability and workers' compensation are compulsory.


Debt servicing accounts for about 62% of the fiscal budget, which limits economic expansion. Privatization of public entities has been one of the strategies used by the government to reduce the budget deficit. In 2001, the government raised $3.6 billion in new sovereign debt in both local and international financial markets, and used it to meet its US dollar debt obligations, quell rampant liquidity in order to maintain the exchange rate, and partially fund that current year's budget deficit.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Jamaica's central government took in revenues of approximately us$3.2 billion and had expenditures of us$3.3 billion. Revenues

Revenue and Grants 131,088 100.0%
  Tax revenue
  Social contributions
  Other revenue
Expenditures 185,422 98.6%
  General public services 107,590 58.0%
  Defense 3,244 1.7%
  Public order and safety 13,776 7.4%
  Economic affairs 8,857 4.8%
  Environmental protection 368 0.2%
  Housing and community amenities 3,460 1.9%
  Health 11,763 6.3%
  Recreational, culture, and religion
  Education 29,184 15.7%
  Social protection 4,589 2.5%
() data not available or not significant.

minus expenditures totaled approximately -us$105 million. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 127.5% of GDP. Total external debt was us$6.792 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2003, the most recent year for which it had data, budgetary central government revenues in millions of Jamaican dollars were 131,088 and expenditures were 185,422. The value of revenues in millions of US dollars was $2,270 and expenditures $3,160, based on a market exchange rate for 2003 of 57.741 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 58.0%; defense, 1.7%; public order and safety, 7.4%; economic affairs, 4.8%; environmental protection, 0.2%; housing and community amenities, 1.9%; health, 6.3%; education, 15.7%; and social protection, 2.5%.


In 2005, there was a single individual income tax rate of 25% on all income over $120,432 (up from $50,544 in 1996). Income tax deductions include allowances for social security, retirement fund contributions, and charitable contributions. Personal allowances and deductions for medical expenses, insurance premiums, and mortgage interest are no longer applicable.

There is a single 33.33% tax on all companies except building societies which pay 30%. Life insurance companies pay a 15% rate on investment income and a 3% rate on their premium income. Special depreciation allowances, income tax incentives, and other benefits are still available. Other direct taxes include a bauxite production levy, transfer taxes, stamp duties, travel tax, duties on estates, and motor vehicle licenses. Tax reductions and exemptions are offered as incentives to hotel and resort developers, and to export manufacturers. Jamaica does not levy a tax on capital gains.

The main indirect tax is Jamaica's General Consumption Tax (GCT) with a standard rate of 16.5% on most goods and services. A higher rate of 20% applies to telephone calls. Zero-rated or exempt items include foodstuffs, raw materials, capital goods, books, and school uniforms. The government is seeking to narrow the scope of goods that are zero-rated or exempt from the GCT. Other indirect taxes include customs on betting, gambling and lotteries, and excise duties.

The main source of local revenue is a property tax based on the unimproved value of the land.


The importance of customs duties as a major source of government income is declining and most imports are duty-free. The remaining duties on imports from non-CARICOM nations range from 020% under the CARICOM common external tariff (CET). In addition, a stamp duty is levied on motor vehicles, alcohol, and tobacco, in addition to a special consumption tax. Most imported items are subject to the 16.5% GCT and is based upon cost, insurance, freight (CIF) plus duty. Special rates or exemptions on dutiable imports apply to goods from members of CARICOM and signatories of the Lomé Convention.

Licenses are required for imports of certain durable and nondurable consumer goods. License applications are reviewed by the Trade Board. Most capital goods and raw materials do not require import licenses. Jamaica has three free trade zones: the Kingston Export Free Zone, the Montego Bay Export Free Zone, and Garmex.


Foreign investment in Jamaica has accounted for a large part of the capital formation of the post-1945 period. Until the early 1960s, new US and Canadian capital was invested heavily in the bauxite industry. Capital investment in bauxite and aluminum then tapered off, but investment increased in other industries as a result of a vigorous campaign by the government. Starting in 1972, however, capital investments in the private sector fell substantially. After 1980, the JLP government of Prime Minister Seaga had some success attracting foreign capital, but then the economic down-turn of the mid-1980s again produced a decline in foreign investment. By early 1987, when 120 US companies operated in Jamaica, cumulative US investment, excluding the bauxite industry, was over $1 billion. There are no statuary restrictions on sectors open to foreign investment, but in practice most service industries are reserved for Jamaicans.

Increased investment, particularly in the private sector, has been identified by the government as an essential factor in the strategy for reviving and sustaining the economy. Government has therefore continued and initiated actions that are intended to encourage investment in a number of areas such as those that generate foreign exchange, utilize domestic raw materials, and generate employment. The government offers a wide range of incentives, including tax holidays up to a maximum of 10 years and duty-free concessions on raw materials and capital goods for approved incentive periods. There are in existence several acts that provide major benefits for foreign investors, such as the Industrial Incentives Act, the Export Industries Encouragement Act, and the Hotel Incentives Act. Additionally, since the liberalization of exchange controls in September 1991, investors are free to repatriate without prior approval from the Bank of Jamaica.

The United States continues to play a leading role in foreign investment. In late 1996, a US firm acquired control of Jamaica's only flour manufacturer, Jamaica Flour Mills, for $35 million. In 1997, the Financial Sector Adjustment Company privatized a large number of companies in order to support the country's financial sector.

Annual foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows into Jamaica in 1999 reached $523 million, more than double the inflow in 1997 of $203 million, but then fell to $471 million in 2000. In 2001, FDI inflow rose to $722 million. In the period 1998 to 2000, Jamaica's share of world FDI inflows was almost twice its share of world GDP (170%).

Major sources of foreign investment have been, in order, the United States, Colombia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. About half of foreign investment has gone into agriculture, 20% into films, 8% into manufacturing, 7% into the garments and textiles industry, and 5% each into tourism and information processing.


Since assuming office in 1992, Prime Minister Patterson has consolidated the market-oriented reforms initiated by his predecessor, Michael Manley, to make Jamaica a regional leader in economic reform. Patterson has eliminated most price controls, streamlined tax schedules, and privatized government enterprises. Tight monetary and fiscal policies under an International Monetary Fund (IMF) program have helped slow inflation and stabilize the exchange rate, but, as a result, economic growth has slowed and unemployment remains high. Jamaica's medium-term prospects depend largely on its ability to continue to attract foreign capital and limit speculation against the Jamaican dollar.

Inevitably, the contraction of economic output impacted adversely on the employment situation. The reduced performance of the traditionally labor-intensive apparel industry contributed significantly to rising unemployment as some 7,000 jobs, amounting to 25% of the employment in the industry, were lost. Along with job losses in the financial sector and other sectors, 1996 witnessed overall losses of employment amounting to 10% of the labor force and rising unemployment above the 20% mark. The unemployment rate was 16% in 2000. Problems in the financial sector continued in the new millennium, disturbing economic development.

Inflation fell from 25% in 1995 to 7% in 2001. Low levels of investment have hampered economic development. The government offers an extensive array of incentives to investors, however, including tax holidays and duty-free access for machinery and raw materials imported for certain enterprises. The government aims to encourage economic growth by stimulating growth in tourism, pursuing increased privatization, restructuring the financial sector, and lowering interest rates. The 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States and heavy floods that November and in May 2002 hurt the tourist industry in 200203. Government expenditures for tourist promotion, flood relief, and wages resulted in a less-than-expected lowering of the public debt. In 2002, the public debt stood at 129% of GDP. The government's monetary policy was tight in 2002, to keep inflation in single digits. The government put forth efforts to fight crime, improve infrastructure, and strengthen the competitiveness of the economy.

The Jamaican economy has failed to recover as quickly as expected from the floods produced by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. In addition, poor weather conditions in 2005 have negatively impacted the agriculture sector and seriously decreased tourist numbers. At the same time, the mining industry has suffered capacity constraints. The economy is expected to recover in 2006 however, due to investments in the tourist industry and in mining. Remittances from abroad will encourage private consumption, which will most likely lead to an increase in imports.


A social insurance system was first put in place in 1958 for sugar workers, and has been most recently updated in 2003 covering all employed and self-employed workers. Benefits are available for old age and disability, healthcare and maternity, workers' compensation, widows' and widowers' pensions, and grants. The program is financed by contributions from employers and employees. The government contributes as an employer. Maternity benefits amount to the minimum weekly wage for eight weeks. Workers' medical benefits include all necessary medical, surgical and rehabilitative treatment.

Jamaican women are guaranteed full equality under the constitution and the Employment Act, but cultural traditions, economic discrimination, and workplace sexual harassment prevent them from achieving it. Violence against women is widespread. The domestic violence law provides for restraining orders and other measures to combat spousal abuses. The government is committed to improving children's welfare. However, children are often forced to work due to economic hardship.

While Jamaica's human rights record has improved in recent years, serious abuses continue to occur. A major problem is lack of police accountability for human rights violations. Prison conditions are poor, but are open to inspection by international human rights organizations. Crime is a serious social problem.


The central government has traditionally provided most medical services in Jamaica through the Ministry of Health. The National Health Services Act of 1997 authorized the decentralization of the health care system through the creation of regional health authorities and the restructuring of the national Ministry of Health. In 1996, the island had 364 government-operated primary health centers offering five levels of service. There are 23 public and nine small private hospitals. There were an estimated 85 physicians, 165 nurses, and 8 dentists per 100,000 people in 2004. Health care expenditure was estimated at 5.5% of GDP.

The government conducts a broad public health program, involving epidemic control, health education, industrial health protection, and campaigns against tuberculosis, venereal diseases, yaws, and malaria. These programs have brought about a significant decrease in the death rate. As of 2002 the death rate was estimated at 5.5 per 1,000 people. The infant mortality rate was 16.33 per 1,000 live births in 2005. Tuberculosis, hookworm, and venereal diseases remain the most prevalent diseases. Approximately 7% of Jamaica's children under five years old were considered malnourished and an estimated 11% of births were low birth weight. In 2000, 71% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 84% had adequate sanitation. Life expectancy averaged 73.33 years in 2005. The maternal mortality rate was 120 per 100,000 live births in 1998.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 1.20 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 22,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 900 deaths from AIDS in 2003.

Heterosexual transmission predominates.


Housing is one of the government's most pressing problems. While middle- and upper-income housing is comparable to that in neighboring areas of North America, facilities for low-income groups are poor by any standard. The problem has been aggravated by constant migration from the rural areas to the cities, causing the growth of urban slums. Most new urban housing is built of cinder block and steel on the peripheries of the cities. Rural housing is primarily built of wood and roofed with zinc sheeting. Squatter settlements surround the major cities of Jamaica. According the 2001 census figures, there were 723,343 occupied private dwellings with an average of 3.6 people per household. About 137,900 housing units were added from 19912001.


Education is compulsory for six years of primary education. At the secondary level, there are two stages, one of three years and one of two. After this, students may enter a two-year program known as sixth form, which leads to completion of the Caribbean Examinations Council Secondary Education Certificate. In 2001, about 87% of children between the ages of three and five were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 95% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 75% of age-eligible students. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 30:1 in 2003.

The University of the West Indies, founded in 1948 as the University College of the West Indies, achieved full university status in 1962 and serves all British Commonwealth Caribbean territories. There are faculties of arts, natural sciences, education, general studies, medicine, law, library studies, management studies, public administration, and social work at Jamaica's Mona campus; arts, natural sciences, social sciences, agriculture, engineering, international relations, and management studies at St. Augustine in Trinidad; and arts and natural sciences in Barbados. Higher technical education is provided at the College of Arts, Science, and Technology. Jamaica also has a school of agriculture, several teacher-training colleges and community colleges, and an automotive training school. In 2003, about 17% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program, with 10% for men and 25% for women.

The Jamaica Movement for the Advancement of Literacy Foundation, known as JAMAL (formerly the National Literacy Board), has reached more than 100,000 students since its founding in 1972. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 87.6%, with 83.8% for men and 91.4% for women. As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 4.9% of GDP, or 9.5% of total government expenditures.


The Jamaica Library Service provides free public library programs throughout the island and assists the Ministry of Education in supplying books to primary-school libraries. The book stock of the Public Library Service totals about 2,666,000 volumes, 1,473,000 in schools and 1,193,000 in parish libraries. There are nearly 700 service points, including parish and branch libraries, book centers, and 14 bookmobiles. There are 507,000 volumes at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies. The National Library in Kingston was established in 1979 and holds over 46,000 books, as well as collections of maps, newspapers, manuscripts, photographs, posters, and calendars.

The Institute of Jamaica, in Kingston, has a notable collection of artifacts and materials relating to the West Indies, as well as a museum and exhibition galleries focusing on natural history, military, and maritime studies. The National Gallery of Art, the African-Caribbean Institute, and Jamaica Memory Bank are also part of the Institute of Jamaica. There is a museum celebrating the life, music, and accomplishments of Bob Marley in Kingston, while Spanish Town houses the Jamaican's People's Museum of Craft and Technology and the Old Kings House Archaeological Museum. There is a botanical garden and zoo at Hope, on the outskirts of Kingston.


The Post and Telegraphs Department provides daily postal deliveries to all parts of the island and operates Jamaica's internal telegraph service. Jamaica International Telecommunications (JAMINTEL) provides five major international services: telephone, telegraph, television, telex, and leased circuits. Telephone service is provided by the privately owned Jamaica Telephone Co. All telephone exchanges are automatic. In 2003, there were an estimated 170 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 168,000 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there were approximately 535 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

Jamaica has two major broadcasting companies. The Radio Jamaica Limited broadcasts 24 hours a day over both AM and FM bands; it also owns an extensive wire network. Television Jamaica Limited, with similar transmitting facilities, broadcasts FM radio and television programs. Both are privately owned. As of 2001 there were 13 radio station and 3 television stations. In 2003, there were an estimated 795 radios and 374 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were 53.9 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 228 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were 24 secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

As of 2002, there were four daily newspapers, all privately owned. The morning Jamaica Gleaner (circulation about 259,000 in 2002) and the evening Daily Star (circulation 49,500) are published by the Gleaner Co., which also publishes the Sunday Gleaner (est. 950,000) and the Thursday Star (60,000), an overseas weekly. There are also a number of weeklies and monthlies, and in addition, several papers are published by religious groups.

The constitution of Jamaica provides for free expression, including the rights of free speech and press, and the government is said to respect these rights in practice.


The producers of the main export crops are organized into associations, and there are also organizations of small farmers. The Jamaica Agricultural Society, founded in 1895, is concerned with agricultural and rural development and works closely with the government. The cooperative movement has grown rapidly since World War II. All cooperatives must register with the government and are subject to supervision. Savings and credit groups are the most numerous, followed by marketing organizations. Consumer cooperatives have had little success. Outside the agricultural sector, the chambers of commerce have long been the most important business groups.

Societies and associations for the study and advancement of various branches of science and medicine have developed. These include the Medical Association of Jamaica and the Science Research Council. There are several other professional associations as well.

A wide variety of national youth organizations are active, including the Girl Guides Association, Jamaican Guild of Undergraduate Students, Jamaica Youth for Christ, Jamaica Environmental Youth Network, League of Young Socialists of Jamaica, National Council of YMCA's of Jamaica, Peoples National Party Youth Organization, Scout Association of Jamaica, 4-H clubs, Student Christian Movement of Jamaica, and the Workers Party of Jamaica Youth League. There are a number of sports associations and clubs throughout the country.

International organizations with active chapters include Amnesty International, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Habitat for Humanity, the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, and UNITAS of Jamaica.


Jamaica is firmly established as a center for tourists, mainly from North America. Greatly expanded air facilities linking Jamaica to the United States, Canada, and Europe were mainly responsible for the increase in tourism during the 1960s. Rising fuel costs and a weak international economy, as well as intermittent political unrest, contributed to a slowdown in the growth rate of the industry in the 1970s; between 1980 and 1986, however, the number of tourists increased by 68%, and tourism has continued to grow since early 2000. Some 1,350,285 tourists visited the island of Jamaica in 2003, about 79% of whom came from North America. The 20,827 hotel rooms with 43,909 beds had a 58% occupancy rate. The average length of stay was six nights.

Major tourist areas are the resort centers of Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. Cricket is the national sport, and excellent golf and water-sports facilities are available. All visitors are required to have a valid passport and some countries require a visa. Citizens of the United States, Canada, and other Commonwealth countries may stay up to six months with other valid identification. All visitors must have an onward/return ticket and proof of sufficient funds for their stay.

The US Department of State estimated the 2005 daily expenses for staying in Jamaica at us$223.


Names associated with Jamaica's early history are those of Europeans or of little-known figures such as Cudjoe, chief of the Maroons, who led his people in guerrilla warfare against the English in the 18th century. George William Gordon (182065), hanged by the British as a traitor, was an advocate of more humane treatment for blacks. Jamaica-born Marcus Garvey (18871940), who went to the United States in 1916, achieved fame as the founder of the ill-fated United Negro Improvement Association. In the mid-20th century, Jamaicans whose names have become known abroad have been largely political and literary figures. Sir (William) Alexander Bustamante (18941977), trade unionist, political leader, and former prime minister of Jamaica, and his cousin and political adversary, Norman Washington Manley (18931969), a Rhodes scholar and noted attorney, were leading political figures. More recently, Norman Manley's son Michael (192397), prime minister during 197280, and Edward Seaga (b.US, 1930), prime minister from 198089, have dominated Jamaica's political life. P.J. Patterson (b.1935) was prime minister from 19922006. Portia Simpson-Miller (b.1945) succeeded him in March 2006. The novelists Roger Mais (190555), Vic Reid (191387), and John Hearne (192694) built reputations in England, and the poet Claude McKay (18901948) played an important role in the black literary renaissance in the United States. Performer and composer Robert Nesta ("Bob") Marley (194581) became internationally famous and was instrumental in popularizing reggae music outside Jamaica.


Jamaica has no territories or colonies.


Bakan, Abigail B. Ideology and Class Conflict in Jamaica: The Politics of Rebellion. Montréal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1990.

Barrow, Christine. Family in the Caribbean: Themes and Perspectives. Kingston, Jamaica: I. Randle, 1996.

Bryan, Patrick E. The Jamaican People, 18801902: Race, Class and Social Control. London: Macmillan Caribbean, 1991.

Butler, Kathleen Mary. The Economics of Emancipation: Jamaica and Barbados, 1823-1843. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995.

Calvert, Peter. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Latin America. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2004.

Health in the Americas, 2002 edition. Washington, D.C.: Pan American Health Organization, Pan American Sanitary Bureau, Regional Office of the World Health Organization, 2002.

Keith, Nelson W. The Social Origins of Democratic Socialism in Jamaica. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992.

LaFont, Suzanne. The Emergency of an Afro-Caribbean Legal Tradition: Gender Relations and Family Courts in Kingston, Jamaica. San Francisco: Austin Winfield, 1996.

Monteith, Kathleen E. A. and Glen Richards (eds.). Jamaica in Slavery and Freedom: History, Heritage and Culture. Kingston, Jamaica: University of the West Indies Press, 2002.

Mordecai, Martin. Culture and Customs of Jamaica. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2001.

Paton, Diana. No Bond but the Law: Punishment, Race, and Gender in Jamaican State Formation, 17801870. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2004.

The Road to Sustained Growth in Jamaica. Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2004.

Summers, Randal W., and Allan M. Hoffman (ed.). Domestic Violence: A Global View. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002.

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Major Cities:
Kingston, Mandeville, Montego Bay, Port Antonio

Other Cities:
Bath, Black River, Falmouth, Morant Bay, Negril, Ocho Rios, Savanna-La-Mar, Spanish Town


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report 2000 for Jamaica. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


Travelers have long regarded Jamaica as one of the most alluring of the Caribbean islands. Its beaches, mountains, and carnal red sunsets regularly appear in the world's tourist brochures, and, unlike other nearby islands, it democratically caters to all comers: You can choose a private villa with your own private beach; laugh your vacation away at a party-hearty resort; or throw yourself into the thick of the island's life.

Jamaica has a vivid and painful history, marred since European settlement by an undercurrent of violence and tyranny. Christopher Columbus first landed on the island in 1494, when there were perhaps 100,000 peaceful Arawak Amerindians who had settled Jamaica around 700 AD. Spanish settlers arrived from 1510, raising cattle and pigs, and introducing two things that would profoundly shape the island's future: sugar and slaves. By the end of the 16th century the Arawak population had been entirely wiped out.

In 1654 an ill-equipped and badly organized English contingent sailed to the Caribbean. After failing to take Hispaniola (present day Haiti and the Dominican Republic), the "wicked army of common cheats, thieves and lewd persons" turned to weakly defended Jamaica. Despite the ongoing efforts of Spanish loyalists and guerilla-style campaigns of freed Spanish slaves (cimarrones, "wild ones"-or Maroons), England took control of the island.

Investment and further settlement hastened as profits began to accrue from cocoa, coffee, and sugarcane production. Slave rebellions did not make life any easier for the English as escaped slaves joined with descendants of the Maroons, engaging in extended ambush-style campaigns, and eventually forcing the English to grant them autonomy in 1739. New slaves kept arriving, however, most of them put to work on sugar plantations. The Jamaican parliament finally abolished slavery on August 1, 1834.

Adult suffrage for all Jamaicans was introduced in 1944, and virtual autonomy from Britain was granted in 1947.

Post-independence politics have been dominated by the legacy of two cousins: Alexander Bustamante, who formed the first trade union in the Caribbean just before WWII and later formed the Jamaican Labor Party (JLP), and Norman Manley, whose People's National Party (PNP) was the first political party on the island when it was convened in 1938. Manley's son Michael led the PNP towards democratic socialism in the mid-1970s.

Jamaicans may have a quick wit and a ready smile, but this is not the happy-go-lucky island of Bacardi ads. Rastafarianism may mean easy skankin' to some, but its confused expression of love, hope, anger, and social discontent encapsulates modern Jamaica-a country that is struggling to escape dependency and debt.



The destruction of Port Royal by an earthquake in 1692 led to the settlement of Kingston to the north across the harbor. So rapid was growth that by 1703 it was declared by law the chief seat of trade and head port on the island. In 1872, it became the island's capital. After 1911, internal migration began to focus on Kingston, which led to the continuing trend toward movement from the countryside to principal urban areas. Kingston is now the largest English-speaking city in the Americas south of Miami.

Kingston is spread along the low coastal area surrounded by picturesque mountains. It is a bustling, sprawling city of striking contrasts. Typical of large cities, Kingston has areas of modern homes set in lovely gardens as well as sections of slums. The government is attempting to replace the "tin shanties" of the slums with low-cost housing developments.

The better suburban residential areas are close to several fairly modern shopping areas, which include supermarkets, drug stores, dry cleaners, small specialty shops, movie theaters, and boutiques.

The modern-day Port Royal, beyond the airport and across the harbor from Kingston, is considered one of the more valuable archeological sites in the Western Hemisphere. It was known as one of the richest and most wicked cities in the world before the 1692 earthquake, which plunged much of this buccaneer capital into the sea. Several old buildings are still standing, and there is an excellent museum. Restoration and an underwater archeological project are under way.

Kingston itself has several interesting old houses as well as galleries, museums, and other places to visit. The city features panoramic views of the mountains or the sea from nearly any point and offers many opportunities for an enjoyable tour.


Electric service in Kingston is fair, with sporadic power outages. AC current is 110v, 50 cycles (the U.S. standard is 110v, 60 cycles). Many U.S.-made appliances function satisfactorily on 50-cycle current, but electric clocks, tape recorders, and some other equipment may not. Frequent voltage fluctuations sometimes damage electrical equipment.


Supermarkets and small specialty shops in Kingston have a wide variety of meats, fruits, vegetables, and canned goods. The better quality shops and markets inspect their meat, but no government inspection is required. Prices are somewhat lower than those in the U.S. for all cuts of standard quality meats. Some American-type cuts of beef and pork are available. Fresh and frozen fish, lobster, and shrimp are available seasonally.

Vegetables range from tropical to standard fare and are available year round. Choices include white Irish potatoes (no baking), sweet potatoes, yams, beets, green beans, leaf lettuce, eggplant, green peppers, chilis, avocados, onions, scallions, celery, carrots, cucumbers, corn, tomatoes, varieties of pumpkin (squash), and several local varieties of vegetables. Quality is often below U.S. standards, and prices are moderately high, especially for potatoes and onions.

Fruits are also seasonal, with oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, limes, papaya, watermelon, mango, guava, pineapple, bananas, plantains, and other good local fruits available. Prices range from reasonable to high, although quality is good. All fruits and vegetables should be washed well before eating.


Clothing suitable for men and women in southern Florida, southern California, and Hawaii is appropriate for Kingston. Some necessary items for men, women, and children are expensive but can be found here. A limited selection of lightweight fabrics is available. A few hard-to-find dressmakers can make dresses. Ready-made clothing is sold, and prices are often high. Careful shopping can produce good results.

Bring a good supply of shoes, especially for women and children. These are hard to find in the right size, and quality is below U.S. standards. Imported shoes are available but are expensive. For possible trips to cooler climates or the U.S., include some warm clothing. Also bring blue jeans, sports clothes, slacks, and a pullover if you like mountain holidays.

American-style sportswear is worn here. Long patio dresses are worn, but short sundresses are popular for informal evening wear.

Drip-dry fabrics are ideal but are expensive here. Due to the climate and need for frequent laundering, elastic deteriorates rapidly.

For the infrequent cool evenings, sweaters or light evening wraps, depending on the function attended, will suffice. Men need only a lightweight tropical suit, even for the coolest Kingston weather.

Children wear typical play clothing, particularly shorts and T-shirts, tennis shoes, and sandals.

Supplies and Services

Bring your favorite cosmetics and toiletries, as well as prescription medications.

The quality of dry cleaning is fair. Barber shops are generally adequate and less expensive than those in the U.S. Beauty shops are nearly up to U.S. standards and charge U.S. prices.

Domestic Help

"Helper," not "maid," is the term used by Jamaicans and foreigners alike for domestic help on the island. Most Jamaican helpers are female. Most types of household help are available, but reliable, well-trained workers, especially cooks and gardeners, may be difficult to find.

The Jamaican legal minimum wage is low, and most U.S. travelers pay more generous salaries. The standard pay for a dayworker, for instance, ranges from J$200 to J$300 a day, with average weekly salaries (40-hour maximum work-week) of J$1,000 to J$1,500.

Various arrangements are made for helpers food, bus fare, and lodging. Helpers daily hours are not rigidly set, and various schedules can be arranged to suit your family needs. Gardeners are generally competent, but are hard on American lawn-mowers and tools.

If uniforms are desired, employers must furnish them. Once a year each helper receives 2 weeks' vacation with pay. In some cases, a helper is given quarters and lives in.

Helpers and employers must make modest weekly payments to the National Insurance Scheme, the Jamaican social security system. Payments for hospitalization or unemployment are not required, though often made by the employer. If a helper who has been employed at least 4 weeks is discharged without cause, 2 weeks severance pay is required.

Although local custom is not strongly established on this point, the employer should pay the costs of some medical services for a helper in case of sickness or injury. Public hospitals provide a wide range of free services, although receiving them can be time-consuming.

Religious Activities

Most major faiths are found in Jamaica. A partial list of denominations in Kingston includes Anglican, Baptist, Friends (Quaker), Jewish, Methodist, Mormon (Latter-day Saints), Presbyterian/Congregational, Roman Catholic, and Seventh-day Adventist. All services are in English.


In the Jamaican school system, students take two important examinations, the Common Entrance and the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC). In 6th grade, at the end of January, every Jamaican student takes the Common Entrance Exam to enter high school. Doing well means acceptance in one of the nation's better high schools; doing poorly means the child cannot attend high school except as a private placement. In 1996, more than 55,000 Jamaican students sat the exam to earn one of fewer than 20,000 places. During the latter terms of 5th grade and the first term of 6th grade, students attend extra classes at the schools to prepare for the Common Entrance Exam. In its favor, the exam tests student abilities in math mechanics, adding, multiplication, etc., math reasoning and problem solving, spelling, English grammar, parts of speech, and reading comprehension. Students learn using rote memorization methods; yet they leave the Jamaican schools with a thorough grounding in the basics of math and English.

At senior level, grades 7-11, the Jamaican curriculum prepares students for the Caribbean Examination Council Exam. If students pass this exam, they go on to "A" level courses in 12th and 13th grades, and after that, to university. No Jamaican school will admit a student to the 12th grade unless the student passes the CXC.

The Jamaican high school curriculum treats science and math courses differently from the U.S. A Jamaican student studies a science course such as chemistry, biology, physics, etc., throughout 3 years and earns course credits only at the end of the third year. The Jamaican math curriculum incorporates general math, algebra, geometry, etc., into one mathematics course, whereas, under a U.S. curriculum, these are individual courses taught in separate years. In both math and science, it is difficult for a student to carry a useful transcript crediting the student with having completed algebra, geometry, the sciences, etc., to the U.S. or another school. Finally, as the high school begins at 7th grade, foreign language instruction also starts at that grade level.

Under the Jamaican education system, a person may teach in a classroom with 3 years' university certification. The student to teacher ratio is higher in Jamaican schools than in U.S. schools. Values and morals, such as integrity, responsibility, self-control, and self-reliance, are part of the Jamaican school philosophy. The students address their teachers as "Sir" or "Miss." Schools in Jamaica may not have the modern and well-equipped facilities of American schools, for example, full-scale libraries, computer and scientific laboratories, physical education gymnasiums, and sports field; nevertheless, facilities are more than adequate and children receive an education equal to U.S. standards.

In Jamaica, children enter kindergarten at age 4; thus for Americans attending Jamaican schools, the age and grade do not correspond with the U.S. system and American children may frequently be a year older than classmates. The Jamaican schools tend to place incoming children based on age, so parents should work with the school in placing their child. Some students do very well, in effect, "skipping a grade," but parents must consider whether the U.S. school system will readmit the child at the advanced grade or return the child back to a grade more suitable for the child's age, maturity, and intellectual and social development.

American International School of Kingston: AISK was founded in 1994 to meet the growing demands for a school that would offer quality education that more closely follows the U.S. curriculum and style of education. It is applying for accreditation from the Southern States Association. Class size is small (no more than 15 students per class), allowing for more individualized attention.

The school year runs from early September through to late June or very early July and is divided into three terms, the Christmas, Easter, and summer terms. The Jamaican education system separates into preparatory schools, pre-kindergarten to grade 6, and high schools, grades 7 to 13. AISK follows a traditional American grade division: an elementary program for grades pre-kindergarten through 6, a middle school for grades 7 and 8, and a high school from grades 9 to 12.

Since it does not offer a program to prepare students for the two major Jamaican exams, Common Entrance and Caribbean Examination Council, AISK is a real alternative for children from the U.S. and other diplomatic missions, American and international business families, and Jamaican families who do not need their children to sit the Common Entrance Exam because their children will attend high school abroad.

