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Basic Information

Area: 10,991 km²

Calling code: +1 876

Population: 2,804,332

Official Language: English, Jamaican Patois

Time zone: (UTC-5), Local time: 08:28


Jamaica is an island nation located in the Caribbean Sea, just south of Cuba. The island covers a total area of 10,991 square kilometres and in 2011 the CIA Fact Book estimated the population at 2,868,380 with a density of 252/km2. The country’s residents are primarily of African descent with smaller proportions made up of Afro European, Afro East Indian and Caucasian peoples. The official language is known as Jamaican Patois, although English is also widely used.

Discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1494, Jamaica during the 18th century established a flourishing plantation economy, producing huge quantities of sugar, cocoa and coffee that were traded across the world. The country gained full independence from Britain in 1962, although it remains a Commonwealth realm with Queen Elizabeth II as head of State.

Jamaica operates a parliamentary democracy led by Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller. Its current constitution was drafted in 1962 by a bipartisan joint committee of the Jamaican legislature and came into effect later that same year. The country has 14 administrative divisions known as parishes, one of which is Kingston, the country’s capital city.

Jamaica participates in a number of international organisations including IMF, UNESCO, UNWTO and WTO. The official currency of Jamaica is the Jamaican Dollar.


The CIA estimated Jamaica’s GDP in 2010 at $13.69 billion and a GDP (PPP) $23.72 billion. GDP per capita in 2010 stood at $8,300 ranking it the 120th richest country in the world.

The country enjoys a free market economy that is comprised of a mix of both state run and private enterprises. Most large corporations are owned by the private sector and listed on the Jamaican Stock Exchange. The Jamaican economy is powered by a strong services sector that accounts for more than 60% of the national GDP. Industry generates around 30%, whilst a small yet dynamic agricultural sector that produces sugarcane, bananas, coffee, citrus fruits, meat and sea food accounts for 6%.

Tourism is undoubtedly Jamaica’s primary economic driver providing an estimated 10% of Jamaica’s GDP and large proportion of local revenues. Attracted by the allure of a warm climate and beautiful beaches, the island is one of the world’s top tourist destinations, welcoming over 1 million visitors each year. The industry has sustained strong growth and according to the CIA Fact Book both arrivals and revenues in 2010 were up 4% and 6% respectively.

Other notable industries include mining (primarily bauxite/alumina), agro processing, rum, cement, metal, paper, chemical products and telecommunications. Many of these products also form the county’s main exports with commodities (in 2009) sent primarily to US 38.2%, Canada 12.2%, UK 10.8% and Norway 4.9%.

Jamaica also imports a number of products, primarily food, consumer goods, industrial supplies, fuel and machinery with 28% coming from US, Trinidad & Tobago 23%, Venezuela 12% and China 5%.

Standard Of Living

Jamaica, even before air travel, has enjoyed a reputation as a tourist destination, and over the years Jamaica has been a haven to many famous non-Jamaicans, most notably the movie actor Errol Flynn and the author Ian Fleming. In modern times travel to the island has become more affordable to more people, leading to an upsurge of visitors; however, one of the country’s biggest concerns is violent crime. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office states, ‘The murder rate remains among the highest in the world (about 59 per 100,000)’. The vast majority of tourists and visitors do not directly experience the problem as most stay in secure resorts and only travel to other areas on excursions. Providing travellers take sensible precautions, most visits to Jamaica pass without incident.

Once on the island, Jamaica has much to offer the business traveller or tourist. Almost all water- or land-based activities are catered for, although for such things as hiking, caving and scuba diving, the use of local guides is highly recommended to get the best from your adventures. The island is also a good location for lovers of history and culture, with museums dedicated to Jamaica’s long and often fraught past and unique culture, including a museum dedicated to the island’s most famous son, Bob Marley.

In Jamaica a variety of international cuisines available, usually of high quality even from the cheapest eateries, but Jamaican food is almost in a class of its own. Jamaican food has evolved from a number of influences of immigrants from locations around the world, and most Jamaicans like their food spicy - the extremely hot pepper, scotch bonnet, is used in many dishes. Most food on the island is locally produced.

For business, Jamaica is a popular destination for conferences, seminars and incentives with a number of top quality facilities, services and locations around the island.


Jamaica’s location makes it a strategic location for connecting North America and Europe to the Caribbean and Latin America. Improved telecommunication and transport infrastructure has attracted more business and investment to the island, leading to notable economic growth over the last decade.

Jamaica’s major towns and cities are connected primarily by an extensive network of roads and airports. According to the CIA Fact Book the island’s road system stretches for some 21,552 kilometres, 15,937 kilometres of which are paved. In terms of public transport by road, buses and minibuses are regulated by the Ministry of Transport & Works and form the backbone of public transport.

Due to its location in the Caribbean Sea shipping lane that reaches the Panama Canal and serves both North and Latin America, Jamaica receives high container traffic. Jamaica is home to 7 ports that include Port Rhoades, Kingston, Montego Bay and Rocky Point.

According to the CIA Fact Book Jamaica has 27 airports, 12 of which have paved runways and 3 that handle international flights. The largest and busiest is Sir Donald Sangster International Airport that is located near Montego Bay. According to official statistics the airport handled 3,378,000 passengers in 2008. This is set to grow significantly as the airport is currently in the process of a major expansion, due for completion in 2022.


The CIA Factbook in 2010 estimated Jamaica’s labour force at 1.317 million. Largest employment sectors include services (64%), industry (19%) and agriculture (17%). The labour force is predominantly made up of Jamaican Nationals of African descents who primarily speak a mixture of Jamaican Patois and English.

Jamaica’s government spends an estimated 5.8% of GDP (2009) on education and according to the last census in 2003 had achieved an overall literacy rate of 87.9%. The education system is based on the British model and offers free schooling to children up to the age of 16. Although some students choose to go abroad to study, Jamaica enjoys a number of higher education facilities including the University of the West Indies, the University of Technology and the Northern Caribbean University, teacher training colleges, community colleges and vocational schools.

The CIA Fact Book estimated that in 2010 estimated Jamaica’s unemployment rate stood at 12.9%.

Business Costs

Jamaica has Free Zones, minimal customs procedures, exemption from customs duties and tax free profits from Free Zone activities, all of which make it a very attractive place for foreign investors. In terms of foreign exchange control there are also no restrictions on the import or export of capital.

Personal income tax in Jamaica is levied on a flat rate of 25% for those individuals earning more than JMD 441,168 per year.

Corporate taxation is imposed on company profits (business income, interest income), but excludes capital gains and is levied at a flat rate of 33.33%. Dividends are also taxed at 33.33% if received by a corporate body, although this is reduced to 25% if received by individuals.

The employer and employee must pay into the social security contribution fund, each paying 2.5% earnings. The country also operates a national minimum wage of JMD 3,700, although certain professions (such as security guards) receive JMD 5,500 per week.

Jamaica operates a Value Added Tax (VAT) rate of 17.5%, which is levied on most goods and services apart from basic supplies and food which are exempt.
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