For grades 9-12, the school is fully accredited with the University of Nebraska and uses the university's directed home study program under the supervision of two high school teachers. Facilities include a library configuration that includes separate libraries for the lower grades (pre-kindergarten through 6) and upper grades (7-12), totaling over 5,000 volumes. Two computer labs with CD-ROM and access to the Internet are available to the students at AISK.

Because of the small class size, there is an emphasis on hands-on learning, and students may learn according to their own needs. The curriculum for the early grades includes Spanish, French, and art. The school emphasizes the development of the individual student. The goal of the school, at all levels, is to help students achieve their highest potential.

The high school at present does not provide facilities found in many U.S. schools. The home study system is quite different from a normal high school program, and while students lose out on a "normal high school social scene," they gain in their ability to work independently. Two students graduated in 1995 from 12th grade, and they were both accepted into Canadian universities. Students attending AISK's high school program will have no problem entering a U.S. high school when they leave Jamaica.

Hillel Academy: Hillel Academy, founded in 1969 as the Jewish community's contribution to education in Kingston, is nondenominational and religious instruction is optional. The curriculum is designed to prepare students for the CEE, CXC, and SAT examinations, as many Jamaican students attend university in the U.S. Hillel is in the process of applying for accreditation from the Southern States Association. Class size is large (28-30) per class, and this can be a problem for some children who require more individualized attention.

The highly regarded preparatory school is nursery, called reception, to grade 6, and the senior school is grades 7-13. The 1995-96 enrollment was 662 students.

The prep school offers a curriculum that is closely linked to that of U.S. schools. Many of the textbooks used are from the U.S., particularly in math and science. Language arts is based on a Caribbean curriculum and uses Caribbean textbooks; for example, within the Caribbean curriculum the word "harbor" is spelled with a "u," harbour. Students in the 5th grade begin to prepare for the Common Entrance Exam, given in January of 6th grade. The prep school offers a library, computer lab, art and music programs, French and Spanish languages, and after-school activities such as soccer, net-ball, tennis, martial arts, and ballet.

Hillel, which is building a swimming pool in time for the 1996 summer term, will offer swimming instruction as part of the physical education classes and swimming as an intramural sports program.

Although the senior school has experienced some problems in the past with curriculum and discipline, the school has installed a new principal in the high school, and the reports are that firm discipline and school structure are making changes in the school. All students are required to take French and Spanish the first 3 years of senior school.

Hillel is on an 8-1/2-acre campus at the foot of the mountains. Blue uniforms are required but may be bought from a local manufacturer. Black shoes are required for both boys and girls. Boys wear dark socks and girls wear navy socks. Bring both shoes and socks to post as well as crew socks and white tennis shoes, which are needed for physical education. White shorts for phys. ed. can be bought locally, and the phys. ed. T-shirt will be sold by the school in the appropriate "house color" for your child.

Hillel Academy
Dr. Hyacinth Hall (Director)
51 Upper Markway
Kingston 8, Jamaica
Tel: (809) 925-1980

Special Educational Opportunities

The University of the West Indies has its largest campus in Kingston. It is a modern institution offering liberal arts, natural sciences, and medical training. Entrance requirements are at the level of 1 year of college in the U.S. It is possible to enroll in selected classes but difficult to enroll for a degree program.

The Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts includes the Schools of Dance, Drama, Art, and Music. Each offers programs for both adults and children.

Opportunities for learning languages such as French, German, and Spanish are available at the Alliance Française, the Jamaica-German Society, and the Institute of Bolivar y Bello. Private tutors are also readily available.

A number of facilities exist in Kingston for educating the handicapped, although equipment and staff are limited. These schools have limited space, and each should be explored for specific needs. Day programs are offered by the Jamaica Association for the Deaf, the Salvation Army School for the Blind, and the Mona Rehabilitation Center for the physically handicapped. Carberry Court Special School has day and boarding programs for the severely mentally handicapped. None of these programs meets U.S. standards.

Mico Care Center offers a 9-week remedial program for those with multiple handicaps. The Jamaica Association for Children with Learning Disabilities is a resource facility for assisting children while in their regular school program.


Jamaicans are sports conscious. Chief sports are soccer, cricket, golf, tennis, swimming, sailing, and horseback riding. Smaller groups are active in squash, rugby, scuba diving, snorkeling, basketball, and softball. Local sports groups and clubs accept foreign nationals.

There is a Saturday baseball league for students that begins in the fall. It is held on the campuses of local schools. Coaches and assistants are always welcome.

Although scuba gear is available for rental, it can be purchased here at higher-than-U.S. prices.

The Jamaica Sub-Aqua Club, a branch of the British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC), gives scuba diving lessons for a minimal fee. BSAC certification with the club is required to participate in club-sponsored dives, arranged every weekend. PADI certification can be obtained at the Buccaneer Scuba Club in Port Royal and through some of the north coast hotels.

Jamaica has virtually no continental shelf, and the drop-off starts 200 yards from shore. Scuba diving and snorkeling enthusiasts enjoy exploring the many networks of caves, canyons, and crevices. The Ocho Rios area has traditionally had one of the Caribbean's finest reef communities. Over 50 species of coral include giant pillar, lettuce, antler, star and rose cup, and staghorn, as well as a wide variety of beautiful sponges and seaweed. Hurricane damage to the reefs in 1988 was extensive, particularly on the south side of the island.

Sergeant majors, tangs, and peacock flounders are among the many fish species to be seen. The island has over 800 species of shells.

There is saltwater sport fishing for jack, blue marlin (record 600 lbs.), sailfish, kingfish, dolphin, tuna, barracuda, tarpon, and snapper. Freshwater catches are snook, mullet, and others. Windsurfing is enjoyed at several north coast resorts. Water-skiing can be found in several places, especially at Blue Hole (Port Antonio) and Doctor's Cave (Montego Bay).

For joggers and walkers, the favorite spot to do laps is the Mona Reservoir. Daily running is also possible at the Police Officers' Club in Kingston. Running on the streets is not recommended because of dogs, traffic, and crime.

Constant Spring Golf Club offers a challenging 18-hole course marked by hills and narrow fairways. Entrance fees are moderate as are annual dues. Greens fees are low. Social membership entitles you to squash, badminton, tennis, and swimming. The initiation fee for social membership is moderate when compared with U.S. private club fees. The clubhouse has a newly renovated bar and lounge room and snack bar. The pool area has also been renovated. There are no playground facilities at the club.

Caymanas Golf and Country Club is 12 miles from Kingston. Its facilities include a good 18-hole golf course and some tennis courts. Membership fees approximate those of the Constant Spring Club.

The Jamaica Golf Association (JGA) has a special arrangement for members of a Jamaican golf club. For a small annual fee, you may join JGA and play any course in Jamaica for about half price. There are 11 good golf courses on the island.

Kingston's Liguanea Club has a swimming pool; lighted tennis, badminton, and squash courts; a restaurant and bar; and an exercise room. The club has several dances a year and is used for other events. A special golf membership is available at Liguanea for play at the Caymanas golf course.

The Royal Jamaica Yacht Club has facilities available for those interested in sailing, boating, and fishing. Social events are also held. The club is located near the international airport, and its large veranda affords a panoramic view of the harbor, Kingston, and the mountains. Entrance fees and annual dues are moderate. Anyone with a desire to "crew" on sailboats should join the club and meet the boat owners.

Physical fitness clubs and health spas are available. The Spartan Health Club, for instance, offers universal weight lifting equipment, aerobic exercise classes, steam room, and shower facilities. Future Fitness is a state-of-the-art facility housed in the Wyndham Hotel. The air-conditioned facility offers aerobics as well as weight training, Stairmasters, bikes, and treadmills.

Kingston does not have extensive outdoor recreational opportunities for children. The city has a small zoo and botanical gardens where children can ride bikes or roller-blade. Schools have limited playgrounds. Most families do not have sufficient space for bikes, except for tricycles. Children usually get their outdoor exercise in their own yards.

Many Jamaicans enroll their children in full-time nursery schools at the age of 2 or 3. Because of this, Americans find their own young children frequently lack playmates. Therefore, most families enroll young children in a nursery 5 days a week, at a reasonable cost.

There is little informal play between children of neighboring families in most neighborhoods in Kingston. Parents often schedule lessons or activities for the afternoons, especially for school-age children, since schools finish between 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. Tennis and golf lessons as well as piano, dance, and ballet lessons are popular. The Tae Kwon Do Club is enjoyed by all ages interested in self-defense.

Because summers are hot and humid, swimming is popular. Some families have homes with swimming pools, but beaches are some distance from Kingston.

Children will want to play indoors in the heat of the day when they first arrive, especially in summer.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

The most popular form of outdoor activity on the island is beach-going. The north coast of Jamaica has luxury resorts, hotels, and private villas every few miles. The off-season from mid-April to mid-December offers lower rates.

Bicycle riding is not recommended in Kingston because of erratic driving habits, potholes, and overzealous dogs. There also have been incidents of bikers being attacked and bikes stolen. The University of the West Indies campus offers several miles of quiet, scenic roads for riders of all abilities and ages. There are several tour companies that offer bike excursions into the Blue Mountains. Bring a car rack, helmet, and rear-view mirror.

Another popular outdoor activity is a weekend or day trip to Newcastle, a Jamaican Defense Force training center about an hour's drive from Kingston. At 4,000 feet, the weather can be quite cool so warmer clothes are advised. Hiking is a popular outdoor activity.

Bird watching is popular, and over 250 species can be seen, including 25 found only in Jamaica. Resident species shared with neighboring countries are of special interest, since some have developed differences in behavior and appearance peculiar to Jamaica. Bring binoculars.

Garden clubs have regular outdoor shows. The Orchid Show is an annual event enjoyed by many.

Touring is popular. Kingston-area locales include historic sites at Port Royal, Castleton and Hope Botanical Gardens, the National Gallery, and the nearby Blue Mountains. Touring elsewhere is an easy day's drive from Kingston.

Negril, on the western end of the island, has 7 miles of white-sand beach and uninhibited simplicity.

To the east of Negril along the north coast is Montego Bay, tourist capital of the island with its beaches, hotels, and attractions. The area includes several excellent golf courses and Rose Hall, Jamaica's most famous great house, which echoes with the mystery of Annie Palmer (the "White Witch"), its former mistress with a murky past. Nearby is Greenwood, once owned by the Barrett family whose best-known members were poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Sarah Barrett, "Pinkie" in Sir Thomas Lawrence's portrait.

Falmouth, despite its neglect, is a charming north coast port. It is still the best-preserved late 18th-and early 19th-century town on the island. The old Georgian buildings are worth a sight-seeing tour.

The St. Ann's Bay/Discovery Bay/Runaway Bay area, where Columbus landed in 1494, is another interesting locale. Columbus Park, Columbus Statue, and the ruins of the first Spanish settlement, Seville Nueva, are here. Visitors to the area can tour the caves near Runaway Bay, which the last Spanish governor of Jamaica used as a safe haven while fleeing the British. Discovery Bay is the home of the University of the West Indies Marine Lab.

Ocho Rios is the resort area for the central north coast. The offshore reefs are among the finest in the Caribbean. Just south of Ocho Rios is Fern Gully, a rain forest where the road twists through a ravine. Also in the area is Jamaica's leading tourist site, Dunn's River Falls. Brimmer Hall Plantation (coconut and bananas) and Prospect Estate (pimento, citrus, and cattle) offer tours.

On the northeast coast near Port Maria is "Firefly," former home of Noel Coward. "Golden Eye," once home of James Bond's creator, Ian Fleming, is in Oracabessa.

Port Antonio, once vacation home of actor Errol Flynn, is considered Jamaica's most beautiful port and is the sport fishing capital of the island. The beauty of the area, the beaches, rafting on the Rio Grande River, Blue Hole (the world's largest natural swimming pool), Folly (ruins) built by an American millionaire for his love, Nunsuch Caves, Somerset Falls, and Maroon "jerk" pork and chicken still attract many visitors to its hotels and villas.

The trip back to Kingston along the coastal road to the east of Port Antonio is rewarding. Beautiful coastal scenes, extensive coconut and banana plantations, the John Crow Mountains, and interesting villages provide a pleasant break from tourist areas.

A 424-mile primary highway circles the island and several highways cross the mountainous interior from north to south. The two main north-south roads used to cross the center of the island from Kingston are also interesting. A third, mostly paved road runs between Kingston and Buff Bay via Newcastle (41 miles). It is a narrow road through small villages and over Hardware Gap, the highest point on the primary road net, offering beautiful scenery. From Kingston to Annotto Bay (28 miles), a good but narrow road winds through the mountains. Along the way is Castleton Botanical Gardens, founded in 1862. These lovely gardens were severely damaged by the 1988 hurricane but have been restored. They provide a good setting for weekend picnic outings.

The other road crossing the island from Kingston begins by going west. It passes the Arawak Museum at White Marl, Caymanas race track, and Spanish Town, the old capital. Spanish Town is unique among Jamaican cities and has the longest history of settlement (1534) plus the finest collection of historic buildings and monuments on the island. It is also home of the National Archives.

From Spanish Town, the road winds its way north through the canyon of the Cobre River, across the narrow Flat Bridge, past Bog Walk, Linstead, and Ewarton (Alcan alumina plant), and over Mount Diablo (2,250 feet). At Moneague, where three small lakes periodically appear, the road branches to the left to St. Ann's Bay or to the right through Fern Gully to Ocho Rios.

Because of reasonable air fares and the proximity to Miami, Cayman Islands, and Haiti, it is easy to take trips out of Jamaica.


Two drive-in theaters and three walk-in theaters are frequented by Americans. Several theaters offer a selection of stage presentations: drama, reviews, variety, musicals, and pantomime. Kingston also has several active dance theater movements, the Jamaica Philharmonic, and several choral groups.

The island has several fine museums. The Institute of Jamaica has general displays. The Arawak Museum near Spanish Town and the Port Royal Museum with buildings and collections of relics of the Buccaneer heyday are all within the Kingston area.

The National Gallery of Art (down-town) and several smaller art galleries have excellent collections of Jamaican art. Regular exhibits of paintings, sculpture, ceramics, and native crafts are held in Kingston.

There are many colorful activities that are interesting to newcomers, including Jonkanoo dancing, a curious type of costumed, masked folk dancing of African origin that is seen during the Christmas season. Carnival is a popular event, celebrated the week after Easter with both adult and children's carnivals.

"Eating Jamaican" is not to be missed. Two popular dishes are ackee with saltfish and rice with peas (beans). Other specialties include curried goat, fricasseed chicken, escovitched fish, Port Royal's fried fish and bammy, jerk pork, jerk chicken, soups such as pepperpot and pumpkin, and gungo peas. Desserts such as sweet potato puddings, plantain tart, bulla, gizada, cut cakes, and grater cakes are popular.

Kingston has good restaurants offering Jamaican, British, Chinese, American, Indian, French, and Italian cuisine. Most restaurants are moderately priced compared to the U.S.

Social Activities

The American Women's Group is a social club for all American women. It has monthly programs and activity groups.

The American community, through various sponsors, celebrates our holidays-Christmas, Fourth of July, and Halloween-in traditional fashion.

Americans have opportunities to meet members of the foreign community. There are several active international groups such as the Diplomatic Association of Jamaica, the Consular Corps, International Proxy Parents and the Rotary Club.


Mandeville is a busy mountain city noted for beautiful gardens and a climate where both tropical and subtropical plants flourish. As a market center for the surrounding agricultural areas and a dormitory town for the two major bauxite and alumina installations, it is Jamaica's most flourishing parish capital. A U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) contract post is in operation here. The city has a population of about 34,000.

Mandeville, at an elevation of 2,000 feet above sea level, maintains a year-round comfortable climate where neither air conditioners nor heaters are needed. The rainy seasons are basically in May and October.

Five shopping centers, reasonably good medical facilities, pharmacies, banks, restaurants, and a good library are available. Both radio and television reception are good. There are churches of many denominations, with varied activities sponsored within each church. Service clubs include Rotary, Jaycees, Lions, and Kiwanis.

Schools for Foreigners

Belair School, an independent coeducational, boarding institution, offers classes from kindergarten through grade 12 for children of all nationalities. Founded in 1967, it is sponsored by two bauxite companies. It is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Belair's curriculum is a combination of programs typically found in U.S. academic and college-preparatory schools, and has subjects leading to the Cambridge GCE ordinary-level examinations. The current enrollment (mostly Jamaican) is over 650, and the staff numbers 45. Uniforms are required.

The elementary school is situated on a two-acre campus near the center of town; the preparatory and high school are located on a separate 11-acre campus. There is a 10,600-volume library. Further information can be obtained from the school at 43 DeCarteret Road, Mandeville.

Montego Bay

Montego Bay, on Jamaica's northwest coast, is the tourist capital of the island, with its good harbor and fine beaches. The city's permanent population of close to 75,000, is swelled each year by the thousands of visitors who are drawn to the yacht races, the excellent golf courses, beach parties, garden tours, and nightlife. The world's largest reggae festival, Sunsplash, is celebrated here each August.

Montego Bay was, for many years, one of several small ports on the north coast from which sugar was shipped. Many of the old buildings in town have been restored and now house restaurants and shops. Shopping centers are found downtown and close to the resort areas.

The Cage, a jail built in 1807 for runaway slaves, is now a museum. Historic mansions have also been restored as museums, and are a glimpse into life of the colonial era. Among Montego Bay's plantation houses are Rose Hall, which echoes with the mystery of Annie Palmer, the "white witch" who is said to have dabbled with the occult; and Greenwood, once owned by the family of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

There are several trips that visitors may take to see the mountains and countryside around Montego Bay. The Governor's Coach is an all-day drive which winds through the mountains, stopping to visit the villages of Ipswich Caves and Appleton, and to tour a rum factory.

Port Antonio

Port Antonio, which lies on a divided bay in the northeast corner of the island, is a lovely port city called the "greenhouse of the gods" for its lush vegetation. It is almost the length of the island (134 miles) away from Montego Bay and 65 miles from Kingston, separated by the Blue Mountains. It is the fishing capital of Jamaica; dolphin, king-fish, wahoo, and bonito, with blue marlin are at their seasonal height in September and October.

Cruise ships dock here only infrequently, but the beauty of the area attracts numerous visitors to the town's hotels and villas. Attractions include the beaches; rafting on the Rio Grande River; Blue Hole, the world's largest natural swimming pool; Mitchell's Folly, the ruins of a palatial vacation villa built just after the turn of the century; nearby Somerset Falls; and Nonsuch Cave. Old Fort George, now part of the high school's grounds, is one of the town's few historic monuments, located at the tip of the peninsula.

Long a popular jet-set haunt, Port Antonio is still the site of many private villas nestled in the lush hillsides and along shoreline coves. The late Errol Flynn once had a home on the bay, and his former wife operates two boutiques in town and runs a 2,000-acre cattle ranch nearby. Port Antonio has a current population of approximately 13,000.


BATH is located in southeastern Jamaica, 30 miles east of Kingston. The town of approximately 2,000 is famous for its hot springs and botanical gardens, the second oldest in the hemisphere. A runaway slave discovered the springs in the late 17th century; soon after, the area became a mecca for travelers from all over the island. The waters are supposedly helpful in the treatment of skin conditions, as well as rheumatic problems. The Bath Hotel has hot springs tanks for rent, in addition to outdoor bathing supplied by a bamboo pipe.

BLACK RIVER is a community of about 2,700 situated at the mouth of the Black River in the southwest, 30 miles south of Montego Bay. This quiet fishing town, once a main logging point, comes to life at the covered market on Fridays and Saturdays. The Waterloo Guest House here was the first house in the country to have electricity. Tourists enjoy visiting the Holland Estate and sugar factory. The acclaimed "Bamboo Avenue" is on the way to the town of Lacovia, less than 10 miles upriver.

FALMOUTH , despite years of destruction and neglect, is a charming north coast port. It is still the best-preserved late 18th-and early 19th-century town on the island. All the old Georgian buildings are worth a visit. Built as the capital of Trelawny Parish at the height of the area's sugar-growing prosperity, the town has been declared a national trust and plans for its restoration are being considered. Falmouth's population is about 4,000.

MORANT BAY , capital of St. Thomas Parish 30 miles southeast of Kingston, is a small town that played a big role in Jamaican history. This was the scene of the Morant Bay Rebellion of 1865, led by Deacon Paul Bogle. A protest march on the courthouse led to street battles and, eventually, mass executions. The governor was recalled in the ensuing controversy and Jamaica gained new status as a Crown Colony. The nearly 3,000 residents of Morant Bay now have rebuilt the courthouse, with a statue of Paul Bogle set prominently in the front. Near the town are the highly saline Yallahs Ponds and the remnants of a signal tower, now a national monument.

NEGRIL , on the western end of the island, has seven miles of white sand beach and uninhibited simplicity. The country's newest resort town, Negril is two hours from Montego Bay. Hotels and tourist facilities have been constructed since the area was discovered by the "flower children" of the 1960s, but Negril's natural beauty remains because no building can be taller than the highest tree. Restaurants abound, and there is a wide range of accommodations, although the town is small, with a population of less than 2,800. During Jamaica Race Week, many yachts drop anchor in Negril harbor.

OCHO RIOS , once a small fishing village, is now the resort area for the central north coast, a scenic two-and-one-half-hour drive from Montego Bay. Its offshore reefs, although severely damaged by Hurricane Allen in 1980, are among the finest in the Caribbean. Ocho Rios, which has a population of 11,000, is the site of the University of the West Indies Marine Laboratory. Just south of town is Fern Gully, a rain forest where the road twists through an old riverbed. Also in the area are the 168-year-old Brimmer Hall Plantation (coconut and bananas) and Prospect Estate (pimento, citrus, and cattle), which conduct tours. Near Ocho Rios is Dunn's River Falls, a 600-foot cascade, and perhaps Jamaica's most famous beauty spot. Surrounded by lush vegetation, the water cascades over rocks to the waiting sea. Guided tours are available for climbing the falls. Daily tours to the falls are available from all of Jamaica's main towns. Also nearby is the Shaw Park Botanical Garden and Bird Sanctuary. In the vicinity, on the north coast near Port Maria, are Firefly, the former home of Noel Coward; and Golden Eye, once the residence of Ian Fleming, creator of the fictitious James Bond.

SAVANNA-LA-MAR , 25 miles southwest of Montego Bay on the west coast, has a most unfortunate past. The city of 12,000 has been ravaged by hurricanes that at one time demolished it. A forttoday used as a large swimming holewas likewise considered a disaster. An admiral derisively noted in 1755 that it was the very worst in Jamaica. Savanna-La-Mar, whose name means "plain by the sea," is an active sugar port.

SPANISH TOWN , 20 miles west of Kingston in the island's foothills, is unique among Jamaican cities. It has the longest history of continuous settlement (1534), plus the finest collection of historic buildings and monuments on the island, among them the Anglican cathedral, built on the foundation of a Spanish chapel erected in 1524. The town also houses the National Archives. Formerly called Villa de la Vega and St. Iago de la Villa, Spanish Town became Jamaica's most important city after the destruction of Port Royal by an earthquake in 1692. It served as the capital until 1872, when the seat of government was moved to Kingston. The city, with a current population estimated at 107,000, is the commercial and processing center for the surrounding rich agricultural region.


Geography and Climate

The island of Jamaica is perhaps best noted for its lush and scenic tropical beauty: the rugged spine of blue-green mountains rising to 7,400 feet; warm, clear Caribbean waters with exciting underwater reefs; and the picture-postcard north coast with its white-sand beaches.

Jamaica is the third-largest Caribbean island and lies nearly 600 miles south of Miami, Florida. The island is 146 miles long and 51 miles across at its widest point. Except for narrow coastal plains mainly on the island's south side, the landscape is one of sharp, crested ridges, unique "cockpit" formations, and deep, twisting valleys. Almost half the island is more than 1,000 feet above sea level. Some 50 percent of the island is used for agriculture, 40 percent is woodland, and the remaining 10 percent is divided between mining and urban areas.

Jamaica has about 120 rivers. Most flow to the coast from the central mountain ranges. Those on the north side tend to be shorter and swifter than those on the south side. Only one is navigable for more than a short distance.

Kingston, the capital, is on the southeast coast and has the world's seventh-largest natural harbor. From sea level at city center, the terrain rises to 1,800 feet. The suburban residential areas of St. Andrew in the foothills of the mountains are slightly cooler than the rest of the city.

Jamaica enjoys a favorable, though warm and humid, climate. Average temperatures are about 80°-95°F, May through September, and 70°-85°F during the cooler months. The higher mountainous regions reach a low of 50°F in the cooler months. Northeast trade winds help maintain a feeling of relative comfort.

Temperature and rainfall are markedly affected by the changes in elevation and geography of the island. Rainfall varies from an annual average of 25 inches at the Kingston airport to an average of 250 inches at Blue Mountain Peak. Suburban residential areas of Kingston receive about 50 inches on the average. Rainfall is generally heaviest during April-May and October-November, though these are not rainy seasons in the tropical sense. Mildew is a problem during these months. Relative humidity in Kingston ranges from 63 percent in February to 86 percent in October.

Jamaica is in the earthquake and hurricane belts but has not had a disastrous earthquake since 1907, even though every year has a few tremors. In September 1988, the island was struck head-on by Hurricane Gilbert, the first since 1980. The main force of the storm affected the entire island, especially the eastern coastal areas, and caused widespread damage, mainly to crops and vegetation, coastal properties, utilities, and roofs.

The island suffers from periodic droughts. The water situation in Kingston was improved dramatically by the completion of the Blue Mountain Water Scheme. Occasional water shortages do occur.

Jamaica has no dangerous wild animals. Black widow spiders and scorpions are present but rare. Many varieties of soft-bodied lizards and nuisance insects-particularly cockroaches, ants, and termites-present some problems. Mosquitoes and houseflies are troublesome in the Kingston area. Grass ticks and fleas are also annoying to outside pets.

Jamaica has over 600 insect species as well as 250 bird species-25 of which belong only to Jamaica. About 120 species of butterflies, including the world's largest (6" wingspan), are also found here. The island is especially noted for its fireflies, otherwise known as blinkies or peeny-waullies.

A profusion of flowering shrubs, trees, and cacti reflects Jamaica's great variation of climate and topography. Hundreds of imported plants are well established. Pimento or all-spice is from an indigenous plant, and Jamaica is the world's largest producer. The ortanique, developed in Jamaica, is a cross between an orange and a tangerine. Jamaica also has over 220 species of native orchids, over 500 different ferns, more than 300 mosses, and many fungi.


Jamaica's population of 2.5 million, according to 1993 estimates, is distributed unevenly, with large, sparsely populated areas in the mountainous interior of the island. Kingston is the island's largest city, with an estimated population of 700,000 for the Kingston-St. Andrew metropolitan area. Nearby Spanish Town, with 112,000 inhabitants, and Greater Portmore, with nearly 500,000, although in the adjacent parish of St. Catherine, are in effect extensions of the Kingston metropolitan area. Montego Bay, with a population of 85,500, is the largest urban concentration outside of the greater Kingston area.

A colorful, complex cultural heritage makes Jamaicans a unique people. Their society is multiracially integrated, and the term "Jamaican" does not carry a particular color connotation. Jamaica's population is about 90 percent African or mixed descent. The remaining 10 percent are chiefly European, Chinese, East Indian, and Lebanese.

Over 70 percent of the population is under 35-the mean age is 18. The economic and emotional focus of the home is frequently the mother, as reflected by the title of Jamaican sociologist Edith Clarke's book, My Mother Who Fathered Me.

The language in Jamaica is English, but it varies from precise Oxford English to Jamaican patois. Because of differences in phraseology, inflection, and word usage, new arrivals may experience some difficulty in understanding Jamaican English, particularly on the telephone. Given time, most difficulties disappear. The exception is with patois, sometimes called Jamaican Creole. Understanding it takes time and attention.

While most Jamaicans speak standard English, a combination of patois and English is commonly encountered in dealings with street vendors, domestic helpers, and artisans. Most Jamaicans are familiar with the dialect, although few speak only patois. However, modern Jamaican theater includes much dialogue in rapid patois, which may be difficult to follow, even after extended exposure to it.

Religion is an important facet of the Jamaican character and a major stabilizing influence. Most Jamaicans are Christians, with Baptists now representing the largest single denomination. The Church of Jamaica, successor to the Church of England (Anglican) since the 1880s; Church of God; and Roman Catholic Church have substantial followings.

Many other denominations are also represented, including Moravians, Seventh-day Adventists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Latter-day Saints (Mormons). There are also small Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu communities.

Also found are religious groups unique to Jamaica: the Revivalists, whose Afro-Christian blend of religion has a high trance-invoking emotional content, and the bearded, "dreadlocked" Rastafarians, who worship "Jah," whose earthly representative was the late Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia.

Jamaican culture and traditions are largely African and British, but ties with North America are increasing. This is due primarily to the large number of Jamaicans who have lived in or visited the U.S. and Canada, the importance of North American tourists and the bauxite industry to the island's economy, and the influence of U.S. television shows and media.

Public Institutions

Jamaica is an independent member of the British Commonwealth. The British Monarch is the Head of State and is represented by a Jamaican Governor General nominated by the Prime Minister. The government is based on the Westminster parliamentary system and has an elected 60-member House of Representatives and an appointed 21-member Senate. Since the early 1940s, the Jamaican political scene has been dominated by two closely matched political parties: the Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) and the People's National Party (PNP). A third party, the National Democratic Movement (NDM), was formed in 1995 by former JLP chairman, Bruce Golding.

The government is elected for a 5-year term, but elections can be held earlier under certain circumstances. The ministries of government are directed by ministers selected from majority party members of the House and Senate and appointed by the Governor General, acting on the advice of the Prime Minister. An experienced though somewhat understaffed civil service carries out governmental functions.

In the March 1993 general election, the PNP won a 52 to 8 majority in the House of Representatives. Jamaica's Prime Minister is P.J. Patterson, leader of the PNP, who succeeded Michael Manley when he retired for health reasons in 1992. Edward Seaga, leader of the opposition JLP, was Prime Minister from 1980 to 1989.

Legal institutions generally follow British practice. Cases are tried before an independent judiciary ranked in an ascending hierarchy of Petty Sessions Courts, Resident Magistrate Courts, Supreme Court, and Court of Appeal. Certain cases may be sent on appeal to the U.K. Privy Council for final determination.

The island is divided into three counties, which have no present-day functions. Within these counties are 14 parishes. Kingston and the suburban parish of St. Andrew are combined for administrative purposes into the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation. Local government functions are handled by Parish Councils, which are to be elected every 3 years. They depend on support from the central government and can be dissolved if the national government believes parish affairs are being mismanaged.

Arts and Science

Culture. Jamaica has long been noted for the richness and diversity of its culture and the quality of its artists. In the area of theater, the island has produced such notable actors as Madge Sinclair, the Honorable Louise Bennett-Coverley, and Charles Hyatt. A variety of plays can be seen daily in the capital city of Kingston. Jamaica has an international reputation in dance, especially through the National Dance Theater Company, which fosters the development of traditional dance forms. The country also has a high reputation for its many fine painters, sculptors, and writers. Music is another field in which Jamaica is well known, particularly for reggae, which has been made famous by singers such as the late Bob Marley.

Music. Jamaica's music is perhaps its most revealing form of folk expression. Frank, natural, and spontaneous, it springs from the soul of the people and often reflects historical circumstances. The songs record joys and sorrows, wit, philosophy of life, and religion.

Traditional Jamaican music is percussive, polyrhythmic, and repetitive. Vocals rely heavily on the call-and-response form, while drums control the accompanying dances. The major influences are evident in the structure and behavior of Jamaican melody and harmony: the older heritage of African music and rhythm and the more recent legacy of European religious and popular music, introduced over the centuries of British rule.

Popular music has steadily evolved over the last 20 years from mento to ska to reggae. Reggae has been internationally promoted through the late Rasta folk hero and international pop star, Bob Marley. Other prominent reggae artists include Dennis Brown, Jimmy Cliff, and the late Peter Tosh. Several Jamaicans also have gained international recognition in the fields of classical music and jazz; Curtis Watson and Monty Alexander are notable examples. The philosophy, doctrine, and music of the Rastafarians heavily influence reggae in instrumentation, lyrics, movement, and delivery. The latest musical movement is called "DJ music." Similar to American rap music, it relies heavily on rhythmic chanting and emphasizes experiences of inner-city youth. Other forms of popular music include "dance hall," "dub," and "soca," a form of merengue music heard primarily during Carnival celebrations.

Art. Jamaican art is varied and reveals no predominant cultural or ethnic influences except, perhaps, very stylized African motifs. Many of the established Jamaican painters and sculptors have achieved acclaim outside this country, particularly in the U.S. and Britain, where many of them were trained. Sophisticated works can be obtained in various media: oils, acrylics, watercolors, silk-screen prints, woodcuts, sculpture, ceramics, pottery, and textile arts. There is a fairly large group of expatriate artists-mostly from the U.S. and the Commonwealth-resident in Jamaica.

Kingston is the art center of the island, with many artists, the art school, and several well-respected high-quality galleries. Three broad categories of art are discernible: intuitive, abstract, and representational. Representational is the dominant mode. The National Gallery of Art maintains a large collection of Jamaican and Caribbean art from the 18th century to the present.

Crafts. Local craftwork is strongly influenced by cultural heritage and finds expression in straw, semiprecious stones and jewelry, wood, clay, fabric, shell, and bamboo. A substantial amount of the alabaster, embroidered cutwork, and appliqué craftwork is exported to the U.S. An attractive cluster of craft shops is located on the grounds of Devon House, a historic site.

Dance. The National Dance Theater Company (NDTC) was formed in 1962. Many of the troupe's more recognized members studied in England and the United States. The NDTC emphasizes indigenous dance and experimentation. NDTC choreographers have produced an extremely varied and culturally rich repertoire. The revived folk dances are actively performed on the island. They are presented at cultural festivals, on TV, and in resort areas.

Drama. Drama has expanded considerably in the past decade. During the 1980s, Jamaican playwrights typically produced works based on social currents and issues of the day. Today, the theater offers a broad base, ranging from comedy and reviews to serious drama.

Festivals. Jamaica places much emphasis on the cultural heritage of its people. The artistic and cultural awakening has been accompanied by a keen search for roots in folk forms based chiefly in colorful and intensely rhythmic dances and songs. This is best reflected in the annual festival celebrated from the last two weeks in July until Independence Day, the first Monday in August. Winners of "all island" parish dance, song, poetry, and drama competitions perform during the festival. Other high-profile festivals include the Ocho Rios Jazz Festival, the Reggae Sunsplash Festival, and Carnival. Festivals provide an avenue of expression for Jamaicans at every level of society.

Science. Organized scientific investigation in Jamaica dates back to 1774 when the Botanical Department and the gardens at Bath were established. The Institute of Jamaica-which includes the West Indies Reference Library, the National Gallery of Jamaica, and several museums-is the most significant cultural organization in the country. Its Natural History Division is the chief source of information on Jamaican flora and fauna. The Institute also produces publications on Jamaican history and culture. Perhaps one of the most active units of the Institute is the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts where students are instructed in dance, drama, music, and the fine arts.

Systematic geological surveys began over 100 years ago. In 1942, with the realization of the potential of bauxite, extensive research began, which led to the creation of a separate Geological Department in 1951.

Important areas of scientific research include geology, mineralogy, biochemistry, food technology, nutrition, agro-industry, crop and soil agronomy, epidemiology, ecology, and marine biology.

The Meteorological Office of the Jamaican Government and the Seismic Research Unit of the University of the West Indies compile and disseminate information to the public.

Commerce and Industry

Jamaica's pattern of trade and production has historically been based on the export of its principal agricultural products (sugar, bananas, coffee, cocoa, spices, etc.), as well as other foreign exchange earners (bauxite/alumina, rum) in exchange for imports of oil, machinery, manufactured goods, and food products (principally wheat, corn, rice, soybeans, butter). However, the fast growth of tourism, textile production, and the proliferation of service industries have changed the island's trading habits.

Tourism has been Jamaica's primary foreign exchange-earning industry since 1983. Total visitor arrivals have remained well over one million annually. Stopover visitors (visitors staying one night or more) average 65 percent of total arrivals, two-thirds of which come from the U.S. Hotel room capacity on the island is 19,760 and is expanding. In 1994, total foreign exchange earnings from tourism accounted for an estimated US$977 million. The second largest source of foreign exchange in 1994 was remittances (approximately US$600 million).

Jamaica has large commercial deposits of mineral resources such as limestone (two-thirds of the island), bauxite, gypsum, marble, silica sand, and clays. The mining and processing of bauxite continues to be the major economic activity. Net export earnings from bauxite/alumina (levies, royalties, local cash inflows) amounted to US$231 million in 1994. Development of this industry is greatly influenced by worldwide aluminum consumption and price fluctuation in the international market. The agricultural sector generates about 8 percent of GDP and employs over one-quarter of Jamaica's work force. Jamaica has a favorable climate and varied soil types. Major traditional export crops are sugar, spices, bananas, coffee, citrus, allspice, and pimento. Other crops of growing importance include yams, tropical fruits and vegetables, legumes, and horticulture.

Other nontraditional products have also strengthened Jamaica's export performance during the last few years. These include garments, cut flowers, ornamental plants, gourmet food items and spices, handi-crafts, and furniture. World-renowned Jamaican products such as Blue Mountain coffee, cigars, and Red Stripe beer have experienced growth in demand. The U.S. continues to be Jamaica's leading trading partner, exporting an average of US$1.06 billion annually to Jamaica and importing approximately US$415 million worth of Jamaican goods during the 1992-94 period. Jamaica's other leading trading partners are the U.K., Canada, Venezuela, and Japan.

The Jamaican economy grew by 0.8 percent in 1994 following a modest growth of 1.2 percent in 1993. This resulted from growth in the agricultural sector, mining, tourism, financing, insurance, and other service sectors. The pace of economic growth in 1994 slowed somewhat due to tight monetary and fiscal policies, high inflation, and declining real incomes for the majority of the population. In addition, the servicing of a heavy debt burden, the deterioration in earnings from the bauxite/alumina industry, and high interest rates have further constrained economic growth.

Jamaica faces several ongoing economic problems. Although the external debt has been modestly reduced over the last 3 years, debt servicing still constitutes about 40 percent of the government fiscal budget, constraining both growth and the government's policy options. The stock of debt is approximately US$3.6 billion, or US$1,440 on a per-capita basis. Privatization, tariff reform, liberalization of foreign exchange controls, and tight fiscal and monetary policies are some of the major policies implemented over the past few years to enhance economic growth and development.



Driving is on the left, but either left-hand or right-hand drive cars may be imported. Left-hand-drive cars must usually have headlights re-aimed. Because of the narrow roads and in the interest of safety, serious consideration should be given to bringing a right-hand-drive vehicle.

Current Jamaican Government policy forbids the importation of vehicles over 3 years old (date of manufacture to date of entry into Jamaica).

Compact cars rather than larger American model cars are better suited to the narrow, winding Jamaican roads. A car with a high road clearance is an advantage because of the many potholes. Lighter colors are preferable, as they are cooler. An air-conditioner is desirable. Garages can service most American, Japanese, or European makes, but service is below U.S. standards.

Spare parts are expensive and sometimes hard to find, especially for older and less common models. Bring a basic supply of oil filters, radiator hoses, fan belts, and spark plugs, as well as points and condensers if your car uses them. Spare parts can also be obtained from Miami with delivery in only a few days, in most cases. Also, bring a basic tool supply and repair manuals for your make and model of car. Durable tires in good condition are necessary because of often poorly kept roads.

You must have a Jamaican license to drive. Automobile registration is accomplished by obtaining (1) an import license for your car at the time of importation, (2) compulsory local liability insurance, and (3) a certificate of vehicle fitness.

Certificates of car fitness must be renewed annually. Besides being in good condition, all cars must have turn indicators. Those on U.S. cars are acceptable.


Telephone and Telegraph

Telephone service is available to most of the island, but service is below U.S. standards. Calls from one exchange to another are treated as long-distance calls despite relatively short distances, with rates determined by the mileage between exchanges. A direct-dialing system serves the whole island. Service to the U.S. by satellite is generally adequate.

A 3-minute, station-to-station call from Kingston to Washington, D.C., costs about US$5.27 at full rate and US$4 at the reduced rate (night and all day Sunday and on Jamaican holidays). AT&T calling cards can be used, and many U.S. long-distance companies offer collect-call services from Jamaica. Direct-dialing from the U.S. is possible using area code 809 and the Jamaican seven-digit number.

International telegraph service is good, and rates are moderate. Cables are sent via JAMINTEL Limited through the Jamaican postal service. Local service and delivery are erratic.


Local airmail service is available to and from the U.S. Transit time to Washington or New York is about 10 days, with some fluctuations in service. The airmail letter rate to the U.S. is J$1.10 per ounce. Surface mail and international parcel post depend on sailing schedules to Jamaica and are unreliable. Delivery time from the U.S. varies from 2 to 6 months. International letter mail service ranges from-excellent to disastrous, while local mail can disappear or take weeks to travel a few miles.

Radio and TV

AM and FM radio reception in the Kingston area is excellent. There are several major national radio networks, including RJR Limited and the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC). Radio stations offer a wide variety of programming, including music, talk shows, local and international news, and religious programs.

Shortwave reception from the U.S. and U.K. is fair to good, with occasional interference; some people find a shortwave set desirable. Voice of America (VOA) shortwave broadcasts get good reception in early morning and evening and have excellent news and sports coverage.

JBC has also operated a TV station since 1963. JBC-TV transmits Jamaican, U.S., U.K., and Canadian programs. A privately owned station, CVM-TV, broadcasts many popular American sitcoms and movies. Both stations offer regular local and overseas news programs. As a result of recent legislation governing cable TV service, a wide variety of cable programming is now, available through several local cable providers. Rates are comparable to those in the U.S. TVs made in the U.S. can be used in Jamaica.

Video rental stores can be found in Kingston. The vast majority of available tapes are VHS, not Betamax. Ordering of VCRs and color TVs can be done through the commissary at U.S. retail prices, plus transportation. There are now almost 20,000 satellite dishes in Jamaica that receive the whole range of U.S. TV offerings.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

The Miami Herald and the New York Times are usually available at local newsstands late on the day of publication. Limited international coverage is provided by the Daily Gleaner, the Herald, and the Observer, Jamaica's three main newspapers. Copies of these papers are usually available for perusal at the Jamaica Desk (ARA/CAR) in the Department of State.

English and American magazines are available locally. American magazines are marked up at least 12%. Subscriptions to U.S. magazines will save money. Send them by pouch, if you don't mind them arriving at least 2 weeks late and occasionally in batches of two or three. Subscriptions to the international editions of Time or Newsweek will ensure that the magazine arrives during the week of publication. Books printed in England are available from several booksellers. U.S. bestsellers are months late arriving at local shops and difficult to find. Books cost more than in the U.S.

The Public Affairs Library has about 2,200 volumes, ranging from art to technology and the social sciences, as well as general reference works. The library also subscribes to 69 U.S. periodicals. The Kingston and St. Andrew Parish Library is part of the islandwide free public library service. It has about 75,000 volumes.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

General practitioners and specialists are available. Many have received specialty training in the U.S., Canada, or U.K. These doctors are highly qualified and good diagnosticians even without the benefit of sophisticated equipment. Fees are generally lower than those in the U.S., particularly in the specialty areas. There are many good dentists whose fees are also lower than those in the U.S. Many professionals have migrated to the U.S., and in several specialty areas it is sometimes difficult to get appointments quickly.

Several small and generally adequate private hospitals are found in and around Kingston. People go to the U.S. for special treatment or surgery. Local doctors recommend trips to the U.S. if they believe their own facilities are inadequate. The regional medical officer, who visits Kingston every 4 to 6 months, has stated that no elective surgery should be done in Jamaica. Miami is the designated medical evacuation point.

Community Health

Community sanitation in Kingston has improved in the past few years. Drains and plumbing are inspected sporadically. Insects are a constant nuisance, and there is not a regular spraying program to control the breeding grounds. Trash and garbage disposal in the urban areas has also improved. In rural areas, it is an individual matter. Sewage facilities and treatment are adequate in Kingston.

Preventive Measures

Some infectious diseases are influenza, whooping cough, scarlet fever, and German measles. It is now mandatory for students entering school for the first time to have documents verifying that they have been immunized against whooping cough, tetanus, diphtheria, measles, polio, and tuberculosis before admission is approved.

Rabies, yellow fever, and malaria are not present in Jamaica, but mosquitoes do transmit the unpleasant dengue fever. Cases of dengue fever rose dramatically in late 1995, but the problem is being addressed through aerial spraying and reduction of mosquitoes' breeding areas.

Quality pasteurized milk is available in Kingston. The commissary also stocks U.S.-origin milk and dairy products, but they are expensive.

Avoid excessive exercise during the heat of the day. Because of the large areas of dense foliage and high pollen levels, the climate can be unpleasant to asthma and sinus sufferers.


Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Feb/Mar. Ash Wednesday*

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

Mar/Apr. Easter*

Mar/Apr. Easter Monday*

May 23National Labor Day

Aug.1 Emancipation Day

Aug.(first Monday) Independence Day*

Oct. (third Monday) National Heroes' Day*

Dec. 25 Christmas Day

Dec. 26 Boxing Day



Passage, Customs & Duties

Those arriving from areas where yellow fever is known to exist must be immunized.

U.S. citizens traveling as tourists can enter Jamaica with a U.S. passport or a certified copy of a U.S. birth certificate and current state photo identification. They must also have a return ticket and sufficient funds for their visit. U.S. citizens traveling to Jamaica for work or for extended stays are required to have a current passport and must obtain a visa before arriving. A departure tax is collected when leaving the country. For further information, travelers can contact the Embassy of Jamaica at 1520 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036, telephone (202)452-0660, the Jamaican Consulate in Miami or New York, or one of Jamaica's honorary consuls in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Seattle or Los Angeles. Travelers may also contact Jamaican representative in the United States through the Internet at http://[email protected] or athttp://[email protected].

U.S. citizens are encouraged to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Kingston. The Consular Section is located on the first floor of the Life of Jamaica Building, 16 Oxford Road, Kingston 5, telephone 1-876-935-6044. Office hours are 7:15 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. with window services available Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. For after-hours emergencies involving American citizens, a duty officer can be contacted at 1-876-926-6440. The Chancery is located three blocks away at the Mutual Life Building, 3rd floor, 2 Oxford Road, Kingston 5, telephone 1-876-929-4850 through-4859.

There is a Consular Agency in Montego Bay at St. James Place, 2nd floor, Gloucester Avenue, telephone 1-876-952-0160, fax 1-876-952-5050. Office hours are 9 a.m. to 12:00 noon, Monday through Friday.

The U.S. Embassy also has consular responsibility for the Cayman Islands, a British dependent territory. Please refer to the British West Indies Consular Information Sheet for information about the Cayman Islands. There is a Consular Agency located in the office of Adventure Travel, Seven-Mile Beach, George Town, Grand Cayman, telephone 1-345-946-1611, fax 1-345-945-1811. Office hours are 8 a.m. to 12:00 noon, Monday through Friday.


With the single exception of animals born and bred in the U.K., which have never had rabies shots, importation of pets is not allowed.

To bring animals from the U.K., the following procedure must be taken. You must have a certificate from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food at Hookrise, Surrey, England, proving that the animal was born and bred in the U.K. This certificate must then be presented to the Veterinary Department at Hope Gardens in Kingston to receive an import permit. These steps must be taken before the animal arrives.

Several excellent veterinarians practice in Kingston.

Currency, Banking and Weights and Measures

The currency is the Jamaican dollar. Bills are printed on different-colored paper in denominations of $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, and $500 while coins are minted in denominations of 5¢, 10¢, 25¢, 50¢, $1, and $5. The official exchange rate fluctuates within a 30¢ "band" or margin, and is adjusted at regular intervals. As of January 1996, it was US$1 = J$40. The exact exchange rate at any given time may be obtained from the Jamaica desk in ARA.

With the exception of gasoline, which is sold by liter, all other units of measure (inches, feet, yards, miles, etc.) and weight (pounds and ounces) are the same as in the U.S. However, there is an ongoing national project under way to convert the country to the metric system. Some road signs and consumer product labels already reflect these changes.

U.S. dollars or travelers checks may be converted readily into Jamaican currency at airports, banks, and hotels. While some north coast resorts will accept U.S. dollars, all official transactions must be made in Jamaican currency.

You may buy U.S. dollar instruments, including travelers checks, from local banks by presenting an airline ticket showing travel off the island.

Disaster Preparedness

Jamaica, like all Caribbean countries, can be affected by hurricanes. Hurricane season runs from approximately June 1-November 30 each year. The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) has put measures in place in the event of an emergency or disaster. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at


These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

Apa Productions. Insight Guide to Jamaica.

Black, Clinton V. The Story of Jamaica. Rev. 1965.

Black, Evon. Beautiful Jamaica. 1975.

Cargill, Morris. Jamaica Farewell. Secaucus, NJ: Lyle Stuart, 1978.

Clark, Edith. My Mother Who Fathered Me: A Study of the Family in the Selected Communities in Jamaica. Winchester, MA: Allen Unwin, 1976.

Craton, Michael M. Searching for the Invisible Man: Slaves and Plantation Life in Jamaica. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1978.

Henriques, Fernando. Family & Color in Jamaica. 1953.

Henzel, Perry. The Power Game. 1983.

Ingram, K.E., ed. Jamaica. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, 1984.

Insight Guides. Jamaica. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1983.

Kaplan, Irving. Area Handbook for Jamaica. 1976.

Kaplan, John. Marijuana-The New Prohibition. 1970.

Knight, Franklin W. The Caribbean: The Genesis of a Fragmented Nationalism. Oxford University Press, 1978.

Looney, Robert. The Jamaican Economy in the 1980's: Economic Decline and Structural Readjustment . Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1986.

Lowenthal & Comitas. Consequences of Class & Color. 1973.

. Work and Family. 1967.

Mikes, George. Not by Sun Alone. 1967.

Morrish, Ivor. Obeah, Christ, and Rastaman: Jamaica and Its Religions. Greenwood, SC: Attic Press, 1982.

Nettleford, Rex. Mirror, Mirror-Identity, Race and Protest in Jamaica. 1970.

. Caribbean Cultural Identity: The Case of Jamaica. 1979.

Senior, Olive. A-Z of Jamaica Heritage. Portsmouth, NH: Heine-mann Educational Books, 1983.

Sherlock, P.M. This Is Jamaica: An Informal Guide. 1968.

Slater, Mary. The Caribbean Islands. 1968.

Thelwell. The Harder They Come.

White, Timothy. Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley. New York: Henry Holt, 1983.

Waters, Anita M. Race, Class and Political Symbols: Rastafari and Reggae in Jamaican Politics. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1985.

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Jamaica
Region: North & Central America
Population: 2,652,689
Language(s): English, Creole
Literacy Rate: 85%
Academic Year: September-August
Number of Primary Schools: 793
Compulsory Schooling: 6 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 7.4%
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 300,931
  Secondary: 235,071
  Higher: 8,191
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 100%
  Higher: 8%
Teachers: Primary: 9,265
  Secondary: 10,931
  Higher: 418
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 99%
  Higher: 7%

History & Background

The history of education in Jamaica is perhaps best understood in the context of the island's colonial past. The education system and its administration were fashioned after the British system; and many of the developments in the history of Jamaican education can be seen as responses to events such as the abolition of slavery 1834, the advent of suffrage in 1944, and the achievement of independence in 1962. Much of the recent history of education in Jamaica has been driven by the perceived need to develop "homegrown" responses to economic, social, and political pressures on the island and in the Caribbean region (Whiteman 1994).

Before the Act of Emancipation went into effect in 1834 there appears to have been little in the way of a formal education system for whites and no system for educating indigenous people and slaves. White colonists who could afford it sent their sons back to the "mother country" for schooling, while others hired private tutors. Those who were less affluent sent their sons to one of the few free schools that were established through bequests from wealthy planters and merchants. The curriculum in the free schools was based on that offered by similar schools in Great Britain and was intended "to offer a classical education to young gentlemen so that they would be properly fitted to take their place in society" (Hamilton 1997). A few slave children received some schooling at plantation schools established by foreign missionaries, but their education dealt mostly with religion and the virtues of submission (Wilkins & Gamble 2000). At least some of these plantation schools provided education for girls as well as boys (Bailey 1997).

There is little documented about the education of girls in the colony before 1770 when Wolmer's Free School initiated a modified curriculum for girls that was designed to prepare them for running a home or for employment as seamstresses and mantuamakers. Hamilton (1997) states that some girls were able to get teaching positions.

Once slavery was abolished in 1834, the British saw education as an important way to integrate ex-slaves into the colonial economy and to ensure a peaceful lower class (Morrison & Milner 1995). In the years following emancipation, missionary societies developed a system of elementary education for the newly freed slaves. This system was taken over by the colonial government beginning in the 1860s. Cogan and Thompson (1988) see the eventual government sponsorship of a system of secular education as a response to the conflicts between propertied classes that led to the Morant Bay Rebellion of 1865. Schooling emphasized skills that would prepare children for eventual employment as estate workers. The elementary curriculum focused on reading, writing and arithmetic with some religious training and occasional geography and history instruction. In addition, boys were given training in agriculture and other manual arts, and girls received lessons in sewing and domestic science. These separate tracks for boys and girls were formalized in the Lumb Report of 1898 (Hamilton 1997). The report emphasized the need for agricultural training in order to counteract trends seen as threatening to the colonial economy and society: students were developing a distaste for manual labor and were moving from the countryside to the cities and towns to take up clerkships and other similar occupations.

The school system continued to expand at the beginning of the twentieth century but nonetheless continued to be guided by the nineteenth century colonial practice of educating children to fit their station in life (Hamilton 1997, Whiteman 1994). As the relative number of British people in Jamaica began to decrease, it became necessary to move native Jamaicans into certain intermediate occupations, and this resulted in growth in the secondary school system and the creation of government scholarships for university study abroad (Wilkins & Gamble 2000). Elementary schools began to hold annual scholarship examinations in order to allow some children who would not have been able to afford the fees to attend secondary school. Burchell Whiteman (Minister of Education and Culture of Jamaica) characterizes these movements as the beginnings of the struggle to change the secondary schools from "being comprised of students with the 'ability to pay' to students with the 'ability to benefit from' the education offered" (1994). During the 1930s economic pressures associated with the Depression and the colonial system in general resulted in widespread unemployment among Jamaicans. This, coupled with chronically low wages and endemic poverty and with the growing desire among Jamaicans for self-rule, led to the formation of groups such as the Jamaica Workers' and Tradesmen's Union (in 1934) and the Peoples' National Party (in 1938). Mass protests and marches among the working poor and the unemployed became common and frequently ended in rioting. The British responded with the Orde Brown Inquiry into labor conditions in the colony and the formation of the West India Royal Commission under Lord Moyne which was charged with inquiring into the social, economic, and educational conditions underlying the unrest.

The Kandel Report and the associated Plan for Post-Primary Education in Jamaica of 1943-1944 addressed the educational, social, and economic conditions in the colony once again. It focused on establishing a system of post-primary education "so as to ameliorate the existing harsh socially segregated education with its class and color configurations" (Whiteman 1994). The report and plan also addressed curricula at the secondary level, establishing a common literary core for both boys and girls but further solidifying the gendered vocational training "tracks" originally formalized in the Lumb Report (Hamilton 1997).

Much of the reform and restructuring that took place from this time up until independence is described by Sherlock and Bennett (1998) as "a period of tutelage . . .[in which what] was granted was diluted self-government in doses graduated to suit the imperial interests." There was much to do because "the colonial system of education bred a lack of self-confidence among blacks in their own ability to manage their own affairs" (Sherlock & Bennett 1998). As part of this general trend toward the self-sufficiency of the island (and of the whole British Caribbean), the University of the West Indies (UWI) was founded in 1948 at Mona, Jamaica. This was an important step in establishing educational independence because Jamaica had been forced to import university graduates from Great Britain to serve as senior staff in secondary schools. The birth of the Department of Education at UWI in 1952 was a major step toward a completely "home-grown" educational system.

The processes leading toward self-rule and eventual independence for Jamaica were accelerated by the complex events and forces that arose during and after World War II. Sherlock and Bennett (1998) argue that the rejection of Nazi anti-Semitism and Aryan superiority led the British to see as untenable "the concepts of empire and of the trusteeship of a superior race." The Jamaican Constitution was revised in 1944 to grant voting rights to all adults, and the British also started the process of ending colonial economic exploitation by setting up a colonial development fund.

The Moyne report's conclusions with regard to education noted that a lack of central control over the primary schools resulted in inefficiency in administration. It also pointed out that there was a lack of correspondence between the schools' curricula and the needs of those living in Jamaica. The report recommended, among other things, that the curriculum be modified to include courses in health and hygiene, that preschools be established (even though many community-based preschools already existed and Rev. Ward had recently addressed the government on this matter, that schools be organized into levels (Primary for six- to twelve-year-olds, and Junior for twelve- to-fifteen-year-olds), and that schools be brought up to modern standards with respect to buildings, sanitation, water purity, and school equipment. It is generally agreed that the Moyne Report also contributed impetus toward the granting of universal adult suffrage and (limited) self-rule in the colony.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

A bipartisan commission of the Jamaica Legislature drafted Jamaica's constitution during 1961-1962. It was approved in Great Britain and went into effect when Jamaica achieved full independence on August 6, 1962. It provides for a parliamentary/ministerial form of government. The Governor-General, who serves as the Queen's representative, has the authority to appoint ministers and to call elections, among other powers. The Governor-General is appointed by the Queen upon the Prime Minister's recommendation. The constitution stipulates that there be a minimum of eleven ministries; ministers are appointed and assigned their portfolios by the Governor-General in consultation with the Prime Minister. The constitutional head of each ministry is the minister, and the executive head is the Permanent Secretary, who provides continuity despite changes of government and sees to the day-to-day operations of the ministry. Ministers can introduce bills in Parliament. Bills become law once they have been approved by Parliament and have received the Governor-General's approval.

The education system in Jamaica falls under the purview of the Ministry of Education and Culture (MOE&C). The MOE&C administers the Education Regulations which govern the operation and management of schools at all levels. These include such things as the dissemination of the results of school assessments, the licensing and employment of teachers, the establishment of standards and requirements for continuing professional development of teachers, development of curricula, and the setting of the minimum number of school days. The ministry also oversees the activities of a variety of agencies that intersect with its educational mission and programs: the Jamaica Library Service, Nutrition Products Limited (in-school feeding programs), the Human Employment & Resources Training trust/National Training Agency (HEART/NTA), the Jamaica Movement for the Advancement of Literacy (JAMAL), the National Heritage Trust, the Institute of Jamaica, and the University Council of Jamaica.

The activities of various private and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) engaged in projects for improving education in the country are coordinated and administered through the MOE&C. The ministry also serves as liaison between the government and such world-wide and regional agencies as UNESCO and CARICOM, preparing necessary reports on education and implementing reforms and initiatives emanating from those organizations.

Since Jamaica became an independent nation in 1962 there have been a number of cycles of reform and one major period of retrenchment in education. The first set of reforms took place as part of the Independence Plan of 1963. The plan set forth the goal of increasing the number of teachers at both the primary and secondary levels. Expansion of teacher training facilities was directed toward increasing the annual output of primary teachers to over 500 by 1972; and an increase in the number of teachers' scholarships to UWI was intended to increase the number of qualified secondary school teachers (Miller 1992). The selection process for admission to secondary schools was also a target of reform. Admission to secondary schools was determined by either a child's parents' ability to pay fees or the child's ability to gain a free place on the basis of his/her performance on the Common Entrance (CE) Examination. The overwhelming number of free places in secondary schools had been going to children from private or church-sponsored primary preparatory schools, while children from government primary schools, who were almost entirely from the lower social strata, qualified for only a few. This resulted in the "70/30 Plan" in which the Ministry of Education decided to allocate free places on the basis of a child's performance on the CE exam and the type of primary school she/he attended. Because 70 percent of children on the island attended government primary schools, 70 percent of the free places were reserved for children from these schools. The idea was that this scheme would result in increased opportunities for a secondary education for poor children and that this, in turn, would ameliorate some of the socioeconomic, racial, and class inequities that persisted in the former colony.

The Independence Plan was superceded by the New Deal for Education in Independent Jamaica (generally referred to as the "New Deal") in 1966. This effort was funded by the World Bank, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). It was, according to Cogan and Thompson (1988) "the first comprehensive and systematic attempt by the government to formulate long-range planning in education that would result in a unified system open to all." Specific proposals were designed to restructure the education system in order to encourage and enable all students to get a secondary-school education. In fact, the primary motivation behind these reforms was the idea that education should break down class and racial boundaries that it should be a unifying rather than a stratifying force in Jamaican society.

Under the New Deal the number of primary teachers being trained reached almost 1,000 per annum in 1969; however, this was partly accomplished by reducing the teacher training program from three years in college to two years in college plus one year of internship in local schools. All teachers' colleges were expanded, one new teachers' college was established in rural Jamaica, and for the first time all teachers' colleges were equipped and staffed for training secondary-school teachers. The number of scholarships to UWI was further increased, and in-service training for teachers was expanded and intensified.

The New Deal gave way to the Education Thrust in 1973. The formulation of this program began after the election of the People's National Party (PNP) in 1972. The Education Thrust was formulated coincident with the completion of the Jamaica Education Sector Survey, a comprehensive look at the whole educational system that included specialists from various external agencies, including USAID and CIDA, along with members of the Jamaican Ministry of Education. The Survey was meant to provide the basis for educational planning in the future.

The Education Thrust was intended to be a comprehensive program for dealing with education at all levels. In order to ensure that reforms were working, the plan included rolling three-year qualitative and quantitative assessments of the various programs implemented under the plan. A complete reorganization of the Ministry of Education was to result in improved planning and administration that would filter down to all levels of the education system. Free and compulsory education was to be made available to all children up to age 14, that is, up to the secondary school level. The newly established Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) was to set the standards for the school examination system. And, in order to promote social (including educational development) and public works programs, students who had been educated at government expense were to take part in a proposed "National Service Corps of Graduates."

The Education Thrust also sought to increase the number of teachers produced by the colleges to 1,700 per year. (The target year was 1975, but the goal was not reached until 1979.) An effort to provide in-service training for primary school teachers led to the establishment of the In-service Teacher Education Thrust in 1973 and to the In-service Diploma in Education in 1975. Additional teacher education training programs were set up at the College of Arts, Science, and Technology (CAST) and the Jamaica School of Agriculture (JSA) in 1975, a goal that was originally part of the New Deal program.

Cogan and Thompson (1988) argued that the three major reform programs described above "had a negligible effect on the eradication of class stratification within the larger society;" they argued further that primary education was "largely inefficient under the sheer numbers of the system" (1988). Miller (1992), however, points out that there were quite a few positive results that grew out of these programs. He observes that teacher education was expanded and reformed in accordance with set development targets. The number of and types of teachers to be trained, the modalities to be employed, and the number and location of training institutions were all carefully planned. Each plan built upon the achievements and targets previously set, despite the fact that different governments of different political parties and ideologies were involved. One result of all this was that Jamaica's capacity to train teachers had developed to the point that the government was able in 1976 to phase out recruitment of secondary school teachers from abroad. More importantly, Miller argues, the efforts to improve the number and quality of teachers at both the primary and secondary levels had paid off in terms of student performance. The 70/30 Plan, which was established because private preparatory students were winning the bulk of the free places awarded for high school, was abolished in 1974 because public primary school students' performance on entrance exams now resulted in their obtaining more than 70 percent of those places based strictly on merit (1992). The period from 1977-1987, however, marked a period of retrenchment. During this decade Jamaica and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) entered into a series of austerity agreements that implemented IMF strictures requiring adjustments to the Jamaican economy. During this period expenditure on education (expressed in 1974 dollars) declined by 33.8 percent (Miller 1992). The student-teacher ratio for primary schools was increased by the Ministry of Education from 40:1 to 55:1. Two teachers' colleges were closed, and the In-service Education Thrust and the In-service Diploma programs were done away with. Teacher education was hardest hit, experiencing a decline in real expenditure of 66.2 percent between 1977 and 1987 (Miller 1992). Miller also states that one result of all these cut-backs was "a fracturing of the relationship between the major stakeholders" in the education process and the growth of "skepticism and suspicion concerning planned developments in the sector" which left managers of the sector "with the major problem of motivating and inspiring effort, even among themselves."

Jamaica's financial difficulties have not abated. Debt service continues to consume a larger and larger portion of the government's budget, rising from 45.3 percent of the budget (25.9 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product or GDP) in 1996 to 58.2 percent (38.4 percent of GDP) in 1999 (Ministry of Education and Culture 2001). However, the government continues to place a high priority on educational development.

Jamaica participated in the 1990 World Conference on Education for All (EFA) and formulated a pair of five-year educational development plans during the 1990s that coincided with the goals and targets defined by the EFA program. These plans focused on improving access to and the quality of early childhood education, providing universal access to basic/primary education, improving attendance and completion rates at the primary level, improving curricula and instruction at the primary level, reducing the adult illiteracy rate, and establishing a variety of media outlets for disseminating information for the public good.

These efforts have paid off in some areas. Participation in early childhood programs has increased, and instruction has been improved through the development of curriculum guides. The national curricula for grades 1-9 have been revised, and the National Assessment Programme has resulted in the development of a battery of standardized tests that will enable officials to monitor performance at the primary level. The government now provides free textbooks in Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies to all pupils in grades 1-6; and a textbook rental program has begun for students in grades 7-9 (UNESCO 2000).

There has been some improvement in providing teacher training, but the percentage of primary teachers with certification has dropped during the 1990s. Economic difficulties continue to result in inadequate facilities and in major inequalities in education at the secondary level. And, while enrollment rates at the preprimary and primary school levels have been boosted, attendance rates are disappointing and many children exit the system without being literate and/or numerate (UNESCO 2000). A series of new initiatives that will address these and other problems have been proposed in two recent Ministry of Education and Culture policy statements: Education: the Way Upward, A Green Paper for the Year 2000 (1999) and White Paper I: A Path for Jamaica's Education at the start of the new Millennium (2001).

Educational SystemOverview

The educational system in Jamaica is outlined below and described in more detail in the following sections. Education through the six years of primary school is compulsory and is free in government-sponsored schools. The age of entry into primary school is six years, and children generally complete primary school at age twelve. The academic year runs from September to July (with some local variation), and the Education Regulations prescribe a minimum of 195 days of instruction in the school year. The language of instruction is English.

The Ministry has pushed for the remodeling and construction of school buildings and has paid particular attention to library facilities. By the end of the 1990s a little over one hundred school libraries had been refurbished and their stocks of books increased. The Ministry has also set the goal of placing at least one computer with Internet access (where available) in every school on the island by the end of the year 2002. As of 1999, the Ministry had supplied more than 100 schools with computers and had trained almost 350 teachers in the use of computer systems and the Internet. Funding for these initiatives is uncertain, however, because the national debt continues to consume a larger portion of the government's budget each year. Success in these areas may depend on the success of the Ministry's efforts to form partnerships with businesses and manufacturers and on the largesse of foreign governments, granting agencies, and foundations.

Curriculum: Up until independence, the curriculum in Jamaica's schools mirrored that of schools in Great Britain. Curricular development since then has focused on fashioning a better fit between the educational system and the development needs of the ex-colony. This has been looked upon as both a local and a regional imperative, since many of the ex-colonies in the Caribbean Basin have experienced similar problems with educational systems that were "not geared towards enhancing the knowledge, skills, and values which helped students live more productive lives in their own societies" (Whiteman 1994). One criticism of the system was that it seemed that education at each level was primarily geared to preparing students for entry to the next level; that is, "[u]sefulness or relevance of curriculum content was seen in terms of its value in helping students pass the examinations which lead to the next stage up the educational ladder" (Whiteman 1994). Many of the earlier reforms in curriculum content were directed toward doing such things as making primary school education clearly useful in itself and not simply a means to getting into secondary school.

Such concerns are still addressed, but curricular development increasingly has been driven by economic and development pressures that require higher levels and standards of literacy and mathematical skills among the citizenry. In recent years the government has attempted to rationalize the curriculum at both primary and secondary levels in order to respond to social and manpower needs and to improve access to and encourage enrollment in secondary-level schools.

A major part of curricular reform since the 1990s has been related to the provision of textbooks. Textbooks are the main teaching materials used in the schools, and until fairly recently most of these texts were produced in other countries, primarily Great Britain and North America. This presented a number of problems. The first is that these texts were written from the perspective of the highly industrialized societies that produced them and did not reflect many aspects of the life and values of Jamaicans or West Indians. Another factor was cost. As the value of the Jamaican Dollar declined in relation to U.S. and Canadian Dollars and the British Pound, procurement of textbooks put quite a strain on government foreign currency reserves; and, because parents were required to buy these increasingly expensive textbooks for their children, many children ended up without textbooks. This resulted in a decline in children's performance and achievement in school, an increase in absentee and dropout rates, and a decline in literacy.

The MOE&C now produces textbooks for all subjects taught in grades one through six. The content in these books is linked directly to the cultural and historical development of Jamaica and reflects the experience of Jamaican children. More importantly, these texts are reprinted every year and presented free of cost to each child in the primary grades. This not only gives all children access to needed textbooks, but officials also see other benefits. They argue that the children's ownership of books will lead them to value literacy and learning more and that the continued presence of books in children's homes will generate more interest in education among younger siblings and even parents and other adults.

MOE&C has also developed and distributed textbooks for secondary-level subjects and has implemented a textbook rental program at all secondary schools. The curriculum at the secondary level has been "caribbeanized" and made more responsive to regional concerns through Jamaica's participation in the Caribbean Examinations Council programs.

Special Education: The government defines special education programs as those programs "designed to meet the educational needs of children (4-18 years) who are identified as having mental, physical, and intellectual capabilities which deviate significantly from the norm expected of their age cohort" (Ministry of Education and Culture 2001). In 2000 there were 2,200 students aged four through eighteen and a little over 300 special education teachers in government-run and government-aided special schools and units. About 300 learning disabled, hearing impaired, and other disabled students are in privately run schools.

Prior to the 1970s Jamaica's capabilities to identify and manage learning disabilities in children was very limited. The educational system as a whole was also unable to deal with the special education needs of physically and mentally exceptional children. Most special education services were provided by voluntary organizations until the government in 1974 took financial responsibility for the care of exceptional children. These children now have access to special education programs in many government schools, often aided greatly by the activities and support of a number of voluntary agencies. Mico Teachers' College runs a program that provides clinical assessments and diagnostic and prescriptive teaching services. The Lister-Mair-Gilby High School, the Jamaica Association for the Deaf, and the School of Hope provide vocational training for students with disabilities within the formal school system.

The government intends to continue to appoint special education teachers to primary and all-age schools until all students who need such services have access to them. The idea is to mainstream as many students as possible, but the special education program suffers from insufficient numbers of appropriately trained teachers and inadequate facilities and equipment. The MOE&C (2001) notes that the demand for special education services "far outstrips" its ability to meet them.

Vocational training for young adults with disabilities is provided by private voluntary organizations and NGOs, including the Jamaica Association for the deaf, Woodside Clarendon School for the Deaf, School of Hope, the 3D Projects Private Voluntary Organization Limited (PVO), and the Abilities Foundation. The PVO provides home-based training with a parent education component; another program with a parent education component is run by the Clarendon Group for the Disabled, funded by Lilianne Fone of the Netherlands. The PVO also runs community-based projects which provide training in horticulture, paper making, and other skills.

Preprimary & Primary Education

In the 1960s Jamaican educators became interested in the ideas on compensatory education that were embodied in the Head Start program that was being implemented in the United States. D.R.B. Grant organized a team from UWI to strengthen the educational program in the basic schools. Supported by a grant from the Bernard Van Leer Foundation in The Netherlands, the team focused on enhancing the education and skill of teachers, improving the curriculum, developing teaching materials, and improving school facilities. The teacher training program the team developed "still serves as the model for Jamaica's community-based programs, and several other developing countries have adopted it" (Morrison and Milner 1995). It was not until 1977, however, that it became possible to earn a bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education in Jamaica.

All childcare services were organized under the MOE&C in 1998 when Day Care Services was moved out of the Ministry of Health. The consolidation of services for children aged zero to five years was formalized in the comprehensive Early Childhood Education and Development Programme, established in1999 (UNESCO 2000).

Early childhood education is delivered through community-based, government-supported basic schools, government-run infant departments in primary and all-age, and kindergartens in privately owned preparatory schools. The government has demonstrated an increasing commitment to ensuring the readiness of children entering primary school by encouraging participation in early childhood programs. The number of governmentrecognized basic schools rose from 1,251 in 1990 to 1,980 in 1998 (UNESCO 2000). There was an increase in the percentage of the education budget going to early childhood education over the four years from 1996 (2.8 percent) to 2000 (4.5 percent), and this portion of the budget is slated for another increase in the 2001-2002 budget. Even children in privately owned facilities benefit from government subsidies for teacher salaries, class materials, and school meals. The MOE&C develops the early childhood curriculum and trains teachers in regular workshops; these endeavors have often been supported by grants and technical support from sources such as UNICEF and the Bernard Van Leer Foundation.

MOE&C (2001) reports that the preschool enrollment rate of children in the four- to five-year-old age group is 91 percent, which is one of the highest rates in the Caribbean region. Just over 80 percent of the children are enrolled in the community-operated basic schools, approximately 16 percent are in public infant departments, and the remaining 4 percent or so are in private kindergartens. Based on 1998 figures, the MOE&C (2001) reports that only 3.6 percent of children under age four are in supervised care, with more than 90 percent in private day care.

While enrollment rates are quite high, the overall effectiveness of the early childhood programs in preparing preschoolers for primary school is hard to gauge. Although the government in cooperation with UWI and the Van Leer Foundation embarked on a number of initiatives in the 1990s to increase the number of trained preschool teachers, there is still a large number (possible a majority) of para-professionals working in the system (UNESCO 2000). One of the goals of the MOE&C for the 2000 decade is to place at least one trained teacher in each basic school with a minimum enrollment of over one hundred. In addition, it is unclear whether the high enrollment rates reported accurately reflect participation in the programs. Absenteeism has been a problem in the primary schools. The government reports both gross and net enrollment levels for primary schools, but such figures for pre-primary schools are difficult to obtain.

The main focus during the 1990s has been on assessment. The National Assessment Programme (NAP), designed to monitor and assess learning outcomes, was developed during this period. After a two-year pilot program involving 32 schools, it was implemented in 1999. The NAP is made up of standardized measurement instruments designed to assess student readiness and performance at four points during the primary school years. A readiness inventory is given to all students entering grade one. A set of reading and mathematics diagnostics is administered at grade three. A literacy test is given at the fourth grade level, and the Grade Six Achievement Tests (GSAT) complete the battery. As of March 1999, over 2,000 teachers had been trained in the new methodologies associated with the NAP (UNESCO 2000).

The literacy test is intended to play a crucial role in regulating the flow of students through the system and in eliminating the practice of social promotion. Promotion from grade four to grade five will become contingent on mastery of reading skills rather than on age. The hope is that this will increase literacy rates and raise overall performance on the GSAT, which has replaced the Comprehensive Entrance Examination as the mechanism for placing students in secondary school.

Primary education covers grades one through six (roughly ages six through twelve years) and is offered in public primary schools and all-age schools, as well as private schools. All-age schools offer schooling from the primary level into first-cycle secondary school, that is, grades one through nine or one through eleven; many also include so-called infant departments that offer preschool programs. Considerable effort has been put into improving primary education after the island became independent in 1962. Access to primary education is universal and free from fees for all children enrolled in public schools. All primary students receive textbooks for all their subjects free of charge from the government each year. Despite this achievement in the provision of access, the main challenge facing Jamaica is improving the quality of education at this level.

The MOE&C states that "[i]t is at the primary grades that the foundation for the acquisition of knowledge, skills and values for further development and continuing education is laid" (Ministry of Education and Culture 2001). The government had been concerned with ensuring that the primary curriculum could stand on its own without necessarily being seen as simply a way of gaining access to secondary education, but recent policy statements from the MOE&C indicate that an eventual goal is to have all children complete at least the first cycle of secondary school. The secondary system is being reformed, and much consideration is being given to again revising the primary school curriculum in order to more adequately prepare children for entry into that system.

In the six to eleven age group, 2001 reports indicate that 99 percent are enrolled in school. However, average attendance at the primary level is relatively low at 78 percent; attendance rates for girls have been consistently three to four percentage points higher than those for boys, but the gap appears to have been narrowing during the decade of the nineties (UNESCO 2000). Attendance rates also tend to be higher in urban rather than in rural areas. The current literacy rate at the end of the primary level is 70 percent; a male-female asymmetry somewhat larger than that existing in attendance also exists in this area, but the gap here has also been narrowing. There is also a rural-urban literacy gap. Approximately 96 percent of enrolled students complete primary school. The national average teacher-to-student ratio is 1:32, but 14 percent of schools have a ratio of 1:42 or worse. Some 81 percent of teachers in the primary school system are qualified/certified, but rural and remote schools generally have a higher proportion of inadequately trained teachers. Approximately 52 percent of the schools are in "good" to "satisfactory" condition, and 86 percent of the students have satisfactory seating arrangements.

Efforts to improve the quality of primary education have centered on revising the primary curriculum, implementing an assessment system, increasing the number of qualified teachers in the system, and increasing the availability of support materials such as library books and computers. The language arts component of the curriculum has been revised to incorporate a development component, the goal being to equip all teachers of grades four and six with the means and the skills to diagnose and remediate reading difficulties. There is also an effort to establish performance standards in all areas of the curriculum at the end of each grade.

Preschool education is universally available for children aged four to six in both government-sponsored (basic schools) and private facilities (kindergarten departments at private preparatory schools). The MOE&C develops the preschool curriculum and sponsors regular workshops for training teachers in the basic schools. In order to promote school-readiness for children entering primary school, the government encourages parents to enroll their children in preschools. The MOE&C has also launched parent education initiatives that are aimed at encouraging conceptual and social development in children from ages zero to four.

Primary education covers six grades/years. Children ordinarily enter at age six and exit the system at age twelve. Promotion from grade to grade has been determined largely by age, but the MOE&C is putting in place mechanisms that are intended to end the policy of social promotion. At the end of primary school children take the Grade Six Achievement Tests (GSAT). The GSAT is part of the set of standardized instruments that form the National Assessment Program (NAP). It replaces the Common Entrance Examination as the measure used to place graduates from primary schools into secondary schools.

Secondary Education

Secondary education covers five years (grades seven to eleven) with an additional two years (grades twelve and thirteen) for those who want to move on to higher education. The years in secondary school are divided into two cycles: first-cycle (grades seven and eight) and second cycle (grades nine through eleven). The five-year program leads to the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) Secondary Education Certificate after grade 11. Upon completion of an additional two years (grade thirteen) students may take the General Certificate of Education (GCE) Advanced A levels. The A-level exam is terminal and is the standard criterion used for entry into university-level studies.

Secondary education in Jamaica has been quite complex, in large part because the system originally was extremely selective and elitist. As demand for secondary education grew over the years, a variety of institutions evolved to meet varying and changing needs. At the beginning of the 1990s there were seven different types of secondary schools. Each type of school had a program of instruction, and levels of accomplishment and academic and vocational skills varied among graduates. One of the objectives of the MOE&C during the 1990s was to develop some sort of curricular uniformity across the different types in order to ensure equity and quality. The Reform of Secondary Education (ROSE) project resulted in the construction of a common curriculum for grades seven through nine in all schools. It is hoped that the introduction of this junior high school curriculum will equalize educational opportunities for secondary students. The MOE&C is also developing and distributing secondary school textbooks.

Traditional high schools and comprehensive high schools both have offered five years of secondary education, and admission to both types was selective, determined by performance on the GSAT. Comprehensive schools, however, also accepted students from local primary feeder schools. There was a perception that the comprehensive high schools were inferior to the high schools even though the curricula in the two were virtually identical. In May of 2000 the category comprehensive high school was abolished, and all of these institutions are now simply called high schools. The feeder system has been done away with, and all students must meet minimum scores on the GSAT in order to gain admission. Students who fail to gain admission to high school may gain admission after they complete grade nine (and the new standardized junior high curriculum) by performing satisfactorily on the Junior High School Examination.

The curriculum in the high schools is primarily academic and is intended to prepare students for the CXC (after grade eleven) and GCE exams (after grade thirteen). New secondary schools have a two-track system, offering continuing and vocational courses of study. Students in the academically-centered continuing course pursue a curriculum leading to the CXC examination, and many go on to enter teachers' colleges. Vocational students concentrate on technical and vocational courses in addition to the common junior high school curriculum. Curricula vary quite a bit in the other secondary schools, but all students in all schools now take the junior high school curriculum. A small percentage of students attend independent high schools (which also must offer the junior high curriculum); most of these schools are sponsored by religious organizations.

In 1999-2000 approximately 42 percent of teachers in high schools were university graduates and 20 percent of comprehensive high school teachers had university degrees; other secondary-school teachers usually have a certificate or diploma granted by a teachers' college. Government figures (MOE&C 2001) indicate that 81 percent of high-school-age children have access to five years of secondary-level schooling, a level which the MOE&C would like to see increased. Note that this does not mean that all of the 81 percent have access to five years of high-school level education; the 2001-2002 budget, however, includes money for the construction of three new high schools (Ministry of Finance 2001), which will provide additional spaces in high school. The MOE&C reports that Jamaican students' performance on the CXC exams is "satisfactory" in a range of subjects, particularly in technologies, business, and social science subjects. However, performance on English and mathematics is still "below desirable levels." Scores have increased in these areas over the years 1996-2000, and the Ministry expects the trend to continue as students who have benefited from the new primary curriculum and the NAP make their way into the secondary system.

As mentioned above, the MOE&C has developed and distributed textbooks for use in secondary schools, but it does not have the resources to dispense them free of charge as it does in the primary schools. A textbook rental program does operate in all secondary schools, however. Education at this level is not free. The government has introduced "cost sharing" at this level, and most students and/or their parents are expected to contribute at least a nominal amount toward the cost of their education. Fees are set by each school, but all fees must be approved by the MOE&C. The Ministry has a program that helps needy students with all or a portion of their fees so that no child misses out on an education because of financial hardship. Ministry funding for secondary schools covers teachers' salaries and related expenses, but little else. The cost-sharing program has resulted in a significant increase in the amount of money that schools have for instructional materials and equipment.

The Ministry also started the Income Generating Project in 1993. This is a revolving loan system that helps individual schools to develop and implement projects that will generate additional income. Profits from the ventures that have been funded so far have been used for such things as subsidizing examination fees and providing uniforms for poorer students.

Higher Education

Jamaica is affiliated with the University of the West Indies (UWI), which has campuses in Jamaica, Barbados, and Trinidad. This regional institution is headquartered at the Mona campus located in Kingston, Jamaica. The University of Technology (Jamaica Utech), which was previously known as the College of Arts, Science, and Technology (CAST) and received university status in 1995, is Jamaica's only national university.

The University Council of Jamaica (an agency of the MOE&C) serves as the accreditation body for higher education in Jamaica. Three private institutions are recognized and accredited by the University Council: the Jamaica Theological Seminary, which offers a four-year Bachelor of Theology program, the Caribbean Graduate School of Theology, which offers a Master's degree in theology, and the West Indies College/Northern Caribbean University, which offers associate and bachelor's degrees in biological sciences and business studies but will expand its degree programs with its newly-granted university status.

Admission to bachelor's degree programs in government-associated universities (UWI and Utech) requires students to pass in five CXC General Certificate of Education (GCE) subjects, including two or three subjects at the advanced level. (The GCE exams are ordinarily taken at the completion of grade thirteen.) Students may also be admitted with the CXC Secondary Education Certificate (taken after grade eleven) or its equivalent after a preliminary year of probationary study. Some students also elect to attend community colleges where they can earn a two-year degree that can be used to transfer to a university. Foreign students must meet the same requirements (or their equivalents) as Jamaican citizens and must demonstrate competence in English; they must also obtain a visa and present certification of good health from a medical practitioner along with proof of vaccination against yellow fever and diphtheria. At UWI there are limitations on the number of spaces available to non-Jamaicans in engineering, law, and medicine.

Undergraduate degrees (either bachelor's or professional) normally take a minimum of three years of full-time study. Postgraduate study that leads to the master's degree requires two years of study and the submission of a thesis or a research paper, as in the case of professional degrees such as the Master's of Social Work. Medical specialization leading to a master's degree is also offered in a variety of specialties after four years of approved internship. The length of time it takes to obtain a doctoral degree (Ph.D.) varies from program to program but most take three years of study beyond the master's level. A thesis is required. Professional qualifications may be obtained one year after completing certain degrees or qualifications.

The two government-aided universities and the three university-council accredited private institutions draw students from throughout the Caribbean and from around the world. A number of programs, in particular some graduate programs and faculties at UWI, have earned international recognition and serve as magnets for students and scholars in certain areas of study. Many Jamaicans pursue university-level studies abroad, the majority in the USA, Canada, and Great Britain.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

Funds for all agencies and ministries come through the Ministry of Finance, which is also responsible for collecting all taxes, overseeing financial institutions, and for managing the country's debt. The MOE&C receives funds from general revenues and from certain taxes that are earmarked for education and/or for specific programs. For example, the HEART/NTA programs receive direct funding via a payroll tax levied on employers whose monthly payrolls exceed a certain amount. A host of international funding agencies, including UNESCO, OAS, the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), assist the government with projects involving construction of new facilities, the development of curricula, monitoring of student performance, and grants and fellowships for students to study both at home and abroad.

The government has made education its main priority, and this is reflected in the budget allocation given to the MOE&C. The Ministry's allotment has steadily increased since 1996, and projections for the 2001-2002 budget give the Ministry just under thirty percent of the non-debt portion of the budget. Debt service continues to eat up larger portions of the government purse, rising from 45.3 percent in 1996 to 58.2 percent in 2000 and to a projected 62.4 percent in 2001. The allocations given by the MOE&C to the different levels within the educational system also reflect changing needs and priorities. In the 1996 budgetary year early childhood education received 2.8 percent of ministry funds, primary education 34.3 percent, secondary 31.3 percent, and tertiary 20.2 percent. In 2000 early childhood received 4.5 percent, primary 36.9 percent, secondary 32.9 percent, and tertiary 18.3 percent. The proposed 2001 budget includes real dollar increases for all levels but allocates slightly more to early childhood, secondary, and tertiary education.

Traditionally, the management strategy of the MOE&C has been based on central control over all administrative matters. As the system expanded and grew more diverse, it was recognized that administrative reform was needed in order to provide a more effective way of managing the system at the local level. As part of the government's Administrative Reform Programme, the MOE&C was reorganized into a less centralized structure. Regional offices with clearly defined delegated authority and responsibility were (re)introduced with an eye to ensuring more efficient use of human and material resources. Six regional administrators have the responsibility for monitoring and managing systems in their geographic areas. The National Council on Education was established and charged with appointing and training members of individual school boards; it is also charged with finding ways to increase community participation in policy formation. Previously the members of individual school boards were appointed directly by the Minister of Education upon the recommendations of members of Parliament and the principals of the individual schools. The Boards of Management are directly responsible to the Minister for the smooth functioning of their schools, and each is required to formulate and implement a development plan in which annual targets are set and resources managed in accordance with that plan. Incentive funds are supposed to become available in 2003; these will be made available to schools and school boards that demonstrate excellence in organization, development, and academic performance. Each school also has an Education Officer whose job is to carry out Ministry directives and to ensure that the school is run in compliance with the government's code of regulations.

The Planning and Development Section of the MOE&C is responsible for research projects, planning and sitting schools, disseminating information about curricula to teachers, and organizing in-service and continuing teacher education. A variety of demonstration/pilot projects are supported by outside granting agencies; one example is the on-going Teenage Mothers Project operated by the van Leer Foundation and the Center for Early Childhood Education at UWI. Various other research centers at UWI engage in education and educationrelated research, as do Utech and Mico Teachers' College, among others.

Nonformal Education

Jamaica continues to be plagued by high unemployment. Part of this is because there simply are not enough jobs, and part of it is due to relatively low literacy rates and the lack of appropriate job skills among Jamaicans. The government has decided that investing in education will provide the best routes to solving the problem. Raising literacy rates and providing job skills is expected to enable more people to qualify for existing jobs, and it is also hoped that a literate, educated, and skilled populace will result in the creation of more home-grown jobs and attract enterprises that will bring jobs to the island.

The literacy problem has been attacked on two fronts. Reform of the primary-school curriculum and the end of social promotion policies is supposed to ensure that no student leaves the system without basic literacy and numerical skills. And, the Jamaica Movement for the Advancement of Adult Literacy (JAMAL) was established in 1974 to eradicate illiteracy in those aged fifteen and over through nonformal education channels. The program is organized by a core of literacy specialists who are supported by a large network of volunteers who conduct classes in workplaces and community centers throughout the island. Government figures show that almost 114,000 people enrolled in JAMAL's programs in the years 1994 to 2000. The MOE&C points to the results of the National Literacy Survey done in 1994 as evidence of JAMAL's success. In 1994, approximately 75.4 percent of the population over fifteen was literate, with rates being 81.3 percent for females and 69.4 percent for males. There was also an inverse relationship between age and literacy: the rate for the fifteen-to-nineteen age group was 86.5 percent whereas that for the sixty-five-and-over group was 47.9 percent. JAMAL has stepped up efforts to establish workplace literacy programs in an effort to close the gap between men and women.

There are a variety of programs that are intended to reach those who normally are not served by the standard educational system. Some of these programs are based in community colleges, evening institutes, and community centers. These include the HEART/NTA and JAMAL programs. The MOE&C has vigorously encouraged the formation of partnership programs between private and public sector companies and the established educational institutions. This has led to a variety of non-traditional training schemes, including a special program offered by Utech for personnel of Air Jamaica. Utech also has partnership training programs with a number of companies that lead to a diploma or certificate.

The MOE&C has stressed the need for development of distance education programs and implementation of other educational delivery systems such as computerbased instruction and internet-based courses, but the necessary infrastructure for these is not widely available. The ministry has set a goal of placing at least one computer with Internet access in each school on the island by the end of 2002. This may provide a base from which to develop such a program, as may the formation of partnership programs with businesses and NGOs.

The other major program addresses employment skills. The Human Employment and Resource Training trust/National Training Agency (HEART/NTA) is a statutory program set up in 1982 that was intended to administer and equip all public sector vocational training programs. It is funded by a three-percent training levy on private sector payrolls over a certain amount (originally about US $7,200). HEART/NTA programs are available to those over seventeen years of age, but there are programs for younger persons such as the Learning for Earning Activity Programme. Pre-vocational training is also offered at Vocational Training Centers (VTCs) for those who do not qualify for specific HEART/NTA programs. Most HEART/NTA programs have some kind of entry requirements, and VTCs provide a sort of feeder system for these programs. Some HEART/NTA programs have been articulated with programs at Utech and the College of Arts, Science, and Education, thus offering graduates of these programs admission to formal/degree-level educational programs.

The program offers institutionally based training in eight HEART/NTA Academies and sixteen VTCs spread across the island. On-the-job training is offered through the School-Leaver's Training Opportunities Programme and also through apprenticeship programs. Communitybased programs are offered through the Skills 2000 Project and the Special Needs Programme.

Average enrollment in HEART/NTA programs during the years 1993 through 1998, the most recent years for which figures are available, was 12,373 per annum, with the largest annual enrollment coming in 1998; 58.7 percent of enrollees were female. Apparel and sewn products, commercial skills, hospitality, and construction skills programs were the most popular. An average of 6,868 graduated per annum during 1993-1998, with the highest number of graduates (10,996) coming in 1998; females accounted for 66.6 percent of all graduates. Reflecting the enrollment profile, the majority of graduates were in the areas of apparel and sewn product, building, and commercial skills.

The Social Development Commission (SDC), a joint responsibility of the MOE&C and the Ministry of Local Government, Youth, and Community Development, is responsible for structuring services for youth and communities. Its Community Center Programme has trained approximately 2000 young people in home making and crafts. National Youth Services and Operation Strive, also SDC initiatives, provide training and services to youth in mostly urban areas. Other, non-SDC, organizations provide vocational and other job-related programs for youth; these include the Jamaica 4-H Clubs, the Peer Counseling Association, Youth Opportunity Unlimited, the Mel Nathan Institute, the Kingston Restoration Company, the Youth Educational and Support System, and the Lift Up Jamaica Programme.

The Integrated Community Development Programme is the most extensive and innovative of the SDC's efforts. It is a community-based self-help program. As of 1998, almost 11,000 people had benefited from training and assistance that resulted in communityorganized income-generating projects such as the Meylersfield Food Fish Project, Mile Gully Coffee Farms, Waltham Basket Weaving, Bromley Vegetable Farms, and Highgate Dolls. The Government of Jamaica Bee-Keeping Project has also trained and set up apiaries for about 1,200 individuals in rural areas. The MOE&C has also formulated more broad-based nonformal educational initiatives under the rubric of "Education for Better Living." Its objectives include the encouragement and propagation of values and attitudes generally within the society and particularly regarding respect for fundamental rights and freedoms and the responsibilities of the individual to society; respect for observance of legal and social codes and stability in social life, the imperative to positively influence youth and family and to strive for the proper education and ideas on matters of general public interest. . .(UNESCO 2000, Part II, 20). To date, much of this effort has focused on establishing the Public Service Broadcasting System and on a weekly full-page weekly bulletin that appears in The Gleaner, Jamaica's largest circulation newspaper. The MOE&C, along with all other government agencies and ministries, is developing a website that is intended to serve as a portal for all sorts of educational resources for all of its constituencies.

Distance learning experiments have been undertaken throughout the last three decades but have been crippled by a lack of infrastructure and the expense of the equipment needed for such efforts. One must keep in mind that telephones and cable television and even electricity may be rarities in rural areas, and these things are prohibitively expensive for many individuals in both rural and urban areas. And, one must also keep in mind that many schools do not have enough desks and chairs for students and teachers or buildings that meet minimum standards.

The effort to supply computers and Internet access to all primary schools and computer laboratories in all secondary schools may result in most of the island becoming "wired", and such things as broadband transmission and/or fiber optic lines may open things up further in the distance learning arena. UWI's three regional campuses have been linked via various forms of video transmission since the 1980s, and experimental links have been established from time to time between UWI and teachers' colleges. Advances (and eventual decreases in costs) in wireless and other technologies may lead to broader use of distance learning in all sectors of the educational system, and all indications are that Jamaicans and their government will enthusiastically embrace new technologies when they become accessible.

Other Professional Programs: Nurses are trained in a number of schools that fall under the authority of the Ministry of Health, one dental auxiliary school (also under the Ministry of Health) trains nurses exclusively for dentistry practice. Admission to these programs requires prescribed minimum scores on at least four CXC subjects, with English and Science required. The course of study lasts three years; the final year involves a supervised internship. Courses and certification in other allied health fields are offered at a wide range of both vocational/technical institutions and at the universities.

The Edna Manley School of the Visual and Performing Arts is a rather unique cultural and training institution. The school's aim is to produce creators, performers, and educators who will disseminate knowledge of artistic technique and of Jamaican/Caribbean historical and social development and its relation to local and regional culture. There are two courses of study: certificate (two years) and diploma (four years); certificates and/or diplomas are granted in music, dance, drama, and art. The curriculum is structured so that all students take a common set of foundation courses in their first year. In the second year they rotate through all of the subject areas; the third and fourth years are for specialized training. Graduates find employment in all sorts of cultural and artistic organizations and in the primary and secondary schools. Some primary and secondary teachers use the Manley School's diploma and certificate programs to get specialized training in arts and cultural education. The school was originally founded in 1995 by the government of Jamaica for Jamaicans, but it now draws students from the whole Caribbean basin and beyond.

The College of Agriculture, Science, and Education and the G.C. Foster College of Physical Education and Sports offer teacher training in specialized areas as well as a range of certificate, diploma, and degree programs. These institutions also serve students from both the island and the region.

Teaching Profession

The post-emancipation formation of an educational system led to the obvious need for teachers and to the recognition that primary school teachers must be trained locally, since the supply of foreign missionaries and British-trained "imports" could not possibly keep up with demand. It appears that most "homegrown" teachers in the early years after emancipation gained access to the profession through a kind of apprenticeship system in which they served as "pupil-teachers" or "monitors" in local schools. This seems to have grown out of the missionaries' practice of singling out promising young men and training them as class leaders and lay preachers (cf. Sherlock & Bennett 1998). In 1836 the Mico Charity established the Mico Institute (now Mico College) "for the benefit of African slaves made free and engaged in the work [of teaching]" (Sherlock & Bennett 1998). The Institute was coeducational when it opened but soon accepted only men. Initially, most teachers were male, but by 1900 three teachers' colleges for women had opened (Bethabara Training College in 1861, Shortwood Training College in 1885, and St. Joseph's in 1897), and the proportion of women in the profession had risen to nearly half. By the 1960s the percentage of women in the profession had risen to roughly 75 percent (Hamilton 1997).

A major issue within the profession (and the MOE&C) has been to increase the number of certified teachers in the schools, and there is some evidence that efforts to rectify this are starting to have some effect. There is a high rate of turnover among teachers, however, especially among the best and most highly-qualified ones, partly because salaries are low and teachers reach the top of the pay and rank scale relatively quickly, and partly because the profession has traditionally been a route for upward social and economic mobility, especially for lower-class and rural persons.

Another concern has been the almost complete lack of male teachers at the primary level (and to some extent at the secondary level). In the past males may have been more likely than females to use the profession as a stepping stone to other careers, but since the 1950s fewer and fewer men have entered the teachers' colleges, and those that have tended to concentrate in the upper secondary level. Some feel that lower literacy rates and lower levels of academic achievement along with higher rates of behavior problems among boys may be due to the lack of male role models in the schools. This lack of male role models, in turn, may exacerbate the problem because boys may see the profession as a female domain. Whatever the reason, Jamaica is certainly not alone here, and there seems to be little that can be done to dramatically increase the number of men in the primary schools, although measures meant to encourage participation in secondary- and tertiary-level education may help to increase the pool of potential male teachers.

The Professional Development Unit of the MOE&C actively promotes in-service education programs for teachers and is an important part of efforts to ensure that all teachers in primary schools meet minimum standards. The Unit also seeks out and disseminates information on fellowships and scholarships that provide teachers and would-be teachers with access to advanced study in education. Some individual primary schools have established arrangements with nearby teachers' colleges and/or UWI and Jtech to provide in-service training and programs similar to the In-service Diploma in Education that existed during the Education Thrust of the 1970s. The MOE&C is constructing a website for primary teachers that will provide information on a variety of things of concern to teachers and may facilitate the flow of information and ideas among teachers throughout the island. Aside from ensuring that all teachers have the necessary training, the biggest problem facing Jamaica is getting adequate numbers of teachers into rural and remote areas of the island in order to overcome the lack of parity between rural and urban schools.

The vast majority of teachers belong to the Jamaica Teachers' Association and its affiliated Jamaica Association of Teacher Educators, whose members come from the teachers' college faculties. Some teachers are represented by the National Union of Democratic Teachers, and there are a host of specialized teachers' organizations like the Jamaica Association of Music Teachers. There are also many non-Jamaican, i.e., Caribbean and Commonwealth, organizations that represent teachers and their interests, including university and college faculty and staff. Teachers also join in formal and informal associations to represent their interests at the school, parish, and regional levels.

The Edna Manley School of the Visual and Performing Arts (formerly the Cultural Training Center) is a rather unique cultural and training institution. The school's aim is to produce creators, performers, and educators who will disseminate knowledge of artistic technique and of Jamaican/Caribbean historical and social development and its relation to local and regional culture. There are two courses of study: certificate (two years) and diploma (four years); certificates and/or diplomas are granted in music, dance, drama, and art. The curriculum is structured so that all students take a common set of foundation courses in their first year. In the second year they rotate through all of the subject areas; the third and fourth years are for specialized training. Graduates find employment in all sorts of cultural and artistic organizations and in the primary and secondary schools. Some primary and secondary teachers use the Manley School's diploma and certificate programs to get specialized training in arts and cultural education. The school was originally founded in 1995 by the government of Jamaica for Jamaicans, but it now draws students from the whole Caribbean basin and beyond.


The MOE&C engaged in a concerted effort during 1999-2001 to rationalize the educational system in Jamaica and to define more explicitly its role and the role of education in Jamaican society.

The MOE&C defines its mission as "to provide a system which secures quality education and training for all persons in Jamaica and achieves effective integration of educational and cultural resources in order to optimize individual and national development." The mission is further elaborated upon in the seven strategic objectives specified by the MOE&C:

  1. To devise and support initiatives striving towards literacy for all in order to extend personal opportunities and contribute to national development.
  2. To secure teaching and learning opportunities that will optimize access, equity and relevance throughout the education system.
  3. To support student achievement and improve institutional performance in order to ensure that national targets are met.
  4. To maximize opportunities throughout the Ministry's purview that promote cultural development, awareness and self-esteem for individuals, communities and the nation as a whole.
  5. To devise and implement systems of accountability and performance management in order to improve performance and win public confidence and trust.
  6. To optimize the effectiveness and efficiency of staff in all aspects of the service in order to ensure continuous improvement in performance.
  7. To enhance student learning by the greater use of information and communication technology as preparation for life in the national and global communities.

The Ministry has also set a number of "critical targets" in line with these objectives; among these are the following:

  • Full enrollment of the Early Childhood age cohort ages four and five by the year 2003.
  • Island-wide public education program by August 2001 in support of Early Childhood Care and Early Stimulation for children between birth and age four.
  • Ninety percent attendance by 2005 at the primary level.
  • Teacher/student ratio in the primary schools to be standardized at 1:35 by 2003, and at no greater than 1:30 for grades one and two by 2005.
  • Eighty percent of all primary school completers to demonstrate full literacy by 2003.
  • Five years of secondary education for all students entering grade 7 in 2003 and thereafter.
  • Fifteen percent minimum enrollment in tertiary education by 2005.
  • Provision of basic infrastructure, i.e., chairs, desks, etc., to meet the needs of all students and teachers by 2003.
  • Minimum of one computer linked to the Internet (or with appropriate other software where Internet connection is not possible) in every primary school by the end of 2002.

There appears to be sufficient government resolve and commitment to expect that at least some of these targets will be reached. The government continues to devote the largest share of the budget remaining after debt servicing to education, and recent reports indicate that the primary school computer goal may be reached ahead of schedule.

Debt servicing continues to eat up a larger and larger portion of Jamaica's revenues, and its economy, like most of those in the Caribbean, is fragile. One can only hope that the island is not forced to undergo another round of "economic restructuring" and wide-spread retrenchment like that imposed by the IMF in the 1970s and 1980s and from which the island is only now beginning to recover.


Bailey, Barbara. "Sexist Patterns of Formal and Non-formal Educational Programmes: The Case of Jamaica." In Gender: A Caribbean Multi-Disciplinary Perspective, ed. Elsa Leo- Rhynie, Barbara Bailey, and Christine Barrow, 144-158. Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers, 1997.

Hamilton, Marlene, "The Availability and Suitability of Educational Opportunities for Jamaican Female Students: An Historical Overview." In Gender: A Caribbean Multi-Disciplinary Perspective, ed. Elsa Leo-Rhynie, Barbara Bailey, and Christine Barrow, 133-143. Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers, 1997.

Miller, Errol, "IMF Related Devastation of Teacher Education in Jamaica," Social and Economic Studies, 41.2 (June 1992): 153-181.

Ministry of Education and Culture, Education: The way Upward, A Green Paper for the Year 2000. Kingston, 1999. Available from

. Press Release: "Excerpts from the address delivered by Senator the Honorable Burchell Whiteman, Minister of Education and Culture, at the official 'Renaming Ceremony and Expo 2000 of Comprehensive High Schools'." Kingston, 2000.

. White Paper I: A path for Jamaica's Education at the start of the new Millennium. Kingston, 2001. Ministry of Finance, Minister's Budget Message to Parliament. Kingston, April 16, 2001.

Morrison, Johnetta Wade, and Milner, Valentine, "Formal Education of Children in Jamaica," Childhood Education, 71.4 (Summer 1995): 194-196.

Sherlock, Philip, and Bennett, Hazel, The Story of the Jamaican People. Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers, 1998.

UNESCO, The EFA 2000 Assessment Country Reports: Jamaica. Paris, 2000. Available at http://www2.

Whiteman, Burchell, "Education and Training Partnerships, The 1990's Imperatives: Jamaica, The West Indies," Journal of Education Finance, 19.4 (Spring 1994): 94-98.

Wilkins, Julia, and Gamble, Robert J., "An Examination of Gender Differences among Teachers in Jamaican Schools," Multicultural Education, 7.4 (Summer 2000): 18-20.

Edward H. Matthei and
Linda Miller Matthei

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The largest English-speaking island in the Caribbean Sea, Jamaica is about 160 kilometers (90 miles) south of Cuba and has an area of 10,990 square kilometers (4,243 square miles) and a total coastline of 1,022 kilometers (634 miles). Comparatively, the area occupied by Jamaica is slightly smaller than the state of Connecticut. Jamaica's capital city, Kingston, is located on the country's southeastern coast.


The population of Jamaica was estimated at 2,652,689 in July of 2000, an increase of 7.5 percent from the 1990 population of 2,466,100. In 2000 the birth rate stood at 18.51 per 1,000 while the death rate stood at 5.51 per 1,000. With a projected annual population growth rate of 0.9 percent between 1997 and 2015, the population is expected to reach 2.9 million by the year 2015.

The Jamaican population is primarily of African descent (90.9 percent), with mixed race people making up 7.3 percent of the population, East Indians making up 1.3 percent, and several other ethnic groups rounding out the total. The population is generally young, with 30 percent below the age of 14 and just 7 percent of the population older than 65. A majority of Jamaicans54.7 percent lived in urban areas in 1997, up more than 10 percent from 1975; it is expected that by 2015 more than 63 percent of the population will live in urban areas. The capital city of Kingston and its suburbs are home to the largest number of Jamaicans.

Jamaica became the first Caribbean nation to implement a population policy. The National Population Policy, adopted in 1983, was designed to control the growth, health, and concentration of the population. Mainly, the policy focuses on limiting the birth rate by encouraging the use of contraception, and increasing the quality and length of Jamaicans' lives by addressing treatments for chronic diseases like AIDS and by reducing the number of violent deaths. In addition, the policy considers issues of migration, including urban growth, sustainable environmental plans, and other housing and transportation issues. The major funding for the implementation of this policy comes from international sources. Grants have come from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), and United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF); the World Bank is the largest loan provider.


Tourism and bauxite and alumina production dominated Jamaica's economy in 2001, but the island's early economy was centered around the production of one thing: sugar. The English colonists who occupied the island in 1655 imported slave labor and developed large sugar plantations. For the colony's first 2 centuries sugar production dominated the economy, but the end of slavery in 1834 and the beginning of banana production ended this mono-culture (dependence on a single crop). Nevertheless, sugar remained Jamaica's dominant export until the 1950s.

Jamaica entered the 20th century as a crown colony of England, which meant that it was administered by officials from England. Jamaica received limited self rule in 1944, but the growing power of the country's black majority was acknowledged in 1962 with the island's peaceful claim of independence. Since claiming its independence, Jamaica has struggled to create a stable, diversified economy. By the end of the 20th century, Jamaica had not yet created a truly vibrant economy and remained heavily dependent on the United States and Europe for imported goods, and on international lending agencies for financial assistance.

Jamaica is primarily a free-market economy with some state control; despite occasional political violence, it has a fairly stable, 2-party political system and the strong economic support of the United States, Canada, and the European Union. The economy's main exports are bauxite, alumina, sugar, and bananas, but the greatest single contributor to the national economy is tourism. Mining is largely conducted in the island's central highlands, and tourist activities are concentrated on the island's north and west coasts; farmsmany of them quite smallare spread throughout the island. Limited manufacturing, retail trade, and services are centered around the urban centers of Kingston and Montego Bay. Because of its limited productive capacity, the island nation is heavily dependent on imported goods and on foreign debt relief to sustain its struggling economy.

Neither mining nor tourism is capable of providing enough jobs to counteract long-standing problems with unemployment. Unemployment reached nearly 40 percent in the 1970s under the democratic socialist government of Michael Manley. Even under the more conservative regimes of later governments, unemployment often hovered around 20 percent. In 1998 unemployment stood at 15.5 percent; by contrast, the unemployment rate in the United States in 1999 was just 4.2 percent.

Despite its economic difficultiestrade imbalance, high unemployment, underdeveloped commercial sectorJamaica is largely perceived by the outside world as an island paradise. Tourists from North America, Europe, and Japan flock to the sunny Caribbean island in the winter, and they find luxurious hotels and many businesses dedicated to serving their needs.


As a member of the British Commonwealth, Jamaica's government follows the Westminster Parliamentary model. The British queen is represented by the governor general, who acts as head of state, while the prime minister serves as head of the government. Voters elect members of the House of Representatives, and the leader of the majority becomes the prime minister.

Since earning its independence from England in 1962, Jamaica has been governed alternately by the 2 major political parties, the left-leaning People's National Party (PNP) and the more conservative, pro-business Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). Unlike in the United States, where transitions between the 2 major parties have not marked major swings in policy, Jamaica's 2 parties have often offered conflicting programs for managing the economy and have resorted to violence in opposing each other. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, both parties aligned themselves with rival gun gangs and fought their political battles in the streets as well as at the ballot box. The taint of political violence has touched nearly every election in Jamaican history. In 1995 a new party, the National Democratic Movement (NDM), broke onto the political scene.

From 1972 to 1980 the PNP, under prime minister Michael Manley, adopted democratic socialism as its ruling platform and instituted state control over economic activities. The PNP had little success, as the widespread prosperity of the 1960s gave way to high inflation , unemployment, and great civil unrest and violence. During the 1970s Jamaica became a debtor nation and has remained so ever since. The more conservative JLP won control of the government in 1980 and maintained power until 1989. This pro-business party, led by Edward Seaga, withdrew state control from many industries and encouraged closer economic ties with the United States. Such controls were encouraged, even demanded, as a condition of loans made by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Under Seaga, the economy recovered some of its strength. Nevertheless, Seaga's implementation of austerity measures demanded by the IMF as part of Jamaica's debt maintenance eroded his popularity, and in 1989 the PNP returned to power, again under the leadership of Manley. After Manley's retirement in 1992, Percival J. Patterson assumed the position of prime minister and led the party to an unprecedented third consecutive victory in the 1997 elections.

With socialist economic principles largely discredited by the collapse of the Soviet Union, the PNP generally continued the pro-business programs of the JLP in the 1990s. A crisis in the financial sector which shook the Jamaican economy between 1994 and 1996 prompted the PNP to place this sector under close government supervision, raising fears that the party was returning to more state control of the economy. Yet the PNP's efforts did little to correct the poor health of the economyas measured by mounting government debt, little or no growth in GDP, continued high inflation rates , and the declining value of the Jamaican dollarand could not contain rising levels of street violence and the drug trade. Though analysts expect that the Jamaican economy may begin to rebound in 2001, it may be too late for the PNP to maintain power.

The major source of government revenue comes from taxes. According to the U.S. State Department Country Commercial Guide for 2001, 36 percent of Jamaica's revenues come from income tax , 20 percent come from a value-added tax , and the remainder from customs duties and other sources. The highest marginal tax rate on Jamaican taxpayers stood at 25 percent for incomes over US$2,712 in 1999; while the tax rate percentage is low compared to other countries, the level of the income taxed at this rate is also quite low, which means that a fairly high percentage of Jamaicans are taxed at the highest rate. The highest marginal tax rate on corporations in the same period was 33 percent. Customs taxes are collected under the Common External Tariff (CET) policy enacted by the CARICOM (Caribbean Common Market). The CET is intended to encourage trade among Caribbean nations by placing a tariff of between 0 and 30 percent on goods imported from outside the CARICOM.

The declining value of the Jamaican dollar forced the government to increase the burden of taxes on the Jamaican public. During the financial crises of the late 1990s, the government raised the tax rate on such goods as gasoline, cigarettes, and alcohol, sparking widespread protests. When the government raised taxes on petroleum products in April 1999, for example, riots paralyzed the island for 3 days. To stop the violence, the government reduced the tax increases.


Jamaica enjoys an extensive though aging infrastructure which has received much government attention in the 1990s. The small island is served by a network of over 18,700 kilometers (11,620 miles) of roads, 13,100 kilometers (8,140 miles) of which are paved. With growing numbers of licensed automobiles in the 1990s, the road system, especially in urban areas, has become highly congested. A major highway development project between Montego Bay and Negril began in 1999, but has since been suspended because of financial problems experienced by the contractor.

The nation's rail system is troubledin 1992 the state-owned Jamaica Railway Corporation ceased operation and the few operating rail lines are used only for

Country Telephones a Telephones, Mobile/Cellular a Radio Stations b Radios a TV Stations a Televisions a Internet Service Providers c Internet Users c
Jamaica 353,000 (1996) 54,640 (1996) AM 10; FM 13; shortwave 0 1,215 M 7 460,000 21 60,000
United States 194 M 69.209 M (1998) AM 4,762; FM 5,542; shortwave 18 575 M 1,500 219 M 7,800 148 M
Cuba 473,031 (2000) 2,994 AM 169; FM 55; shortwave 1 3.9 M 58 2.64 M 4 (2001) 60,000
St. Lucia 37,000 1,600 AM 2, FM 7, shortwave 0 (1998) 111,000 3 32,000 15 5,000
aData is for 1997 unless otherwise noted.
bData is for 1998 unless otherwise noted.
cData is for 2000 unless otherwise noted.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online].

transporting bauxite and aluminabut the government is pursuing efforts to modernize the country's railways. An Indian agency responsible for the rehabilitation of track line, locomotives, and stations, and the acquisition of new technology and equipment is working to improve Jamaica's rail service. In addition, the government announced upcoming commuter services from Kingston to Spanish Town and Linstead in early 2001.

Jamaica has 2 major airports: the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston and the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, both of which are quite modern. The latter was slated for privatization by the end of 2000. Ten major airlines provide service to Jamaica, and are responsible for carrying many of the country's tourists. The ports of Kingston and Montego Bay are world-class sea ports; in fact, the port of Kingston was estimated to be the seventh largest transshipment port (a port in which goods arrive to be distributed by other means) in the world, according to the EIU Country Profile for 1997-98. However, Jamaica has lost some international shipping business due to the high cost of shipping operations in the country.

Electrical power is supplied to Jamaicans by the state-owned Jamaica Public Service Company, which has the capacity to produce 656.2 megawatts of power. Because the nation has no natural fuel reserves, over 95 percent of the country's power is generated from imported fuel oil, which accounted for 15 percent of all imports in 1996. Though generally reliable, the 110-volt power system has been subject to occasional power shortages and blackouts.

Telecommunications services in Jamaica are thoroughly modern. Telephone service is provided by Cable and Wireless of Jamaica Limited; although Cable and Wireless held a monopoly at the beginning of the 21st century, the government allowed for domestic competition in 2001, with plans for the market to be fully competitive by 2003. In addition, 2 foreign companies bought licenses to introduce mobile phone service to the country: Cellular One Caribbean, a St. Maarten-based U.S. company, and Mossel Limited, an Irish firm. According to the EIU Country Profile for 1997-98, the country had 331,816 telephone lines and was adding new lines at the rate of 60,000 a year. In 1999 the country also had 6 Internet service providers.


Jamaica's economic sectors reflect the small size of the country, which places real limits on the availability of natural resources, population, and domestic markets. During the late 1990s, Jamaica's economy suffered from a variety of setbacks that hampered the growth of its goods-producing sectorsall of which experienced declines, with the exception of agriculture. The economy is still reeling from the crisis experienced in the financial sector in 1996, although the government's intervention to stabilize the banking system led to a growth of 4.8 percent in the services sector in 1999. Increasing political violence also held back growth in the tourist industry. Jamaica's economy relies heavily on trade with other countries, so changes in the preferential trade regimes it enjoyed with the United States and the European Union, combined with an overvalued currency, has significantly shrunk its export market.

Recognizing these obstacles, Jamaica has targeted certain economic sectors to fuel the economy's growth. Jamaica's 15-year plan called the National Industrial Policy, adopted in 1996, identified tourism, shipping and port services, apparel, agricultural processing, minerals, bauxite, and alumina as industries to target for export growth and expansion. The World Trade Organization (WTO) highlighted the services sector, especially tourism, as critical to Jamaica's development.


Agricultural production is an important contributor to Jamaica's economy, accounting for 7.4 percent of GDP in 1997 and providing nearly a quarter of the country's employment. Sugar, which has been produced in Jamaica for centuries, is the nation's dominant agricultural export, but the country also produces bananas, coffee, spices, pimentos, cocoa, citrus, and coconuts. In addition to legal agricultural production, Jamaica is also a major producer of marijuana, known locally as ganja, which contributes a great deal of money to the informal economy . Agricultural production of all sorts has been subject to the region's tumultuous weather, which includes seasonal hurricanes and occasional drought. In addition to cash crops , Jamaica also produces a wide variety of produce for domestic consumption.

In 1996 the country produced 237,943 metric tons of sugar, its highest output since 1980. Of this total, 181,183 metric tons of sugar were exported, earning US$109 million. The European Union (EU) was the major purchaser of Jamaican sugar, thanks to standard export quotas granted to Jamaica. The United Kingdom was the single largest purchaser of Jamaican sugar, purchasing 86.5 percent in 1996.

The bulk of Jamaican sugar is produced on large sugar plantations, though small and medium-sized businesses do contribute between 30 and 40 percent of the bulk sugarcane converted on the plantations. Productivity in the Jamaican sugar industry is low due to outdated equipment, inefficient management, and an aging work-force. Losses in this economic sector, prompted in part by a severe drought in 1997, forced the government to offer the sector a US$100 million assistance package late in 1997.

The EU previously offered Jamaica an annual quota of 105,000 metric tons on bananas (which means that they agree to purchase a defined amount of bananas each year), but the WTO ruled in 1995 that the EU went against free trade legislation by giving preference to Caribbean banana exports. As will be the case with many Caribbean nations which rely on strong banana exports, this ruling is expected to negatively affect Jamaica's banana industry as the preferential market is phased out. From a low in 1988 following Hurricane Gilbert, Jamaican banana production reached 88,917 metric tons in 1996 and earned US$44.1 million. Banana producers, who are generally small farmers, hope to increase their output by increasing efficiency and extracting higher yields per acre.

The remainder of Jamaica's agricultural production is divided among a number of smaller export products, including cocoa, coffee (Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is prized throughout the world), copra (coconut flesh), and pimentos. Production of these minor crops climbed in the early 1990s, though they were also affected by the drought of 1997. Food production for domestic consumptiongenerally conducted by small farmers selling their goods in local marketsalso climbed during the early 1990s. Despite this increased production, Jamaica imports the majority of the food it consumes, which keeps food prices high throughout the country.

Though it is not recorded on any official reports on agricultural production and exports, marijuana is an important cash crop for many Jamaican farmers. Many small farmers plant marijuana between their other crops and an efficient farmer can expect to earn thousands, even tens of thousands, of Jamaican dollars off a small plot of land. Farmers sell their crop to drug dealers, who risk arrest to supply high U.S. demand for the illegal drug. The profits earned from the drug trade, in turn, fuel corruption and bribery among local police and politicians.

Though Jamaica's location would suggest that the island would have a booming fishing industry, actual fishing production has remained relatively stagnant throughout the 1980s and 1990s, rarely reaching even 50 percent of government targets. In fact, the island imports between US$15 and $20 million in fish annually.



Bauxite and alumina, raw materials used in the production of aluminum, are the country's main exports. During the 1960s Jamaica was the world's largest producer of bauxite, a position it held until the 1980s. Today, Jamaica is the world's third largest producer of bauxite, after Australia and Guinea, and has estimated reserves of more than 1.9 billion metric tons. The majority of the bauxite exported from Jamaica is first converted into alumina, though roughly 30 percent of bauxite is exported in its raw form. Bauxite is taken from mines to processing plants by truck and rail, but, because the island lacks sources of cheap energy, the final and most profitable conversion process that turns bauxite/alumina into aluminum must take place overseas.

Bauxite production first became a factor in Jamaica's economy in the 1950s. Between 1950 and 1960, the contribution of bauxite production to the nation's GDP grew from less than 1 percent to 9.3 percent. By 1970, mining's contribution to GDP reached 15.7 percent. In the years since, the industry's contribution to Jamaica's GDP remained at about 10 percent. Historically, the mining of bauxite was overseen by large American and Canadian aluminum companies such as Alcoa and Alcan, and final processing of the ore took place in their plants elsewhere. In the 1980s and 1990s, however, foreign companies withdrew from the island, and the government bought into the industry, thus keeping profits at home.

In the late 1990s, the bauxite/alumina industry employed about 5,000 people in the country's most highly paid economic sector. According to the U.S. State Department's Country Commercial Guide, the industry produced 12.6 million tons of bauxite and alumina in 1998, its highest level of production in over a decade. However, production declined by 7.3 percent to 11.79 million tons in 1999; some of the lost volume is due to an explosion at a Louisiana refinery which handles two-thirds of Kaiser Jamaica Bauxite Company's exports. The loss was offset by an increase in the price of bauxite on international markets, but shifting world demand for aluminum and variations in oil prices have made profits from the industry quite variable over the years. Fortunately, tourism helps bring in foreign dollars when bauxite profits decline.

In addition to bauxite, Jamaica has substantial reserves of several other important minerals, including limestone, gypsum, silica, and marble. Extensive, high-quality limestone reserves estimated at 50 billion tons provide an ample base for exports, though limestone production has, in fact, been rather small. Gypsum, which has been mined in eastern Jamaica since 1949, is another important export mineral. While some gypsum is used locally in the manufacture of tiles and cement, most is shipped unprocessed to the United States and Latin America.


The manufacturing sector is an important, though declining, contributor to the Jamaican economy. Though manufacturing accounted for 19.6 percent of GDP in 1988, it had fallen to 18.1 percent in 1996. Total employment in manufacturing in 1996 stood at 100,400 people, or 8.7 percent of the labor force . Forces contributing to the shrinkage of the manufacturing sector include the sinking price of imports, increases in domestic wages, and, in the mid-1990s, increased competition from Mexico in the garment industry following the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which granted Mexican products preferential treatment in U.S. markets.

Historically, Jamaican companies have processed sugar, food, beverages, and tobacco; produced chemicals, metals, and construction materials; and assembled electrical appliances and apparel. Many of these companies were set up to encourage import substitution , which meant that they were designed to produce goods that had previously been imported. Beginning in the 1980s, however, apparel production became the dominant manufacturing activity in the nation, employing 35,000 people in the early 1990s. Production was greatly increased when U.S. companies began exporting their apparel assembly to countries such as Jamaica, which could assemble clothing at far lower prices than in the United States. The value of apparel exports reached US$292 million in 1995, making it the nation's second most valuable export next to alumina.



Tourism is vitally important to the health of the Jamaican economy, contributing approximately US$1.23 billion to the economy in 1999. Beginning in the 1960s, economic prosperity in the major Western countries and declining international air fares helped make Jamaica a major tourist destination. By the early 1970s tourism competed with the bauxite industry as the country's dominant source of income. After a brief decline in tourism in the late 1970s and early 1980sdue largely to internal unresttourism has expanded dramatically through the late 1980s and into the 1990s. The number of tourist arrivals has risen from 846,716 in 1983 to 1.82 million in 1996. Of these visitors, roughly 65 percent of tourists stay in Jamaican hotels, apartments, guest houses, and other lodging, while the majority of the remainder visit from cruise ships anchored offshore. Two-thirds of tourists to Jamaica in 1999 were from the United States.

Jamaicans have responded to this influx of tourists by constructing a range of lodging options and by investing in the infrastructureroads, docks, services, and airports. According to the U.S. Department of State Country Commercial Guide, Jamaica had a total room capacity of 22,715 in 1998 and was planning to add another 1,289 rooms between 2000 and 2001. Important development projects included the opening of the Ritz-Carlton hotel complex in the Montego Bay area, in addition to 3 other hotels before 2001. In the late 1990s, however, Jamaica began experiencing slight declines in tourist visits, thanks to unfavorable exchange rates , increasing competition for tourist dollars by other Caribbean destinations, and heightened fears that tourists might be affected by the rising political and gang violence in the country.

The tourist economy employs 84,300 people directly and it is estimated that another 170,000 people are engaged in tourism-related activities. Most tourist activity is centered on the northern coast of the island, which is more accessible to cruise ships departing from the United States, and in the communities of Montego Bay, Port Royal, and Kingston.


The other major component of Jamaica's service industry, beside tourist services, is the financial services industry. The early 1990s saw a rapid expansion in banking, investment, and insurance services fueled by an influx in capital and a lack of sufficient oversight by government regulatory agencies. In the mid-1990s, however, the entire financial services sector entered a period of severe crisis. Banks found themselves suffering from poor lending decisions as many of their loans were not repaid. Insurance companies who had invested in or owned banks were affected, as were other branches of the financial services sector.

In 1996 the Jamaican government took over the nation's fourth-largest bank, Century National Bank, in order to stave off its failure, and trust in the banking industry in general declined, prompting customers to attempt to withdraw their funds. By 1997 the government was forced to assume partial ownership of 5 of the nation's 6 largest locally-owned commercial banks with a rescue package valued at US$276 million, or 4.5 percent of GDP. The government agency entrusted with regulating the industry, the Financial Sector Adjustment Company, hoped to provide both the funding and the management skills necessary to rescue the industry, but by the late 1990s these changes had not yet taken affect.


The absence of large commercial centers, other than Kingston and its suburbs and the tourist center at Montego Bay, has resulted in a poorly developed retail sector in Jamaica. While Kingston is home to a variety of retail stores, including fast-food franchises such as Burger King and McDonald's, the majority of the towns in the interior of the country have small shops, farmer's markets, and temporary roadside stands.


Over the past several decades, Jamaica has relied more and more on imports. The value of imports in 1998 was more than double the value of exports. Jamaica exports and imports the majority of its goods from the United States. The United Kingdom was Jamaica's second largest single trading partner, with US$192 million in exports in 1995, or 13 percent; the remainder of the European Union countries received US$219 million, or 15 percent. Other major recipients of Jamaican goods were Canada, Norway, and the various CARICOM countries.

Imports of foreign goods were also dominated by the United States. In 1995, Jamaica imported US$1,399 million in goods from the United States, representing 49 percent of all imports (this number climbed to 52 percent in 1999). Major imports were consumer goods , including

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Jamaica
Exports Imports
1975 .815 1.122
1980 .963 1.095
1985 .566 1.111
1990 1.135 1.859
1995 1.414 2.757
1998 1.303 3.273
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

food, fuels, and other raw materials. CARICOM countries accounted for US$255 million in imports, or 9 percent, in 1995, while the United Kingdom (US$240 million, or 8.5 percent), Norway (US$184 million, or 6.5 percent), other EU countries ($112 million, or 4 percent), and Canada (US$99 million, or 3.5 percent) accounted for the remainder of imports. Imports rose dramatically through the 1990s, from US$1.799 billion in 1991 to US$3 billion in 1999. Much of the rise in imports can be attributed to large purchases of capital goods by the government, expanding demand for consumer goods, and to major purchases made by Air Jamaica, the country's major airline.

The United States has increased in importance as Jamaica's dominant trading partner throughout the 1990s. In 1990, the United States accounted for 28 percent of Jamaica's exports and 49 percent of its imports; by 1999, those numbers had risen to 42 percent and 52 percent, respectively. Major exports are bauxite and alumina, food, and garments assembled in Jamaica. As Jamaica's trade with the United States increased, its trade with fellow members of CARICOM, the Caribbean Common Market, decreased from 8.3 percent of exports and 21.7 percent of imports in 1990 to 4 percent and 9 percent, respectively, by 1995. This lack of trade within CARICOM signals the group's inability to stimulate the regional economy despite the proximity and the lack of trade restrictions between member nations.

Exchange rates: Jamaica
Jamaican dollars (J$) per US$1
Jan 2001 45.557
2000 42.701
1999 39.044
1998 36.550
1997 35.404
1996 37.120
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

The substantial and growing trade imbalance that Jamaica endured over the years has been partially offset by the input of tourist dollars and of monies sent home by Jamaicans working abroad. Nevertheless, Jamaica continues to run a trade deficit which forces it to borrow heavily to pay for its consumption.


The value of the Jamaican dollar has slowly declined on the world market over a period of 30 years, making it increasingly difficult for the average Jamaican to afford imported goods. In 1977 the Jamaican dollar was valued at 90.9 cents for every U.S. dollar; by December of 1999 the value of the Jamaican dollar had collapsed to J$42.25 for every U.S. dollar. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) classifies the Jamaican exchange rate as freely floating, which means that the value of the Jamaican dollar is determined by supply and demand in the foreign exchange market and not by government control. The government, however, has tried to stabilize the price of the Jamaican dollar under IMF supervision in order to stabilize its economy. These stabilization efforts have subjected Jamaicans to periods of high inflation, economic recession , and mounting national debt . In 1999 debt service accounted for J$97.5 billion, or 58.1 percent of the budget. Even so, Jamaica's debt is lower than that of many other Caribbean nations.

Jamaica has a single stock exchange, the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE), which began operations on 3 February 1969. During its first year of operation the JSE had 34 member companies with a total market capitalization of J$146 million. The JSE had as many as 51 member companies during the financial services boom of the mid-1990s, but dropped back down to 45 companies in 1999. That same year the total market capitalization of the companies trading on the JSE was J$104 billion.


When it comes to wealth, Jamaica is a land of extremes. On the northern coasthome to tourismand in the suburbs of Kingston, wealthy Jamaicans live in first-rate housing, visit shopping centers featuring the best imported goods, and enjoy an elevated standard of living. Living in such suburbs as Cherry Gardens, Arcadia Gardens, and Forest Hills, the wealthy send their children to private schools and to universities abroad, and employ private security forces. Yet not far from these wealthy enclaves a significant number of poor Jamaicans live in squalor, with poor housing, limited food supply, and inadequate access to clean water, quality health care, or education. Kingston's poor congregate in the slum districts of Trench Town, Jones Town, and Denham Town, where

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Jamaica 1,819 1,458 1,353 1,651 1,559
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Haiti 500 607 527 481 370
St. Lucia N/A 2,076 2,150 3,542 3,907
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

water supplies are often polluted and violent youth gangs clash with police for control of the streets.

The wealth is distributed largely along racial lines, reflecting Jamaica's slave-plantation heritage. The descendants of black slaves tend to be among the poorest classes in Jamaica, while white and mixed-race descendants of plantation owners and traders tend to be better off. These extremes are reflected in the nation's distribution of income: in 1996 the wealthiest 20 percent of Jamaicans controlled 43.9 percent of the wealth, while the poorest 20 percent controlled only 7 percent. In fact, the poorest 60 percent controlled just 34.3 percent of wealth. Due in large part to the decline of services in urban slums, the percentage of people with access to safe water has declined from 96 percent in the period from 1982-85 to 70 percent in the period from 1990-96; access to sanitation facilities (plumbed toilets) has dropped from 91 percent to 74 percent in the same period.

Jamaica's rural poor also face difficult circumstances, for many workers must try to grow their own crops or participate in the informal economy in some cases, the drug tradein order to survive. Both the rural and urban poor have suffered from the long decline in the quality of social services provided to Jamaicans. Though the British built a well-developed health and education system on the island in the post-World

Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage
Share: Jamaica
Lowest 10% 2.9
Lowest 20% 7.0
Second 20% 11.5
Third 20% 15.8
Fourth 20% 21.8
Highest 20% 43.9
Highest 10% 28.9
Survey year: 1996
Note: This information refers to expenditure shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita expenditure.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].
Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Jamaica 24 7 3 1 9 8 48
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Cuba N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
St. Lucia 40 5 11 4 17 11 11
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
a Excludes energy used for transport.
b Includes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

World War II years, a lack of government funding for schools and hospitals has meant that these services have declined in quality over the years. Despite this deterioration, 93 percent of Jamaican primary-level students are enrolled in school, and a government-funded health-care system ensures that Jamaicans have access to adequate health care.

Jamaica's high inflation and dependence on importsespecially for food, gasoline, and clothinghas meant that the poor have had to spend a high amount of their relatively small incomes on the necessities of life. Despite governmental food subsidies for the poor, similar to food stamp programs (vouchers that can be exchanged for food in grocery stores) in the United States, most poor Jamaicans spend more than half of their income on food and beverages. The difficulty that many Jamaicans face to earn a living on the island has contributed directly to the high immigration rate of the country and to its very low population growth. Despite the difficulties faced by Jamaica's poor, a study conducted by the Overseas Development Council judged that Jamaica's quality of life was better than both Mexico and Venezuela and equal to that of neighboring Trinidad and Tobago.


In the last years of the 1990s the Jamaican labor force has been shrinking, to an estimated 1,120,000 workers in 1999. The official unemployment rate for 1999 was 15.7 percent, down 1 percent from the year before. But the declining unemployment rate does not necessarily mean that opportunities for workers are increasing. Many of those leaving the workforce to retire are older, more highly skilled workers, while those entering the workforce are younger and unskilled. Job training and secondary education in Jamaica are generally poor, thus much of the younger workforce cannot expect high-paying jobs. Unemployment remains particularly high among women and younger workers.

Before there were even political parties in Jamaica there was a labor union: the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union, formed in 1938 to protect the rights of Jamaican workers. In the 1990s the U.S. State Department estimated union membership in Jamaica's 70 labor unions at around 20 percent of the employed workforce. The government of Jamaica supports workers' rights conventions promoted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and has set conditions governing industrial and human relations, established minimum wage standards, and protected low-wage workers from paying income tax. The 40-hour work week is the standard, and Jamaica has no history of child labor problems. In 1999, the government-mandated minimum wage increased to J$1,200 a week, and no income tax was required on wages lower than J$100,464 a year. In addition, the government provides social security benefits that include a retirement pension, pay for on-the-job injuries, food stamps, rehabilitation, and training. These latter benefits are considered sub-standard, however, and represent a tiny portion of federal spending.

Despite the protections offered by unions and government regulations, conditions for workers in Jamaica are not ideal. First, labor actionsstrikes, slow downs, and protestshave frequently disturbed work life; in 1996 there were a total of 195 such disputes, up 7.7 percent from 1995. Second, the educational and training system in Jamaica is of such low quality that few workers have the skills to secure higher paying skilled jobs. (In 1998 adult illiteracy rates stood at 18 percent for men and 10 percent for women, significantly higher than elsewhere in the Caribbean.) Thus many workers seek earnings in the informal sector, which includes jobs as street vendors but also in the illegal drug trade. Finally, the close connection between labor unions and political parties has meant that union jobs are often granted as political favors, and that fights for jobs and votes have often turned violent. Industrial and political violence has been a recurring feature in Jamaican life since the 1970s and has helped decrease the attraction of Jamaica for those looking to locate factories in the country.


1494. Jamaica is discovered by Christopher Columbus, and comes under the control of Spain in 1509.

1655. England establishes a colony on Jamaica, which is confirmed by the Treaty of Madrid in 1670. The English begin importing slaves to harvest sugar on large plantations.

1807. England bans the slave trade, ending the flow of African slaves into Jamaica.

1834. England abolishes slavery in its colonies, forcing sugar plantation owners to change their labor relations and granting more power to the island's largely black population.

1865. The Morant Bay Rebellion against the authoritarian rule of white colonial leaders is crushed, but British authorities decide to rule Jamaica as a crown colony, which means that it is administered by British officials.

1938. Labor leader Alexander Bustamante helps establish the first trade union in the Caribbean region, the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU). In the same year Norman Washington Manley forms Jamaica's first political party, the People's National Party (PNP).

1943. Alexander Bustamante forms the nation's second political party, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

1944. England grants Jamaica a new constitution allowing for the election of a governor by all citizens. Jamaica is now self-governed.

1958-61. The West Indies Federation attempts to join Caribbean nations in a single political entity, but is undermined by competition between Jamaica and Trinidad, the federation's 2 largest members.

1962. Jamaica is granted its independence from England on 5 August 1962, and becomes an independent state within the British Commonwealth.

1968. Jamaica joins Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA), hoping to enlarge the regional market for its goods.

1973. Jamaica becomes a founding nation of the Caribbean Common Market (CARICOM), a union of Caribbean nations dedicated to ensuring the free flow of goods between countries. CARICOM has never received sufficient support from member countries to operate effectively.

1973-74. The worldwide oil crisis undermines Jamaica's economy and puts the nation on the path to lasting trade imbalances and debt.

1988. Hurricane Gilbert devastates the island's agricultural sector, causing damage that continues to affect the economy into the 1990s.

1995. Bruce Golding helps found the National Democratic Movement (NDM), the nation's third major political party.


Jamaica entered the 21st century under a cloud of economic decline. For the better part of 3 decades, despite some successes at increasing tourism and exports and curbing imports, the nation has been fighting a losing battle with inflation, mounting debt, and the declining value of the Jamaican dollar. In real terms, this has meant that the quality of life for the average Jamaican has undergone a slow but steady decline. The government enacted policies in the early 1990s to stabilize the economy and appeared to be making progress toward that goal. However, the financial collapse of the mid-1990s caused significant setbacks. Following policies outlined by the World Bank, the IMF, and other lending agencies, the government hopes that its program of lowering interest rates, encouraging tourism, and encouraging exports can help the economy. Yet nearly 20 years of following policies outlined by lending agencies has not yet led Jamaica out of its economic decline. Whether the Jamaican economy will rebound depends heavily on continued world prosperity in the early part of the 21st century, especially in areas related to Jamaica's main revenue producers, and on the government's ability to ride out the social backlash against needed austerity measures.


Jamaica has no territories or colonies.


Bayer, Marcel. Jamaica: A Guide to the People, Politics and Culture. London: Latin American Bureau, 1993.

"The Caribbean's Tarnished Jewel." The Economist. 2 October 1999.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Jamaica, Barbados, 1997-98. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 1998.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2001 Country Commercial Guide: Jamaica. <>. Accessed September 2001.

World Trade Organization, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. "Jamaica: 1998." <>. Accessed September 2000.

Tom Pendergast




Jamaican dollar (J$). One Jamaican dollar equals 100 cents. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, and 25 cents, and 1 dollar. There are notes of 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 dollars. In 1999 the exchange rate of Jamaican to U.S. dollars was J$42.25=US$1.


Bauxite, alumina, sugar, bananas, rum.


Machinery and transportation equipment, construction materials, fuel, food, chemicals, fertilizers.


US$8.8 billion (purchasing power parity, 1998 est.).


Exports: US$1.303 billion (f.o.b., 1998). Imports: US$3.273 billion (c.i.f., 1998).

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Jamaica
Region (Map name): North & Central America
Population: 2,665,636
Language(s): English, Creole
Literacy rate: 85.0%
Area: 10,990 sq km
GDP: 7,403 (US$ millions)
Number of Television Stations: 7
Number of Television Sets: 460,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 172.6
Number of Cable Subscribers: 257,140
Cable Subscribers per 1,000: 98.9
Number of Radio Stations: 23
Number of Radio Receivers: 1,215,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 455.8
Number of Individuals with Computers: 120,000
Computers per 1,000: 45.0
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 80,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 30.0

Background & General Characteristics

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Jamaica supported a vast variety of media, ranging from daily newspapers to weekly shoppers, from news and editorial content to publications dedicated to spreading the word about the ample Jamaican culture. Jamaica had three daily newspapers: the Daily Gleaner, the Observer and the Star, an afternoon tabloid put out by the publishers of the Gleaner. The 's coverage of local news, sports and features was regularly of high quality, and the paper knew and was unafraid of expressing its voice. The Observer was founded in the early 1990s and was published in a tabloid format with a broadsheet bent. Both the Gleaner and Observer put out a Sunday paper. In addition to these local publications, some outside media made it to Jamaica; U.S. newsmagazines like Time and Newsweek were available at news stands, as were some of the major U.S. dailies (though they were frequently a couple of days out of date) and the Sunday broadsheets from the United Kingdom.

Of the papers supported by Jamaica, the Daily Gleaner seemed on the soundest footing in 2002. The Gleaner Company published the Daily Gleaner, the company's flagship paper. Established in 1834, it was the oldest operating newspaper in the Caribbean. The company added the Sunday Gleaner in 1939. It also published theAfternoon Star. There was also a Weekend Star that contained mostly reviews of Jamaican music, dance, theater, and social culture. It was first published in 1951. The Gleaner took no prisoners, particularly in its political coverage. It earned its reputation in its coverage of the Manley administration of the 1970s, and in the early 2000s it took on all parties with its non-partisan coverage. In an effort to promote education, the Gleaner Company also began publishing The Children's Own, a weekly put out during school terms to promote creative learning. In 2002, the Gleaner Company had perhaps the strongest presence in Jamaica. The group had offices in Toronto, Ontario, Canada; London; and New York in addition to its headquarters in Kingston. The newspaper group made nearly $1.8 million in 2000, after making just over $1.6 million in 1999.

The Gleaner targeted young, male readers. It drew 54 percent of its readers from males. Some 56 percent of its readers were between the ages of 18 and 34, with another 26 percent between 35 and 44. Only 18 percent of the Gleaner's readers were 45 or older. Of the chain's readers, 43 percent made between US$31,000 and US$45,000 a year; some 32 percent make US$30,000 or less. Only 12 percent earn US$46,000 or more.

Many of Jamaica's other, less traditional publications focused on the country's culture, music and entertainment. For instance, Destination Jamaica was an annual publication that focused primarily on the hospitality industries. Track and Pools, another Gleaner publication, covered the racing industry. Moreover, the Weekend Star complemented its daily publication with more information about local music, dance, theater and the social culture.

The Star, another Gleaner publication and the island's tabloid, provided the more salacious stories not found in the more-traditional newspapers. A similar publication, X News, provided entertainment listings and news from the music world.

Other regional publications helped keep readers in their areas informed. The Western Mirror was published in Montego Bay for the western side of the island, while the North Coast Times, based in Ocho Rios, was a tourist-oriented publication. The Observer, founded by Gordon "Butch" Stewart in the early 1990s, rivaled the kind of coverage found in he Gleaner. However, most observers appeared to feel the paper sometimes struggled to figure out its target audience.

While Jamaica supported several quality print publications, radio was also popular in the country. Its roots could be traced to a ham radio operator, John Grinan, who in 1939 while operating at the start of World War II, followed wartime regulations and turned his equipment over to the government. Thus, Radio Jamaica was born. Grinan convinced government officials to use his amateur equipment to operate a public broadcasting system, and the government adapted his equipment to match demands. Regular scheduled broadcasts started from Grinan's equipment, the first one coming November 17, 1939. Indeed, the first radio station, VP5PZ, took its name from Grinan's call-sign. At first there was only a single broadcast per week, emanating from Grinan's home. After May 1, 1940, though, the station picked up a small staff. Daily broadcasts started in June 1940.

The broadcasts got better and better, despite the adversity of working in an inadequate facility. The first program manager was appointed and the station started offering more and more options, in addition to news and wartime information. Eventually, broadcasts included live performances of local artists. As of 2002, most of Jamaica's radio was dedicated to this kind of perpetuation of local artists and culture. But back then, running the station became financially prohibitive for the government, and the decision was made to issue a license to a private company to provide the broadcasting services.

The Jamaica Broadcasting Company, a subsidiary of the Re-diffusion Group in London, England, got the first license in 1949. The license allowed Jamaica Broadcasting Company to operate regular broadcasting, and the company took over the operations of the station, known as ZQI since 1940, on May 1, 1950. Commercial broadcasting began on July 9, 1950. Thus was born Radio Jamaica.

The new company was handed the responsibility of covering the entire island with radio broadcasting. Not wanting to limit it to urbanites, the mandate was to have rural residents exposed as well. To make sure that happened, the company distributed wireless sets to about 200 listening posts around the island. They were placed at natural gathering spots, like schools, police stations, and stores around the various villages.

One important mandate was that the radio broadcasting would be commercial, meaning they would have to figure out how much air time was worth, and advertisers for the first time would be forced to pay for the time used for their advertisements. It was decreed the station's only revenue would come from these advertisements and from sponsorships of individual broadcasts. Consequently, listeners for the first time had their programming interrupted with commercials.

In August 1951, the station moved, from its original location to what, at the time, was called a "modern, air-conditioned and excellently equipped" studio. Two years later, the station made history, installing frequency-modulated transmitters. Radio Jamaica thus became the first country in the British Commonwealth to broadcast regularly scheduled programming on the FM band.

In February 1951, the station decided it needed to expand the radio's reach. The company started a re-diffusion service, using a division of Jamaica Broadcasting Company Limited, to provide programming transmitted by wire. Carried to homes, retail outlets, bars, hotels, and the like, the service became quite popular, particularly because it offered something that had not been available: total coverage of national events. By 1958, more than 15,000 subscribers had this service.

Non-stop music became a staple of Radio Jamaica in the early 1960s, when Reditune, a tape machine system that provided non-stop, but taped, music of various sorts. The tape system eventually gave way to the more sophisticated Musipage system, which broadcast the music live from the station. In 1972, Radio Jamaica introduced a second daily radio feed on the FM band. RJR-FM filled a need for soothing, uninterrupted music. Radio Jamaica purchased the television and Radio 2 assets from the Jamaican Broadcasting Corporation, the government-owned system, for about $70 million Jamaican. With all its success, Radio Jamaica Limited evolved. In 2002 it was doing business as the RJR Communications Group, the largest electronic media corporation in the Caribbean. The RJR umbrella sheltered Radio Jamaica Limited, Television Jamaica Limited, and Multi-Media Jamaica Ltd. The goal, apparently realized, was to touch the lives of the majority of Jamaicans through coverage of news and world affairs and the entertainment industry, with some educational and informative programming as well.

Economic Framework

In the early 2000s, agriculture employed more than 20 percent of Jamaica's population. Bauxite, aluminum, sugar, bananas, rum and coffee were key exports from the island, with tourism responsible for an important part of the island's economy. The government's austerity program lowered inflation nearly 20 percent in six years, from 25 percent in 1995 to around 6 percent in 2000 (al-though it was up to about 7 percent in 2001). A declining gross domestic product, according to some sources, showed signs of recovery. The per-capita GDP was roughly $3,389. The GDP grew by 0.8 percent in 2000.

More and more Jamaicans began to earn a decent living, although the island's unemployment rate in 2000 was around 15 percent nationally and even higher among women. More than a quarter of the island's population lived below the poverty line, and 13 percent lacked health care, education, and economic opportunities. The central bank prevented a drastic decrease in the exchange rate, although the Jamaican dollar has still been dropping. At the end of 2001, the average exchange rate was $47 Jamaican dollars to US$1.

According to information compiled by the U.S. Department of State, weakness in the financial sector, speculation, and low levels of investment erode confidence in the productive sector. The Jamaican government raised US$3.6 billion in new sovereign debt in 2001, which was used to help meet its U.S. dollar debt obligations. Net internal revenues, according to the Department of State, rose from US$969.5 million in the beginning of 2001 to more than US$1.8 billion by the end of the year.

In terms of the newspaper industry, Jamaica's import figure for paper and paperboard stood at just under US$90 million in 1996, whereas it had grown around 20 percent every year between 1992 and 1995. After that, though, the growth stalled due in large part to a recession. However, some areas continued to do well, including newsprint, sanitary napkins, and various types of tissue. The Jamaican government continued a gradual reduction in overall duties, to the point that some import categories had no duty, including paper used in the printing industry, corrugated paper and paperboard, cigarette paper, and dress patterns.

The combination of high interest rates and an increase in the availability of better-quality imported products put some small amount of pressure on local manufacturers. The United States had 60 percent market coverage and was the country's major source for paper and paperboard products. Other countries, among them Canada (newsprint) and Trinidad (sanitary paper items), were also quite competitive.

In 1992, Jamaica imported US$2.3 million in news-print rolls; by 1996, it had grown to US$7.5 million. Newsprint formed one of the significant import segments for Jamaica. Several newspapers were now printed nationwide: the Gleaner, the Observer, and the Herald. In 1996, importation of newsprint accounted for 8.6 percent of the total paper products imported. The import market share, therefore, had more than doubled in four years. In fact, 1995 showed more import than 1996, but that was almost certainly because the Herald quit publishing daily in 1996.

Relatively high interest rates for most commercial enterprises, in addition to the higher quality of imported goods, had a negative effect on the production inside Jamaica in the 1990s. These facts were proven by the import figures for things like paper for printing, toilet tissue, and sanitary towels.

The local printing industry complemented the manufacturing industry, so any stagnation or lack of growth in general manufacturing would be reflected through lack of growth in the total market for printing products (including paper); therefore, a gradual decrease in these imports would be seen.

The United States continued to be the major import source of paper products and paperboard. In 1996, the overall market share for the U.S. was 60 percent. The United States dominated some areas, such as Kraft paper-board, where their market share is 97 percent, and writing and printing paper (80 percent). There was considerable competition in other categories; for instance, Canada was the source for about 80 percent of newsprint.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce National Trade Data Bank (November 2000), paper and paperboard were very broad groupings which covered three main uses: communication, packaging, and hygiene/sanitary use. Despite growth in the use of computers, e-mail, and other electronic means of corresponding, paper continued to be an important medium for allowing communication. Major-end users are newspapers (newsprint), the printing industry, government agencies, and private offices involved in commercial activities.

Of Jamaican newspapers, the Gleaner claimed the highest circulation, boasting 100,000 copies printed on Sundays. Since late 1997, the Gleaner company had a deal to publish a daily international edition of the Miami Herald. Moreover, the printing industry in Jamaica in the early 2000s consisted of several companies which worked in tandem with various commercial enterprises and government agencies in the production of various items such as labels, letterheads, business cards, flyers, newsletters, brochures, magazines, annual reports, calendars, posters, computer forms and greeting cards, etc.

The government of Jamaica and its various ministries and agencies are big users of paper for communication, administration, and recording purposes. Significant government organizations which spring to mind in this area include the Jamaica Information Service, the Inland Revenue Department, the Electoral Office, the Statistical Institute of Jamaica and the Ministries of Finance and Health.

Press Laws

The Jamaican Senate in June 2002 passed the country's first Access to Information Bill, the equivalent to the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. The bill did cause consternation, however, because of a clause that allowed the minister of information to exclude any statutory body from the influence of the information law. Minority senators objected on grounds that the clause gave the minister sweeping powers to exclude entire agencies from the purview of the information law, rather than exempting specific documents. The clause did provide for an approval authority; however, the minister had to obtain "affirmative resolution" or the consent of both houses of parliament. Nine government senators voted in favor of the clause, while three Opposition and two independent senators objected. At the same time, the Cabinet reviewed detailed proposals for a law to replace the Official Secrets Act, an antiquated law that generally provided for penalties to public officials for disclosing information.

In 2001, the government agreed to amend a new law that made it a crime to report on certain government investigations. The so-called Corruption (Prevention) Act was designed to bring Jamaica into compliance with the 1996 Inter-American Convention against Corruption. Under the bill, journalists could be fined up to US$12,250 or jailed for up to three years, or both, for publishing information about the work of any state anti-corruption commission. After several media and civic groups conducted seminars and published information about the offending clauses, the government passed the bill without them.


In the early 2000s, some aspects of the media were under government control. The biggest issues facing the press concerned the limits to its freedom, the responsible use of that freedom, the relationship between the press and the Jamaican government, the influence of imported content, and the role of the press in the development of young, independent countries.

State-Press Relations

Despite some government control over the media, generally speaking the press acts independently. According to Jamaican columnist Martin Henry, the English-speaking commonwealth Caribbean has largely a free press. Still some issues connected to state-press relations were raised at a 2001 conference in Jamaica, which co-occurred with violent protests in the country. The minister of finance had announced a large tax hike on gasoline. After a quiet weekend, some protests began the following Monday, intensified, Henry believed, at least in part by the media.

At noon the first day, a few scattered roadblocks, which are a popular form of protest on the island, were set up. The situation was reported on midday broadcasts. By later that afternoon, Kingston was practically shut down by roadblocks, violence had escalated, and nine people had been killed.

The problem, as many observers saw it, was that the media were allowed to report on the protests, but they were not allowed to report on the inner workings of the government because of the Official Secrets Act. The act, journalists believed, restricted such access, and thus impeded the flow of information to the public. Had the public had more information about why the government felt the need for the tax hike, perhaps the violence could have been avoided. When the government did release more detailed information, protesters withdrew.

Protesters wanted media coverage. According to Henry, roadblocks became a popular form of protest because they often provided a chance for dramatic footage. Protesters frequently refused to disperse until after the cameras arrive. Then, too, the media themselves questioned the government. The Daily Gleaner and the Observer both frequently and with justification question the politics, practices, policies, and procedures of government and political parties.

One visible forum for political discussion is the talk show, which flourishes in Jamaica and across the Caribbean, for that matter. Some of the talk shows ardently pursued government accountability, pressing particularly about libel laws and the Official Secrets Act. Before the tax protests, the more critical talk show hosts were accused of being negative. After the protests, in which nine people died, they were perceived as more justified.

Many problems were ready topics. High unemployment, underemployment, growing debt, and high interest rates were among the most serious of Jamaica's economic problems. Both major political parties had ties with two large trade unions.

By the end of the 1960s, it was evident that media was going to play a key role in the establishment of nationhood. According to information obtained on the Web site of the Caribbean Institute of Mass Communication (CARIMAC), the problem was that most of the people working in the media were "outsiders" lacking in any kind of Caribbean perspective. So, in 1969, the Jamaican government started looking into the idea of putting a regional media-training center on the island, in an effort to correct the problem. Finally CARIMAC was located at the University of the West Indies (UWI) at Mona, and it followed certain principles. The program had a theoretical basis and a foundation in the Caribbean environment; it included courses in social sciences and communications, as well as in Caribbean studies. In addition, it gave practical training in mass media, concentrating on writing, interviewing, and production. The program was also designed to address the needs of media at all levels. With help from a variety of international and national agencies, the one-year degree program in mass communications was established at UWI-Mona in October 1974, with 31 students in the course.

CARIMAC moved four years later. In 1977, three years after the establishment of CARIMAC, a bachelor's degree program was added. Students of the Faculty of Arts and General Studies were able to choose from three different degree programs: Social Sciences with Communications; Languages and Literature with Communications; and Social Sciences, Languages, and Literature with Communications.

The institute continued to evolve. In 1990, the semester system was adopted, and students could choose from a wider curriculum. In 1994 CARIMAC added a master's degree program (in Communications Studies). The program consisted of a combination of formal lectures and seminars, taught by an inter-disciplinary team of instructors. In 1996, CARIMAC changed its name to The Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication. Then, in 1998, the undergraduate degree was revamped. First, the school added two new specialties, multimedia and public relations. Then, improvements were made to existing areas: Print became Text and Graphic Production; and audio-visual became Social Marketing. Television and radio were switched to Broadcasting Skills (Television) and Broadcasting Skills (Radio). Finally, new communications electives were added to reflect industry changes and technological advances. In addition, CARIMAC had an active outreach program, hosted regional seminars in various countries, ran workshops and conferences, and offered in-serves training for members of the media.

As part of the UWI, CARIMAC helped both governmental and non-governmental development agencies in the Caribbean. The institute assisted in communication methods and technology for development purposes in health, agriculture, community development, public education, and other areas. Moreover, as the only regionally recognized tertiary-level training program to media and communication in the Caribbean, CARIMAC was also the Caribbean's representative in the network of Global Journalism Training Institutions (Journet). CARIMAC trained students for work in print, radio, video, multimedia, and public relations.

Another group of great interest in the Caribbean, the Caribbean Environmental Reporters' Network (CERN), developed out of a training workshop in Jamaica in July 1990. In November 1992, at a follow-up workshop in Barbados put on by CARIMAC and the Caribbean Conservation Association, the concept was formally approved, and CERN was born. From the 10 journalists who originally formed the network, the staff grew to more than 35 journalists in 13 Caribbean states. CERN collaborated with media houses across the region, providing these organizations with accurate, up-to-date coverage from a Caribbean perspective.

CERN hoped to host one regional gathering every year on a topic pertaining to environmental journalism so that reporters would learn more about these issues. Too, CERN offered networking and information exchange possibilities between reporters throughout the Caribbean who had similar interests. These professional connections supported the dispatch of reporters to international events around the world, thus achieving broader media coverage of environmental issues.

CERN produced a weekly radio magazine series on community environmental action in the Caribbean, entitled Island Beat. The 10-minute program aired on more than 25 stations in 15 countries every week. It was distributed through the CANA Satellite network.

News Agencies

The government is served by the Jamaica Information Service (JIS), which, through radio and television programs, video recordings, advertisements, publications, and news releases disseminates information on government policies, programs, and activities.


Committee for the Protection of Journalism. Attacks on the Press, 2001. Available from

Henry, Martin. Tax Protests Focus Jamaican Media's Role. The International Communications Forum, 2001.

Jamaica Gleaner Internet Edition, Feb. 7, 2002. Available from

Jamaican History, 2002. Available from

"Information Bill Gets Rough Passage in Senate." Jamaica Observer Internet Edition, June 29, 2002. Available from

"Media," Jamaica Information Service, 2002. Available from

Thomas, Polly, and Adam Vaitilingam. "Rough Guide to Jamaica," 2001.

U.S. Department of Commerce. National Trade Data Bank, November 3, 2000.

Brad Kadrich

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Identification. The name of the island of Jamaica is derived from the Arawak word "Xaymaca," which may have meant "land of springs," "land of wood and water," or "land of cotton."

Location. Jamaica is located in the Greater Antilles group of the West Indies, 144 kilometers south of Cuba and 160 kilometers west of Haiti. It has an area of 11,034 square kilometers and is the third-largest island in the Caribbean. The interior is very hilly and mountainous, with deep valleys and 120 unnavigable rivers, and the coastal plain is flat and narrow. The climate is generally hot and humid (tropical) but cooler and more temperate in the highlands.

Demography. The population was 2,506,701 in July 1992, with an average annual growth rate of 0.09 percent and a density of 228 people per square kilometer. The ethnic composition of Jamaica is 76.3 percent Black, 15.1 percent Afro-European, 3.2 percent White, 3 percent East Indian and Afro-East Indian, 1.2 percent Chinese and Afro-Chinese, and 1.2 percent other. Approximately 22,000 Jamaicans emigrate every year, and roughly a million now live in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain.

Linguistic Affiliation. Jamaica is officially English speaking, but it actually has what linguists call a postcreole linguistic continuum. An indigenous language, referred to as "patois" by Jamaicans and "Jamaican Creole" by linguists, evolved from contact between African slaves and English planters. Jamaican speech varies, by class, from Creole to Standard English, with many intermediate grades of variation.

History and Cultural Relations

About 60,000 Arawak Indians were living in Jamaica when Columbus landed in 1494, but they were exterminated by disease and enslavement during the Spanish occupation, which lasted from 1509 to 1655, when the island was seized by Great Britain. The British tried to populate the island with convicts and indentured servants from England, Scotland, and Ireland; they also persuaded buccaneers like Henry Morgan to establish their base at Port Royal, which became the center of trade for loot captured in raids on Spanish ships. Yeoman farming, with cocoa as the principal crop, soon gave way to cattle ranching and sugar, coffee, cotton, and pimento (allspice) estates and plantations. About 750,000 Africans were brought in to work the estates, but resistance to slavery was strong, and the society was in an almost constant state of revolt; a permanent population of runaway slaves (Maroons) established communities in the mountains. Production of sugar cane, the principal crop, peaked in the mid-eighteenth century, when Jamaica was regarded as England's richest and most valuable colony, but it began to fall in 1774. The declining economy and an increasingly influential antislavery movement in England led to the abolition of the slave trade by an act of parliament in 1807. A serious slave revolt, the "Baptist War" of 1831, and shocking reprisals against missionaries for their alleged involvement in it, encouraged passage of an emancipation act in 1833, but full freedom did not come until 1838, after a period of "apprenticeship." Many of the freed slaves left the estates, moving to the towns or becoming small farmers, and indentured servants from India (and later China) were brought in to replace them. After 1866, some abandoned sugar estates were turned over to the production of bananas, which rapidly replaced sugar as the leading export. The process of decolonization was set in motion by serious and widespread labor disturbances in 1938 that inspired nationalistic sentiments and led to the formation of the island's first trade union and political party. Large deposits of bauxite ore (the basis for aluminum) were discovered in the 1940s, and by 1960 Jamaica had become the world's leading producer of bauxite and aluminum. Many factories were built in the 1950s, and the value of manufacturing reached that of agriculture by 1960. The tourist industry also began to grow at a tremendous rate in the 1950s. Jamaica received its independence in 1962.

The island was a British colony for over 300 years, and many of its institutions (particularly legal, governmental, and educational) and ideals (for example, monogamy and the patriarchal nuclear family) are essentially English. Jamaican society was initially "pluralistic," embracing the African cultures of the slave majority and the English culture of their masters, but "creolization"the gradual reshaping of English traditions by African traditions, and vice-versaled to the emergence of a syncretic, indigenous culture. The African influence is particularly evident in language, cuisine, folklore, folk medicine, religion, and the arts, but rarely does it survive in true form.


Urban centers are growing rapidly as a result of migration from rural areas. About 40 percent of the population is in the Kingston-Spanish Town conurbation in the southeast, where most of the factories are located. Another 15 percent live in forty-eight small towns, and the remaining 45 percent live in over one thousand rural settlements. Sugar estates are located in low-lying areas, generally along the coast. Bauxite mining and alumina processing are concentrated in the center of the island. The tourist industry is situated largely along the north coast, from Negril in the west to Port Antonio in the east. Small farms are dispersed throughout the rugged interior.


Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The gross domestic product was U.S. $1,400 per capita in 1991, up from $960 in 1987. The economy grew rapidly in the 1960s, declined steadily from 1973 to 1980, and recovered slowly in the 1980s. Sugar was the main industry until the slaves were emancipated, whereupon a peasantry and a dual economy came into being. Small farmers produce a variety of crops, such as yams and sweet potatoes, for local consumption. Bananas replaced sugar as the main export at the beginning of the twentieth century, but the peak production level attained in 1937 has never been surpassed. The primary cash crop today is marijuana (ganja), which is largely exported to the United States and had an estimated value of U.S. $3.5 billion in 1984. Marijuana cultivation is illegal (as is its use), but the economy is very dependent on it. The most valuable sector of the formal economy is bauxite mining and alumina processing. Light manufacturing grew rapidly in the 1960s, and in 1984 there were 1,202 small factories (768 of them in the Kingston metropolitan area). The number of tourists fell sharply in the 1970s but rebounded in the 1980s; the island had over a million visitors in 1987. There was a marked decline in the number of tourists and in the rate of economic growth in 1991, as a result of the recession in the United States.

Industrial Arts. Owing to its long history of plantation monoculture, the island has developed few industrial crafts, with the notable exception of basket making. Industrialization has been hampered by a shortage of skilled workers, due in part to emigration.

Trade. There are many small shops in the countryside and a few large grocery and department stores in urban areas. Agricultural products are distributed largely through a system created by slaves; about 20,000 higgler women buy produce from small farmers and sell it at some ninety marketplaces. The economy has always been export oriented and dependent on a few basic commodities. Guided by the philosophy of Mercantilism, the British developed the island for sugar production and as a market for their industrial exports. Jamaica was an important part of the infamous "triangular trade," which brought firearms and manufactured goods from Europe to Africa, slaves from Africa to the Caribbean, and sugar from the Caribbean to Europe. England was Jamaica's main trading partner until the development of the bauxite industry in the 1950s, when the focus of trade shifted to the United States.

Division of Labor. In 1989, 22.5 percent of the labor force was employed in agriculture, 41 percent in the service sector, and 19 percent in industry. The unemployment rate was high, at 17.5 percent, and highest among 20to 24year-olds. The proportion of women in the labor force is about 46 percent, one of the highest in the world; women work mainly in the service sector, as higglers, domestics, teachers, and office workers.

Land Tenure. Slave plantations were generally located in flat and fertile areas, such as valleys and the coastal plains. The hilly and less fertile interior was sparsely inhabited until Emancipation; seeking land as a symbol of freedom, former slaves settled there and became peasant farmers. These historical patterns still prevail to some extent. There are about 1,000 farms of over 40 hectares and 151,000 of under 2 hectares. Large farms occupy the best land and produce a single crop, principally for export. Small farms are generally located in hilly areas and produce a variety of crops, mostly for the domestic market. Ownership of land is greatly preferred to renting; some land is held in common by kindreds. All heirs to this "family land" have an equal right to live on and use a portion of it but cannot alienate it. Family land is an important symbol of security and family unity; it usually has little or no agricultural value, but kin are often buried on it.


Kin Groups and Descent. There are no corporate kin groups, but kindreds are very important. Jamaicans maintain strong ties with consanguines that include regular exchanges of gifts such as produce. Descent is bilateral, although matrilateral ties are often stronger than patrilateral ones.

Kinship Terminology. Jamaicans have an Eskimo system, using basically the same kin terms as the English and the Americans, but they emphasize consanguines and often ignore affinal or conjugal relationships.

Marriage and Family

Marriage. Legal marriage, monogamy, and the nuclear family are cultural ideals more often attained by the middle and upper classes than by the lower classes. Sexual relations generally begins during early adolescence among the lower-class majority. Extraresidential or "visiting" relationships are usually followed by several coresidential and neolocal "common-law" or consensual unions. Legal marriage occurs relatively late, after the birth of several children and the attainment of some degree of economic security. Marriage is monogamous; divorce is rare but extramarital relationships are common.

Domestic Unit. The composition of Jamaican households varies greatly. Matrifocal units are common, particularly in urban areas. Nuclear families are the norm among the middle and upper classes. Lower-class households often include children of previous relationships, children of poorer relatives, informally adopted children, and children of daughters who have migrated to urban areas or abroad.

Inheritance. Children generally receive equal shares of their parents' property, which, in the case of land, may be held in common.

Socialization. Men are affectionate toward children but are not usually involved in child care. Child rearing is the mother's responsibility, but it is often delegated to an older sister or, increasingly, to the maternal grandmother. Respect and obedience are very important to parents, who threaten or physically punish children when they are "rude." Girls and, to a lesser extent, boys are given many household chores. The emotional bond between a mother and her children, particularly her sons, is very strong and enduring.

Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Slave society was stratified into three castes: a small number of Whites, a smaller number of "free people of color" (generally mulattoes), and a huge Black slave population. White-minority rule led to the development of a "white bias": European phenotypic and cultural traits were more highly valued than their African or Creole counterparts. With Emancipation, the castes were transformed into classes, but the White bias persisted, resulting in a "color-class pyramid": a White upper class, a "Brown" middle class, and a Black lower-class majority. The addition of Chinese, East Indian, and Lebanese immigrants, who did not have a clear place in the color-class pyramid, made stratification more complex. Color and ethnicity still influence social interactions, but the White bias and the color-class pyramid have become less evident since the mid-twentieth century. Nevertheless, Jamaica is still highly stratified by wealth; it has a very small, prosperous upper class, a small middle class, and a huge, impoverished lower class. In the mid-1960s Jamaica had the highest rate of income inequality in the world.

Political Organization. Jamaica was ruled by a governor appointed by the Crown and an elected House of Assembly until the peasant uprising at Morant Bay in 1865. This event ignited fear among the White oligarchy that democracy would lead to Black rule; so the British abolished the assembly in 1866 and imposed a Crown Colony government, run by the governor and an imperial bureaucracy. Democracy was not restored until 1944, when an elected House of Representatives was created by a new constitution, and full internal self-government was granted in 1957. Jamaica joined the short-lived Federation of the West Indies in 1959 but left it in 1961; the following year Jamaica became an independent nation in the British Commonwealth. The present system of government is a constitutional monarchy with two houses of Parliament. The ceremonial head of state is the governor-general, who is appointed by and represents the British monarch. The sixty members of the House of Representatives are elected for a term of five yearsor less, if an early election is called. The leader of the majority party in the House becomes prime minister and selects a cabinet. The twenty-one members of the Senate are appointed by the governor-general on the advice of the prime minister and the leader of the opposition. The two major political parties are the People's National Party (PNP) and the Jamaican Labour Party (JLP). The National Workers Union (NWU) is affiliated with the PNP, and the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) is affiliated with the JLP, giving each party a solid core of supporters. Jamaicans are fervently partisan and strongly identify with political leaders, but the political system is remarkably stable. Party support is not clearly related to racial, ethnic, class, or regional divisions; both the PNP and the JLP have governed at various times since the 1940s. Michael Manley, the leader of the PNP, succeeded Edward Seaga, the leader of the JLP, as prime minister after the 1989 elections. Percival J. Patterson became prime minister on 30 March 1992, and his PNP won a 52-to-8 majority in the lower house of Parliament in the March 1993 election. The PNP and the JLP agree that a president should replace the British Crown as constitutional head of state but disagree as to the precise role and scope of the presidency.

Social Control. Ostracism, gossip, derision, and sorcery are the main sanctions in rural communities, where crime (with the exception of theft of crops) is relatively infrequent. In urban areas, however, crime has become a very serious problem. A rapidly escalating rate of violent attacks with firearms led to the passage, in 1974, of legislation providing severe penalties for gun offenders and creating a special Gun Court. The main function of the army (the Jamaica Defense Force) has been to augment the police (the Jamaica Constabulary Force), particularly in efforts to control unrest and suppress the drug trade.

Conflict. Jamaica has a history of organized violence, including many slave revolts, some peasant uprisings, and labor and urban unrest. Individual acts of violence were at one time relatively uncommon; the recent increase in urban violence can largely be attributed to the gangs that protect ghetto neighborhoods and control the drug trade. During the 1970s, gangs also supported politicians and political parties. Over 700 people died in politically related violence during the election of 1980, but there were few fatalities in the 1989 election. The 1993 election was also marred by violence.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Jamaica is a profoundly religious society, with a wide range of cults, sects, denominations, and movements. The religion of the slaves was based on African beliefs and practices, such as ceremonial spirit possession, spiritual healing, sorcery, and drumming and dance as forms of worship. An ancestor cult called Kumina and belief in obeah (sorcery) are living survivals of the African heritage. Missionization of slaves by Moravians, Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians began in 1754 and stimulated the development of syncretic, Afro-Christian cults, among them Zion Revival and Pocomania, or Pukkumina, which still exist. The Rastafarian movement, which reveres Haile Selassie as a messiah and regards marijuana as a sacrament, first appeared in 1933 but did not become widespread until the 1960s. American Pentecostalism has grown rapidly since World War II and is perhaps the most popular religion today. "Science," or "De Laurence," a form of magic based on a mail-order catalog from Chicago, developed during the same period. Jamaicans believe strongly in supernatural influence. Zion Revival incorporates such African notions as a supreme but distant creator who is generally uninvolved in human affairs and a polytheistic pantheon of angels who guide and protect people. Obeah is based on the belief that obeah men capture and use ghosts ("duppies") for malicious ends. Pentecostals seek the inspiration and power of the Holy Ghost, which protects them from Satan and demons. "Fallen angels" are said to be in league with De Laurence. Rastafarians worship Jah, a god who is within them.

Religious Practitioners. Ministers of Christian churches are highly respected and influential. The leaders of Zion Revival cults are known as "daddies," "captains," or "mothers," and their authority is based on the "spiritual gifts" of possession, prophecy, healing, dream interpretation, and the like. Obeah men and "scientists" or "professors" are nearly always men, but many if not most traditional healers are women.

Ceremonies. Zion Revival cults perform a circular, hyperventilative dance called "shouting" or "laboring" at feast ceremonies called "Tables," which resemble the "Altar" ceremonies of Pocomania cults. A meeting of Rastafarians is called a grounation or nyabinghi.

Arts. Music and dance are very popular. Jonkonnu (or John Canoe) is a secular festival that began in the early 1700s, when masked and costumed dancers paraded in the streets during the Christmas season and gave performances at the houses of prominent citizens. Today, however, it is performed mainly on special occasions, such as the annual national Festival. Jamaica is the home of reggae music and its foremost exponent, the late Bob Marley. Jamaican contributions to literature, dance, drama, painting, and sculpture have won international recognition.

Medicine. Jamaican folk medicine is largely derived from African traditional medicine. Zion Revivalists operate healing centers called "balm yards" and often attribute illnesses to duppies and obeah. Balm practitioners are shamanic in that they use spiritual means to diagnose and treat illnesses, but they also use herbs ("bush"), candles, prayers, and tonics. Healing by the laying on of hands is very common in Pentecostal churches.

Death and Afterlife. Funerals are important events in Jamaica, and ghosts of the deceased are widely feared. The slaves believed in a good soul that went to Africa after death and a bad one that lingered as a duppy, particularly around cotton trees. A festive wake was held to pacify the deceased and render the ghost harmless, and this "set-up" or "Nine-Night" is still practiced in rural areas.

See also Rastafarians


Hurwitz, Samuel J., and Edith F. Hurwitz (1971). Jamaica: A Historical Portrait. New York: Praeger.

Kaplan, Irving, et al. (1976). Area Handbook for Jamaica. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Kuper, Adam (1976). Changing Jamaica. Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul.


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POPULATION: 2.5 million

LANGUAGE: English; Patois (Creole dialect with West African, Spanish, and French elements)

RELIGION: Christianity (Anglicanism, Protestantism, and Roman Catholicism); Rastafarianism


The official motto of Jamaica is, "Out of Many People, One People." The motto expresses the fact that Jamaicans include people of African, European, Arabic (Lebanese descendants known as "Syrians"), Chinese, and East Indian descent. If Jamaicans had a second motto, it would be "No problem, Mon." Phrases like this and "No pressure, no problem" reflect the carefree, happy-go-lucky spirit of the Jamaican people.

When Christopher Columbus arrived in Jamaica in 1494 it was inhabited by peaceful Arawak Indians. Under Spanish occupation in the 1500s, the Arawak Indian race died out and African slaves were brought in to work the sugarcane fields. The island remained under Spanish rule until 1655, when it was captured by the British. During the struggle between the Spanish and the British, a number of runaway slaves, known as Maroons, took refuge in the area of the island known as the Cockpit Country. It is still the home of some of their decendants.

Abolition of slavery came in 1833. The decline of the plantations followed, and the former slaves became peasant farmers. After a short period of military rule, Jamaica was organized as a colony with a British-style constitution. On August 6, 1962, Jamaica became an independent member of the Commonwealth (a group of independent countries that were once part of the British Empire).

Following a brief period in the middle of the twentieth century when Jamaica experimented with socialism, the country is now a relatively stable parliamentary democracy. Percival J. Patterson was elected Prime Minister in 1993 in a landslide victory.


Jamaica's population of more than 2.5 million is equally divided between urban and rural dwellers. Jamaicans are mostly descendants of Africans. There are also East Indians, Chinese, Europeans, and Arabs.

Located some 90 miles south of Cuba and more than 450 miles west of Hispaniola, Jamaica is the third-largest island in the Caribbean Sea. Since 1870 the capital has been Kingston, now with a population of more than 645,000. It has one of the largest and best natural harbors in the world. The climate is tropical and tourists flock to Jamaica for its beautiful beaches. Jamaica has been called the Island of Springs, and the luxuriance of the vegetation is striking. The island is susceptible to hurricanes. It suffered serious damage during Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 when nearly 25 percent of the population was left homeless and property damage was more than $300 million.

Another popular tourist attraction are the island's more than 800 caves, many of which were homes for early inhabitants.


Jamaicans speak English, but with a distinct flavor. Elements of Elizabethan English can be heard on the island. A jug, for example, is referred to as a "goblet." Also, the "th" sound is substituted with a "d," so that the word "that" becomes "dat," for example.

Although the official language is English, most Jamaicans who live in the rural areas speak a Creole dialect. Patois, as it is called, is influenced mostly by West African languages. It also contains elements of Spanish and French. Perhaps the most famous of the patois words is I-rie (fabulous), which comes from the language of a religious sect called the Rastafarians. Other words, such as putta-putta (mud) come from Africa.


Central to Jamaican folklore are the tales of Anansi (or Anancy) the Spider. The tales were brought to the island by the first slaves. They tell of the mythical Anansi, a spider that sometimes takes the form of a man and uses his wits to outsmart his foes. Anasi is still the subject of many bedtime stories.


Religion is an important part of life for Jamaicans. More than 80 percent are Christian. Most practice Anglicanism, Protestantism, and Roman Catholicism. The Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Bahai religions are also practiced, as is Rastafarianism.

Nearly one hundred thousand Jamaicans are Rastafarians. Rastafarians are members of a Jamaican messianic (based on the belief in a savior) movement that began in the 1930s. According to Rastafarian belief, the only true God is the late Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie (originally known as Ras Tafari) and Ethiopia is the true holy land. Rastafarians place great emphasis on spirituality and meditation and the individual. The singular being "I" and the plural being "I and I." They also use ganja (marijuana) in their religious rites. Rastafarians are known for wearing their hair in dreadlocks, wearing beards as a sign of a pact with God, and carrying Bibles. Rastafarianism is known outside of Jamaica mainly because its famous believer, the late reggae musician Bob Marley, was an international star.


Jamaicans celebrate their independence on August sixth. For several weeks beforehand, they stage a huge celebration called "Festival!" During this period artists of all types perform, many as part of competitions. School children also are involved in the festivities. This helps foster their sense of national pride and tradition.

Jonkanoo (John Canoe) is a dancing procession held around Christmastime. The origins of this celebration are not clear, but many believe its origins to be in East Africa. Celebrants wearing extravagant costumes dance to the music of drums and cane flutes.

Most other holidays and celebrations are religious ones and include Ash Wednesday (in February), Good Friday, Easter Monday (in March or April), and Christmas (December 25).


Christian sacraments and traditions define the rites of passage for most Jamaicans and are celebrated much the same way as they are in the United States.


Jamaicans tend to be casual, open, and friendly in their relationships. They have a great deal of national pride and are known for their sense of humor.


Living conditions vary greatly between rich and poor. Health care is generally considered good, and the average life expectancy is seventy-six years for women and seventy-two years for men. All Jamaicans are accustomed to dealing with interruptions of electricity, mail, water, and telephone services.


While women are often highly respected, men are seen as the heads of households. Great importance is placed on a man's virility and a woman's fertility. Men and women tend to marry or start living together at an early age. A couple that does not have children soon after marriage is considered unusual.


Everyday wear for Jamaicans is cool and comfortable. Rastafarians have made the colors of the Ethiopian flagred, green, and goldpopular in clothing. Churchgoers tend to dress very formally on Sundays.


Jamaicans eat foods that are rich in spices. Pimento, or allspice, is native to Jamaica and an important export crop. Other commonly used spices are ginger, nutmeg, and pepper. Cassava (yuca) is a tuber and is widely popular on the island. Bammy is a toasted bread-like wafer made from cassava. Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica. If not properly prepared, it can be poisonous. Ackee with saltfish is a popular Jamaican snack or breakfast dish.

"Jerking" is a method of spicing and slowly cooking meat to preserve the juices and produce a unique, spicy flavor. The meat is first marinated in a very spicy mixture and then cooked over an outdoor pit lined with pimento wood.

Many fruits like mangoes, pineapple, papayas, and bananas are eaten fresh or combined in desserts.

For dinner, Jamaicans will typically eat peas and rice accompanied by either chicken or pork. Included in this section is a simple but spicy recipe.


About 98 percent of adult Jamaicans are literate (able to read and write). The law requires children to attend school from age seven to age fifteen. There is one university, the University of the West Indies, near Kingston. The Institute of Jamaica, also in Kingston, has a library and museum of Jamaican history, art, and natural history.


Jamaica's musical heritage includes Mento, which is a form of music and dance with roots in Africa. Also popular is Ska, a soft-style rhythm-and-blues beat. Reggae, however, is most often associated with Jamaica. Bob Marley was its most famous performer and he spread the music worldwide.


Curry Chicken


  • 1 to 3 pounds chicken
  • 2 Tablespoons curry powder
  • Juice from one lemon or 2 to 3 Tablespoons bottled lemon juice
  • 3 to 4 Tablespoons cooking oil
  • Dash each of onion powder, thyme, garlic powder, pepper, salt to taste
  • Cooked white rice, with peas added if desired.


  1. Cut chicken into small pieces, and let sit in lemon juice for at least one hour.
  2. Remove chicken and season it with the spices and seasonings. Let rest for several minutes.
  3. Heat cooking oil in a skillet. Add chicken and cook until done (about 10 minutes per side).

Serve over white rice (or rice and peas, if preferred).

In 1964, Marley formed his group, the Wailers. Their first hit was "Simmer Down." Three years later, Marley converted to the Rastafarian religion. Rastafarian themes dominated his work. His first international hit was "Stir It Up." In 1973 Bob Marley and the Wailers had their American debut album, Catch a Fire. Marley died of cancer in 1981 at the age of thirty-six. He was awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit. His work influenced countless reggae and pop artists all over the world.

Dance-hall music, also known as DJ music, is an offshoot of reggae and is very popular, as is So-Ca, a combination of soul and calypso.

Paintings and sculptures are abundant in Jamaica. One of the most famous painters is John Dunkley. Edna Manley is renowned for her sculptures. Also renowned for sculpting is Mallica "Kapo" Reynolds, whose work is on display at the National Gallery in Kingston. In literature, Jamaican-born poet, critic, and educator Louis Aston Marantz Simpson won the 1964 Pulitzer Prize for poetry for his At the End of the Open Road.


Approximately 25 percent of Jamaicans work in agriculture. Sugar, tropical fruits, coffee, cacao, and spices are grown for export. Another 25 percent of workers are in finance, real estate, and services. Manufacture and trade each account for a little more than 10 percent. The rest (roughly 30 percent) work in public administration and defense.

Jamaica has recently developed a profitable mining industry. It is among the world's leading producers of bauxite and alumina, which are exported to Canada, Norway, and the United States.

Some Jamaicans make a living as "higglers." These are people who buy inexpensive goods overseas and then sell them for a substantial profit on the sidewalks of Jamaica.


By far, the most popular sport in Jamaica is cricket. Vaguely resembling baseball, the game of cricket dates back to sixteenth century England. A match can go on for days. George Headley was a legendary Jamaican cricket player of the 1930s. Children and adults alike play and watch the sport throughout the island.

Jamaicans have also excelled in track and field, boxing, and basketball. Jamaicans also enjoy all types of water sports.


While Jamaicans are knows for their casual, laid-back attitude, they are passionate about enjoying life. They are not ones to sit and watch television. There are only two television stations on the island. Entertainment and recreation involve listening to live musicusually reggae, getting together with friends, playing sports, or enjoying a day of food and fun at the beach.


Along the tourist areas, Jamaican artisans display their crafts, which include bankras (baskets) and yabbas (clay bowls).


Jamaicans have had their share of racial tensions and class struggles that have disrupted an otherwise unified, peaceful existence. Considered sacred by some, ganja (marijuana) is illegal. The government's actions against its cultivation and use, however, are often seen as superficial.


Bryan, Patrick E. The Jamaican People, 1880 1902: Race, Class and Social Control. London: Macmillan Caribbean, 1991.

Hurwitz, Samuel J. and Edith F. Jamaica: A Historical Portrait. New York: Praeger, 1971.

Jamaica in Pictures. Minneapolis, Minn.: Lerner Publications Co., 1987.

Jekyl, Walter. Jamaica Song and Story. New York: Dover, 1966.

Senior, Olive. AZ of Jamaican Heritage. Kingston: Heineman Educational Books, 1983.


Embassy of Jamaica, Washington, D.C. [Online] Available, 1998.

Interknowledge Corporation, Tourism. [Online] Available, 1998.

World Travel Guide, Jamaica. [Online] Available, 1998.

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Jamaica (jəmā´kə), independent state within the Commonwealth (2005 est. pop. 2,732,000), 4,232 sq mi (10,962 sq km), coextensive with the island of Jamaica, West Indies, S of Cuba and W of Haiti. Jamaica is the largest island in the Caribbean after Cuba and Hispaniola. The capital and largest city is Kingston.

Land and People

Although largely a limestone plateau more than 3,000 ft (914 m) above sea level, Jamaica has a mountainous backbone that extends across the island from the west and rises to the Blue Mts. in the east; Blue Mt. (7,402 ft/2,256 m) is the highest point. Rainfall is heavy in this region (where there are extensive timber reserves) but diminishes westward across the plateau, which is a rugged area deeply dissected by streams and underlain by subterranean rivers. The heart of the plateau, known as the Cockpits, is used mostly for livestock grazing. A narrow plain along the northern coast and several larger plains near the south shore are Jamaica's major agricultural zones. The north coast also has fine beaches and is the focus of the tourist industry. The Rio Grande and the Black River are the country's chief waterways, but neither is navigable for long distances. The coastal bands widened by broad river valleys, as well as the mountain slopes, support the bulk of Jamaica's export crops.

In addition to Kingston, important cities are Spanish Town and Montego Bay. Slightly more than one half of the population is urban, and migration to the cities continues; the greatest urban concentration is around Kingston. People of African descent predominate in Jamaica. The small upper class is largely of European descent. Afro-Europeans and such Middle Eastern and Asian groups as Lebanese, Syrians, Chinese, and Indians, make up the rest of the population. Although English is the official language, most Jamaicans also speak a creole English. The chief religion is Protestantism, although there is considerable religious variety (including Roman Catholic and spiritualist minorities) on the island.


Jamaica's most important export crop is sugarcane, from which rum and molasses are also made. The nation's other agricultural exports include the famed Blue Mt. coffee, bananas, citrus fruits, and yams. Most of these crops are grown on large plantations. Small farms also produce ginger, cocoa, pimento, ackee, chickens, and goats. Mining is a major source of wealth; since large, easily accessible deposits of bauxite were discovered in 1942, Jamaica has become one of the world's leading suppliers of this ore. Along with the alumina made from it, bauxite accounts for almost half of Jamaica's foreign exchange.

Tourism, centered on the north coast, is the biggest earner of exchange. Among Jamaica's internationally known resort areas are Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, and Negril. Clothing constitutes the chief export item of the manufacturing sector. Jamaica's other industries (mainly concentrated in the Kingston area) include oil refining, sugar and tobacco processing, flour milling, and the production of rum, metal, paper, chemicals, and telecommunications equipment. Since the late 1960s industry has generated a greater share of the national income than agriculture. Remittances from Jamaicans working abroad are also a major source of income. The United States and Canada, Jamaica's top trading partners, also provide much-needed capital for economic development.


Jamaica is a parliamentary democracy governed under the constitution of 1962. It has a bicameral Parliament made up of a 21-member Senate and a 60-member House of Representatives. The prime minister is the head of government. The head of state is the British monarch, as represented by the governor-general. The country has two main political parties: the Jamaica Labor party (JLP) generally favors private enterprise, while the People's National party (PNP) advocates a moderate socialism. Administratively, the country is divided into 14 parishes.


History to Independence

Sighted by Christopher Columbus in 1494, Jamaica was conquered and settled in 1509 by Spaniards under a license from Columbus's son. Spanish exploitation decimated the native Arawaks. The island remained Spanish until 1655, when Admiral William Penn and Robert Venables captured it; it was formally ceded to England in 1670, but the local European population obtained a degree of autonomy. Jamaica prospered from the wealth brought by buccaneers, notably Sir Henry Morgan, to Port Royal, the capital; in 1692, however, much of the city sank into the sea during an earthquake, and Spanish Town became the new capital.

A huge, mostly African, slave population grew up around the sugarcane plantations in the 18th cent., when Jamaica was a leading world sugar producer. Freed and escaped slaves, sometimes aided by the maroons (slaves who had escaped to remote areas after Spain lost control of Jamaica), succeeded in organizing frequent uprisings against the European landowners. The sugar industry declined in the 19th cent., partly because of the abolition of slavery in 1833 (effective 1838) and partly because of the elimination in 1846 of the imperial preference tariff for colonial products entering the British market. Economic hardship was the prime motive behind the Morant Bay rebellion by freedmen in 1865. The British ruthlessly quelled the uprising and also forced the frightened legislature to surrender its powers; Jamaica became a crown colony.

Poverty and economic decline led many blacks to seek temporary work in neighboring Caribbean areas and in the United States; many left the island permanently, emigrating to England, Canada, and the United States. Indians were imported to meet the labor shortage on the plantations after the slaves were freed, and agriculture was diversified to lessen dependence on sugar exports. A new constitution in 1884 marked the initial revival of local autonomy for Jamaica.

Despite labor and other reforms, black riots recurred, notably those of 1938, which were caused mainly by unemployment and resentment against British racial policies. Jamaican blacks had been considerably influenced by the theories of black nationalism promulgated by the American expatriate Marcus Garvey. A royal commission investigating the 1938 riots recommended an increase of economic development funds and a faster restoration of representative government for Jamaica. In 1944 universal adult suffrage was introduced, and a new constitution provided for a popularly elected house of representatives.

An Independent Nation

By 1958, Jamaica became a key member of the British-sponsored West Indies Federation. The fact that Jamaica received only one third of the representation in the federation, despite its having more than half the land area and population of the grouping, bred resentment; a campaign by the nationalist labor leader Sir Alexander Bustamante led to a 1961 decision, by popular referendum, to withdraw from the federation. The following year Jamaica became an independent member of the Commonwealth. Bustamante, leader of the JLP, became the first prime minister of independent Jamaica. The party continued in power under Donald B. Sangster after the 1967 elections; he died in office and was succeeded by Hugh Shearer.

In 1972 the PNP won an impressive victory, and Michael Manley became prime minister. Although the PNP administration worked effectively to promote civil liberties and reduce illiteracy, economic problems proved more difficult. In 1976 the PNP won decisively after a violent election contest between the two parties. The PNP continued to promote socialist policies, nationalizing businesses and strengthening ties to Cuba. Lack of foreign investment and aid continued to hurt the economy.

In 1980 the JLP returned to power, with the moderate Edward Seaga as prime minister. Seaga's administration favored privatization, distanced itself from Cuba, attracted foreign investment, stimulated tourism, and won substantial U.S. aid. However, two major hurricanes (1980, 1988) during Seaga's tenure set back prospects for substantial economic progress. In the 1989 elections the PNP ousted the JLP, and Manley returned as prime minister; he chose to continue the policy directions taken by Seaga. Manley was replaced by P. J. Patterson in 1992. The following year Patterson and the PNP were returned to office in a landslide. Patterson led his PNP government to a third term in 1997 and a fourth term in 2002, although the PNP majority was reduced in 2002.

Patterson retired as prime minister in 2006 and was succeeded by the PNP's Portia Simpson-Miller, who became the first woman to hold the office. In the Sept., 2007, parliamentary elections, the PNP narrowly lost to the JLP, now led by Bruce Golding, who became prime minister. An attempt in May, 2010, to arrest Christopher "Dudus" Coke, an alleged drug gang leader wanted by the United States, led to a week of fighting in Kingston between security forces and gang members in which scores died; he was finally arrested and extradited in June. Criticism of Golding's handling of the arrest and extradition led the prime minister to step down in Oct., 2011; Andrew Holness succeeded him as JLP leader and prime minister. A snap election called in hopes of winning support for Holness led (Dec., 2011) to a PNP victory, and returned Simpson-Miller to the prime minister's office in Jan., 2012.


See E. Brathwaite, The Development of Creole Society in Jamaica, 1770–1820 (1971); F. Cundall, Historic Jamaica (1915, repr. 1971); R. M. Nettleford, Identity, Race and Protest in Jamaica (1972); I. Kaplan et al., Area Handbook for Jamaica (1976); E. H. Stephens, Democratic Socialism in Jamaica (1986); R. E. Looney, The Jamaican Economy in the 1980s: Economic Decline and Structural Adjustment (1987).

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Official name: Jamaica

Area: 10,990 square kilometers (6,829 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Blue Mountain Peak (2,256 meters/7,402 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Western

Time zone: 7 a.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 82 kilometers (51 miles) from east to west; 235 kilometers (146 miles) from north to south

Land boundaries: None

Coastline: 1,022 kilometers (635 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


Jamaica is an island nation situated within the Greater Antilles in the Caribbean Sea. A member of the British Commonwealth, it is located 145 kilometers (90 miles) south of Cuba and 161 kilometers (100 miles) west of Haiti. With an area of 10,990 square kilometers (6,829 square miles), it is the third-largest island in the Caribbean, and it is slightly smaller than the state of Connecticut.


Jamaica's offshore territories are the Morant Cays, about 60 kilometers (40 miles) southeast of Morant h2int, and the more extensive Pedro Cays, about 96 kilometers (60 miles) south of the southwestern coast.


Jamaica has a tropical climate moderated by northeast trade winds. There is little seasonal variation. The average annual temperature varies from 27°C (81°F) on the coast to 13°C (55°F) in the Blue Mountains. Rainfall ranges from as little as 75 centimeters (30 inches) in some places on the south coast, to 330 centimeters (130 inches) in Port Antonio in the northeast, to 500 centimeters (200 inches) or more in the Blue Mountains.


Coastal plains and valleys fringe an interior plateau that covers most of the island, extending from east to west along its length. The uneven surface of the plateau is broken by twisting valleys, limestone hills, broad basins, and two mountain ranges.


The Caribbean Sea plunges to great depths not far from the Jamaican shoreline. The Bartlett Trough, which lies between Jamaica and Cuba, reaches a depth of 7,010 meters (23,000 feet).

Seacoast and Undersea Features

There are extensive coral reefs near the southeast coast.

Sea Inlets and Straits

The Jamaica Channel separates Jamaica from Haiti to the east. The Portland Bight, or bay, is located on the south coast.

Islands and Archipelagos

There are cays (small coral and sand islands) in the Portland Bight, and a few scattered coral formations elsewhere as well.

Coastal Features

The shoreline is indented by numerous harbors, of which the harbor at Kingston is the largest. On its southern flank, the Palisadoes Peninsula, an eight-mile-long sand spit, connects several coral islands. The northern coastal plain is known for its white-sand beaches.


Jamaica has no inland lakes.


Jamaica's major rivers include the Yallahs in the southeast, the Rio Grande in the south-central part of the island, and, in the west, the Black RiverJamaica's longest river and the only one that is navigable for a significant distance (40 kilometers/25 miles). Jamaica's numerous inland springs have led some to call it the Isle of Springs.


There are no deserts on Jamaica.


Jamaica has several radioactive hot springs. Onethe Milk River Bathis said to have the highest level of radioactivity in the world.


The narrow northern coastal plain extends almost continuously from east to west. The southern coastal plain is discontinuous but much more extensive. The city of Kingston lies on the broad Liguanea Plain in the southeast. The Westmoreland Plain occupies much of the western extremity of the island.

There are partially drained swamps along the lower course of the Black River and in the vicinity of Morant Point and South Negril Point.


The Blue Mountains extend over the eastern part of the island. Jamaica's main mountain system contains two ranges. The northerly one includes Blue Mountain Peak, which rises to 2,256 meters (7,402 feet), the country's highest elevation. The second range, known as the Port Royal Mountains, extends south-eastward from the principal range, reaching elevations of up to about 1,219 meters (4,000 feet). The John Crow Mountains rise in the extreme northeast of the island, between the Rio Grande and the sea. Vestiges of volcanic activity occur in Jamaica in the form of lava cones and hot springs.


The karst landscape of the central plateau has sinkholes, underground caverns and streams, steep hills, and caves. It is most distinctive in the Cockpit Country, an area of about 518 square kilometers (200 square miles) located largely in the western parish of Trelawney.


Elevations on Jamaica's central plateau range from near sea level to about 914 meters (3,000 feet). Along much of the coastline, especially in the north, the plateau extends almost to the tidewater, and in places it rises in steep coastal cliffs that reach as high as 609 meters (2,000 feet). Much of the plateau is composed of the irregular limestone terrain known as karst.


There are no significant man-made features affecting the geography of Jamaica.



Baker, Christopher P. Jamaica. 2nd ed. Oakland, CA: Lonely Planet, 2000.

Hurston, Zora Neale. Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica. San Bernardino, CA: Borgo Press, 1992.

Wilson, Annie. Essential Jamaica. Lincolnwood, IL: Passport Books, 1996.

Web Sites

Discover Jamaica. (accessed April 24, 2003).

Statistical Institute of Jamaica. (accessed April 24, 2003).

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Jamaica Independent Caribbean nation, 145km (90mi) s of Cuba; the capital is Kingston. The third-largest island in the Caribbean, Jamaica has many fine beaches and a tropical maritime climate. In e Jamaica, the Blue Mountains rise to 2255m (7402ft). In 1494 Christopher Columbus discovered Jamaica, and it remained a Spanish possession until captured by the British in 1655. Its sugar plantations brought prosperity, but the economy declined after the abolition of slavery in 1834. In 1944 Jamaica gained self-government within the Commonwealth, and in 1958 joined the Federation of the West Indies. In 1962, after the collapse of the Federation, William A. Bustamante of the Jamaican Labour Party (JLP) negotiated full independence. In 1973 Michael Manley of the People's National Party (PNP) took Jamaica into Caricom. In 1997, Percival J. Patterson of the PNP secured a third term as prime minister. In 2001, Jamaica witnessed more than 1100 murders. Crops are sugar cane and bananas. Industries: light engineering, construction, mining. It is the world's third largest producer of bauxite. Tourism is important. Area: 10,962sq km (4232sq mi). Pop. (2000) 2,735,000.

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Jamaica, immediately to the south of Cuba, is the third largest of the Caribbean islands. It was sighted by Columbus in 1494 but the name is of Amerindian origin. Becoming independent in 1962, it is a constitutional monarchy with the queen as head of state, and a member of the Commonwealth. Under Spanish occupation, the Arawak population was decimated. During Cromwell's regime, it was seized by the English under William Penn in 1655. In the 18th cent. the sugar plantations were extremely lucrative and the Beckfords were only one of many families which owed their fortunes to Jamaican slave labour. Coffee and bananas were introduced as alternative crops. A serious rising in 1865 led to the recall of Governor Eyre and a vigorous debate on colonial policy. The modern progress of Jamaica's economy has been much retarded by periodic hurricanes.

J. A. Cannon

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Culture Name



Identification. In 1494, Columbus named the island Santiago. The Spanish wrote the name used by the native Taino, "Yamaye," as "Xaymaca." The Taino word is purported to mean "many springs." The abbreviated name, "Ja" and the Rastafarian term "Jamdung" (Jamdown) are used by some residents, along with "Yaahd" (Yard), used mainly by Jamaicans abroad, in reference to the deterritorialization of the national culture.

Location and Geography. Jamaica, one of the Greater Antilles, is situated south of Cuba. Divided into fourteen parishes, it is 4,244 square miles (10,990 square kilometers) in area. In 1872, Kingston, with a quarter of the population, became the capital.

Demography. The population in 1998 was 2.75 million. Fifty-three percent of the population resides in urban areas. The population is 90 percent black, 1 percent East Indian, and 7 percent mixed, with a few whites and Chinese. The black demographic category includes the descendants of African slaves, postslavery indentured laborers, and people of mixed ancestry. The East Indians and Chinese arrived as indentured laborers.

Linguistic Affiliation. The official language is English, reflecting the British colonial heritage, but even in official contexts a number of creole dialects that reflect class, place, and social context are spoken.

Symbolism. The national motto, which was adopted after independence from Great Britain in 1962, is "Out of many, one people." In the national flag, the two black triangles represent historical struggles and hardship, green triangles represent agricultural wealth and hope, and yellow cross-stripes represent sunshine and mineral resources.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Jamaica was a Spanish colony from 1494 to 1655 and a British colony from 1655 to 1962. The colonial period was marked by conflict between white absentee owners and local managers and merchants and African slave laborers. After independence, there was conflict between plantation and industrial economic interests and those of small, peasant cultivators and landless laborers. In the 1920s, rural, landless unemployed persons moved into the Kingston-Saint Andrew area in search of work. The new urban poor, in contrast to the white and brown-skinned political, merchant, and professional upper classes threw in sharp relief the status of the island as a plural society. In 1944, with the granting of a new constitution, Jamaicans gained universal suffrage. The struggle for sovereignty culminated with the gaining of independence on 6 August 1962.

National Identity. Class, color, and ethnicity are factors in the national identity. Jamaican Creole, or Jamaica Talk, is a multiethnic, multiclass indigenous creation and serves as a symbol of defiance of European cultural authority. Identity also is defined by a religious tradition in which there is minimal separation between the sacred and the secular, manipulable spiritual forces (as in obeah ), and ritual dance and drumming; an equalitarian spirit; an emphasis on self-reliance; and a drive to succeed economically that has perpetuated Eurocentric cultural ideals.

Ethnic Relations. The indigenous Taino natives of the region, also referred to as Arawaks, have left evidence of material and ideational cultural influence. Jews came as indentured servants to help establish the sugar industry and gradually became part of the merchant class. East Indians and Chinese were recruited between the 1850s and the 1880s to fill the labor gap left by ex-slaves and to keep plantation wages low. As soon as the Chinese finished their indentured contracts, they established small businesses. East Indians have been moving gradually from agricultural labor into mercantile and professional activities.

The major ethnic division is that between whites and blacks. The achievement of black majority rule has led to an emphasis on class relations, shades of skin color, and cultural prejudices, rather than on racial divisions. Jamaica has never experienced entrenched ethnic conflict between blacks and Indians or Chinese.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Settlement patterns were initiated by plantation activities. Lowland plantations, complemented by urban trade and administrative centers, ports, and domestic markets, were the hub of activity. As the plantations declined and as the population grew, urban centers grew faster than did job opportunities, leading to an expanding slum population and the growth of urban trading and other forms of "informal" economic activities.

Architecture reflects a synthesis of African, Spanish, and baroque British influences. Traces of pre-Columbian can be seen in the use of palm fronds thatch and mud walls (daub). Styles, materials, size, and furnishings differ more by class than by ethnicity. Since much of Caribbean life takes place outdoors, this has influenced the design and size of buildings, particularly among the rural poor. The Spanish style is reflected in the use of balconies, wrought iron, plaster and brick facades, arched windows and doors, and high ceilings. British influence, with wooden jalousies, wide porches, and patterned railings and fretwork, dominated urban architecture in the colonial period. Plantation houses were built with stone and wood, and town houses typically were built with wood, often on a stone or cement foundation. The kitchen, washroom, and "servant" quarters were located separately or at the back of the main building. The traditional black peasant dwelling is a two-room rectangular structure with a pitched thatched roof and walls of braided twigs covered with whitewashed mud or crude wooden planks. These dwellings are starting to disappear, as they are being replaced by more modern dwellings with cinder block walls and a corrugated metal roof.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. A "country" morning meal, called "drinking tea," includes boiled bananas or roasted breadfruit, sauteed callaloo with "saal fish" (salted cod), and "bush" (herbal) or "chaklit" (chocolate) tea. Afro-Jamaicans eat a midafternoon lunch as the main meal of the day. This is followed by a light meal of bread, fried plantains, or fried dumplings and a hot drink early in the evening. A more rigid work schedule has forced changes, and now the main meal is taken in the evening. This meal may consist of stewed or roasted beef, boiled yam or plantains, rice and peas, or rice with escoviched or fried fish.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Rice is a ubiquitous ceremonial food. Along with "ground provisions" such as sweet potato, yam, and green plantains, it is used in African and East Indian ceremonies. It also is served with curried goat meat as the main food at parties, dances, weddings, and funerals. Sacrificially slaughtered animals and birds are eaten in a ritual context. Several African-religious sects use goats for sacrifice, and in Kumina, an Afro-religious practice, goat blood is mixed with rum and drunk.

Basic Economy. Since the 1960s, the economy, which previously had been based on large-scale agricultural exportation, has seen considerable diversification. Mining, manufacturing, and services are now major economic sectors.

Land Tenure and Property. Land tenure can be classified into legal, extralegal, and cultural-institutional. The legal forms consist of freehold tenure, leasehold and quitrent, and grants. The main extralegal means of tenure is squatting. The cultural-institutional form of tenure is traditionally known as "family land," in which family members share use rights in the land.

Commercial Activities. The economy is based primarily on manufacturing and services. In the service economy, tourism is the largest contributor of foreign exchange. The peasantry plays a significant role in the national economy by producing root crops and fruits and vegetables.

Trade. The main international trading partners are the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the Caribbean Economic Community. The major imports are consumer goods, construction hardware, electrical and telecommunication equipment, food, fuel, machinery, and transportation equipment. The major exports are bauxite and alumina, apparel, sugar, bananas, coffee, citrus and citrus products, rum, cocoa, and labor.

Division of Labor. In the plantation economy, African slaves performed manual labor while whites owned the means of production and performed managerial tasks. As mulattos gained education and privileges, they began to occupy middle-level positions. This pattern is undergoing significant change, with increased socioeconomic integration, the reduction of the white population by emigration, and the opening of educational opportunities. Blacks now work in all types of jobs, including the highest political and professional positions; the Chinese work largely in retail and wholesale trades; and Indians are moving rapidly into professional and commercial activities. Women traditionally are associated with domestic, secretarial, clerical, teaching, and small-scale trading activities.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. The bulk of national wealth is owned by a small number of light-skinned or white families, with a significant portion controlled by individuals of Chinese and Middle Eastern heritage. Blacks are confined largely to small and medium-size retail enterprises. While race has played a defining role in social stratification, it has not assumed a caste-like form, and individuals are judged on a continuum of color and physical features.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Black skin is still associated with being "uncivilized," "ignorant," "lazy," and "untrustworthy." Lifestyle, language, cuisine, clothing, and residential patterns that reflect closeness to European culture have been ranked toward the top of the social hierarchy, and symbols depicting African-derived culture have been ranked at the bottom. African symbols are starting to move up in the ranks, however.

Political Life

Government. Jamaica, a member of the British Commonwealth, has a bicameral parliamentary legislative system. The executive branch consists of the British monarch, the governor general, the prime minister and deputy prime minister, and the cabinet. The legislative branch consists of the Senate and the sixty-member elected House of Representatives. The judicial branch consists of the supreme court and several layers of lower courts.

Leadership and Political Officials. The two major parties are the People's National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labor Party (JLP). Organized pressure groups include trade unions, the Rastafarians, and civic organizations.

Social Problems and Control. The failure of the socialist experiment in the 1970s and the emphasis on exports have created a burgeoning mass of urban poor (scufflers) who earn a meager living in the informal, largely small-scale trading sector and engage in extralegal means of survival. Also, globalization has led to the growth of the international drug trade. The most serious problem is violent crime, with a high murder rate. Governmental mechanisms for dealing with crime-related social problems fall under the Ministry of National Security and are administered through the Criminal Justice System.

Military Activity. The military consists of the Jamaica Defense Force (which includes the Ground Forces, the Coast Guard, and the Air Wing) and the Jamaica Constabulary Force. Both branches include males and females. The military is deployed mainly for national defense and security purposes but occasionally aids in international crises.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

The social development system combines local governmental programs and policies, international governmental support, and local and international nongovernmental organization (NGO) participation. It is administered largely by the Ministry of Youth and Community Development. The social security and welfare system includes the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) and public assistance programs. NIS benefits include employment benefits; old age benefits; widow and widower, orphan, and special child benefits; and funeral grants.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Over 150 NGOs are active in areas such as environmental protection, the export-import trade, socioeconomic development, and education.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Men are predominant in leadership positions in government, the professions, business, higher education, and European-derived religions and engage in physical labor in agriculture. Women work primarily in paid and unpaid in household labor, formal and informal retail trades, basic and primary education, clerical and administrative jobs, and social welfare.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Traditionally, woman's place is in the home and women receive less remuneration than men. The appropriate place for men is outside the home, in agriculture, business, government, or recreation. This attitude is changing.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. There are two types of marriage patterns: the legally recognized and socially preferred Western-style monogamous union and the socalled consensual union. The selection of a spouse is made by individual choice, but in more traditional communities, the approval of parents and close relatives is sought. Among the Indians and Chinese, monogamous unions predominate. Traditionally, among African Jamaicans there has been a link between socioeconomic status and type of marriage, with the consensual union associated with the rural and urban poor and the legal union associated with economically stable, landholding peasants, and the middle and upper classes. A consensual union often occurs among young people, with a legal union taking place when economic stability is achieved.

Domestic Unit. The domestic unit typically consists of a grandmother, a mother, and the mother's offspring from the current and previous unions. The father may be a permanent part of the unit, may visit for varying periods, or may be absent. Often the unit includes children of kin who are part of other households.

Inheritance. Inheritance generally passes bilaterally from parents to children and grandchildren. Among the poor, land that is inherited helps to maintain strong family and locality relationships.

Kin Groups. The concept of family applies to blood and nonblood kin who maintain an active, functional relationship with respect to material and social support. It is not limited to the household. Family relations are of great importance, and children of the poor often are shifted from household to household for support. Kin relations are traced bilaterally for four or five generations.


Infant Care. The use of midwives is still popular, and breast-feeding is done in all the ethnic groups. A baby is named and registered within a few days of its birth, and soon afterward it is "christened." Infants typically sleep with the mother and are carried in her arms. A crying baby is rocked in the mothers arms and hummed to. As a baby ages, the parents and grandparents try to accommodate their expectations to the child's unique qualities; the baby is allowed to "grow into itself."

Child Rearing and Education. Firm discipline underlies child care until a child leaves home and/or becomes a parent. The mother is central, but all members of the household and other close kin have some responsibility in rearing a child. It is believed that the behavior of the pregnant mother influences what the child will become. Children are said to "take after" a parent or to be influenced by "the devil" or the spirits of ancestors. Children are given progressively demanding responsibilities from the age of five or six. For poor parents in all ethnic groups, the single most important route out of poverty is the education of their children. In more traditional settings, the child is "pushed" by the entire family and even the community. The national stereotype is that Indians and Chinese pay greater attention to their offspring, who perform better than blacks.

Higher Education. Higher education is considered essential to national success, and the parliament has established the National Council on Education to oversee higher education policy and implementation. Expenditures on education have continued to rise. There are two universities the University of the West Indies, and the University of Technology.


Politeness and courtesy are highly valued as aspects of being "raised good." They are expressed through greetings, especially from the young to their elders. A child never "backtalks" to parents or elders. Men are expected to open doors for women and help with or perform heavy tasks. Women are expected to "serve" men in domestic contexts and, in more traditional settings, to give the adult males and guests the best part of a meal.


Religious Beliefs. The Anglican church is regarded as the church of the elite, but the middle class in all ethnic groups is distributed over several non-African-derived religions. All the established denominations have been creolized; African-Caribbean religious practices such as Puk-kumina, revivalism, Kumina, Myalism, and Rastafarianism have especially significant African influences.

Religious Practitioners. Among less modernized African Jamaicans, there is no separation between the secular and the sacred. Afro-Jamaican leaders are typically charismatic men and women who are said to have special "gifts" or to be "called."

Rituals and Holy Places. Rituals include "preaching" meetings as well as special healing rituals and ceremonies such as "thanksgiving," ancestral veneration, and memorial ceremonies. These ceremonies may include drumming, singing, dancing, and spirit possession. All places where organized rituals take place are regarded as holy, including churches, "balm yards," silk cotton trees, burial grounds, baptismal sites at rivers, and crossroads.

Death and the Afterlife. Death is regarded as a natural transformation, and except in the case of the very old, its cause is believed to be the violation of a cultural norm, evil spirits, or envy. After a death, kin and community gather at the home of the deceased to lend support and assist in funeral preparations, which involve washing and tying the body. People gather at the home of the deceased each night until the burial in a ritual called "setup." Funerals are one of the most important African-Jamaican rituals. A large harmonious funeral is considered a sign of good living.

Medicine and Health Care

Jamaicans use a mix of traditional and biomedical healing practices. The degree of use of traditional means, including spiritual healing, is inversely related to class status. Among the African Jamaicans, illness is believed to be caused by spiritual forces or violation of cultural taboos. Consequently, most illnesses are treated holistically. When traditional means fail, modern medicine is tried.

Secular Celebrations

Independence Day is celebrated on the first Monday in August. Other noteworthy holidays are Christmas, Boxing Day, New Year's Day, and National Heroes Day, which is celebrated the third Monday in October. Chinese New Year is celebrated.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. The arts and humanities have a long tradition of development and public support, but state support has been institutionalized only since independence. Most artists are self-supporting.

Literature. Indians, Chinese, Jews, and Europeans brought aspects of their written tradition, yet current literary works are overwhelmingly African Jamaican. The oral tradition draws on several West African-derived sources, including the griot tradition; the trickster story form; the use of proverbs, aphorisms, riddles, and humor in the form of the "big lie"; and origin stories. The 1940s saw the birth of a movement toward the creation of a "yard" (Creole) literature.

Graphic Arts. The tradition of graphic arts began with indigenous Taino sculpting and pottery and has continued with the evolution of the African tradition. Jamaica has a long tradition of pottery, including items used in everyday domestic life, which are referred to as yabbah. There is a West African tradition of basket and straw mat weaving, seashell art, bead making, embroidery, sewing, and wood carving.

Performance Arts. Most folk performances are rooted in festivals, religious and healing rituals, and other African-derived cultural expressions. Traditional performances take the form of impromptu plays and involve social commentary based on the African Caribbean oratorical tradition ("speechifying" or "sweet talking"). Music is the most highly developed of the performing arts. There is a long tradition of classical music interest, but the country is best known for its internationally popular musical form, reggae. Jamaica also has a strong tradition of folk and religious music. Drama is the least developed performing art, but it has been experiencing a new surge of energy.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

There are physical and social science programs at the University of West Indies (UWI) and the Institute of Jamaica and its ancillary research bodies such as the African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica. The UWI has a medical school and a law school, and there is a University of Technology. Most social science research is done with support from the Institute of Social and Economic Research.


Alleyne, Mervyn. The Roots of Jamaican Culture, 1989.

Carnegie, Charles V., ed. Afro-Caribbean Villages in Historical Perspective, 1987.

Cassidy, Frederic. Jamaica Talk: Three Hundred Years of the English Language in Jamaica, 1971.

Chevannes, Barry. Rastafari: Roots and Ideology, 1994.

Curtin, Philip D. Two Jamaicas: The Role of Ideas in a Tropical Colony, 18301865, 1955.

Dance, Daryl C. Folklore from Contemporary Jamaicans, 1985.

Kerr, Madeline. Personality and Conflict in Jamaica, 1963.

Mintz, Sidney W. Caribbean Transformations, 1974.

Nettleford, Rex. Caribbean Cultural Identity: The Case of Jamaica, 1979.

Olwig, Karen Fog. "Caribbean Family Land: A Modern Commons." Plantation Society in the Americas, 4 (2 and 3): 135158, 1997.

Rouse, Irving. The Tainos: Rise and Decline of the People Who Greeted Columbus, 1992.

Senior, Olive. AZ of Jamaica Heritage, 1985.

Sherlock, Philip, and Hazel Bennett. The Story of the Jamaican People, 1998.

Smith, Michael G. The Plural Society in the British West Indies, 1974.

Trevor W. Purcell

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The people of Jamaica are called Jamaicans. About 95 percent of the population is of partial or total African descent. Over 75 percent are black, 15 percent are mulatto (mixed black and white), and 4 percent are of mixed black and Asian Indian or Chinese. Other ethnic groups include Asian Indian (2 percent), Chinese (1 percent), and Europeans (2 percent). Nearly the whole population is native-born Jamaican.

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