Basic Information

Area: 10,991 sq. km
Population: 2.7 million (UN, 2005) est.
Capital City: Kingston (pop. 660,000)
People: African 90.9%, East Indian 1.3%, Chinese 0.2%, White 0.2%, Mixed 7.3%, Other 0.1%
Languages: English, Patois
Religion(s): Anglican, Baptist and other Protestant, Roman Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist, Rastafarian, Jewish, Bahai
Currency: Jamaican dollar (JD) 110 JD to the UK pound (Nov 05)
Major political parties: People's National Party (PNP), Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), National Democratic Party (NDM)
Government: Constitutional parliamentary democracy
Head of State: HM Queen Elizabeth II, represented by the Governor-General, Sir Howard Cooke
Rt. Hon. P J Patterson QC (PNP)
Hon Keith Desmond St. Aubyn (KD) Knight QC


Jamaica is located in the Caribbean Sea, south of Cuba. Its terrain is mostly mountainous, with a narrow, discontinuous coastal plain. Its climate is tropical all year and more temperate inland.


Columbus landed in Jamaica on 4 May 1494 and found it occupied by Arawak Indians. He took possession in the name of Spain. The Arawaks had died out by the time an English expedition of 7,000 landed at Passage Fort on 10 May 1655. Most of the slaves the Spanish had imported from Africa remained in the interior using the opportunity to set up towns where they could live in freedom; they became known as the Maroons. In 1662 the people of Jamaica were given the rights of citizens of England and the right to make their own laws. During the 18th Century thousands of slaves were brought over from Africa, but in 1807 the trade was abolished and in 1838 complete freedom for slaves was declared.

The People's National Party (PNP) was formed in 1938 under the leadership of Mr Norman Manley, with the aim of establishing representative and responsible government for Jamaica within the Commonwealth. It is supported by the National Workers' Union to which it is affiliated. Mr Alexander Bustamante formed the second major political party, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), in 1943. Like the PNP, it derives support from Labour unions, the Bustamante Trade Union (BITU) being affiliated to the JLP. Jamaica became a member of the Federation of the West Indies in 1958 and self-governing in its internal affairs in 1959. As a result of a referendum in 1961, Jamaica withdrew from the West Indies Federation and became an independent sovereign country within the Commonwealth on 6 August 1962.


The People's National Party (PNP, social democrat) has held power since February 1989, first under Michael Manley and, since March 1992, PJ Patterson. Elections were last held in October 2002, when the People's National Party (PNP) won a fourth consecutive term in office, giving PJ Patterson an unprecedented fourth term as Prime Minister. Mr Patterson will retire from politics before the April 2006 budget. A leadership race to succeed him is underway. The next scheduled general elections are due to take place by October 2007.

The main Opposition party is the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), which previously held power from 1980 to 1989. The JLP appointed a new leader, Mr Bruce Golding, in March 2005. He was elected to parliament in April 2005 following his victory in the West Kingston by-election.


Key sectors in the economy are tourism, remittances and bauxite (alumina and bauxite account for more than half of exports). Agriculture also plays an important role.

Following a near economic crisis in the first half of 2003, the authorities worked hard to stabilise the economy and restore market confidence. Challenges remain, such as high interest rates and a growing internal debt, increased foreign competition and a growing trade deficit. In addition there is an urgent need for the sugar industry to diversify as well as to tackle rising crime and a 'brain drain' to avoid constrained future growth.

Political constraints deter budget austerity and fears have been raised about Jamaica’s ability to meet its long-term debt obligations (despite a record of never having faulted). But, galvanised into action and supported by the private sector, the Government has implemented a tight programme of budget control, including an agreement with the Unions that public sector wages will not rise by more than 3% if inflation can be kept below 10%.

In 2004 Jamaica was hit by Hurricane Ivan which led to a number of deaths and damage to infrastructure, housing and the farming community. Agricultural production was disrupted – particularly bananas. Storm rains in an exceptionally active 2005 hurricane season caused further damage to infrastructure and agriculture.

Basic Economic Facts

GDP:US$ 8.0 billion (2004 World Bank)
GDP per Capita:US$ 2,900 (2004, World Bank)
Annual Growth:2.5 % (Government of Jamaica, 2004/05 est.)
Inflation:13.2% (2004-05, EU estimate)
Major Industries:tourism, bauxite and alumina, textiles, food processing, light manufactures, sugar, rum, cement, metal, paper, chemical products
Major trading partners:US, EU, UK, Canada, CARICOM countries, Latin America, Japan

International Relations

Jamaica has diplomatic relations with most nations and is a member of the United Nations and the Organisation of American States. In 2005 Jamaica was chair of the G77 UN grouping. Jamaica is an active member of the Commonwealth. It is also linked with the other countries of the English-speaking Caribbean through the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and more broadly through the Association of Caribbean States (ACS).

Jamaica's Relationship with the UK

The UK and Jamaica have warm bilateral relations.

Under the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Strategic Priorities, principal British interests in Jamaica include working for a secure United Kingdom within a safer and more peaceful world; increased prosperity and a better quality of life in the UK and Jamaica through effective economic and political governance; high quality consular services to British nationals in Jamaica; and effective regulation of entry to, and settlement in, the UK in the interests of sustainable growth and social inclusion.

UK Development Assistance

Poverty reduction is the main focus of Britain's assistance in Jamaica. The Department for International Development (DFID) have an aid programme for Jamaica worth in the region of 2.5 million a year. In addition, the UK also waives approximately 5-6m of Jamaican debt annually. Major projects include assistance to the programme to reform the Jamaican police force; assistance to the private sector to enhance the competitiveness of Jamaican exports; support for the Government's public sector reform programme and other programmes related to social development and giving disadvantaged groups of Jamaican society a stronger voice in the development of policy by the Government.

Recent Inward Visits

Jamaican politicians, senior officials and business people are regular visitors to the UK. In 2005 the Prime Minister (twice), Minister of National Security and Leader of the Opposition among others paid visits to the UK.

Outward Visits

In 2005, the Foreign Secretary and Ministers from the Ministry of Defence and Department for International Development paid official visits to Jamaica. Other visitors included members of parliament and the Head of the Metropolitan Police Sir Ian Blair.


Birth Rate: 17.6 births/ 1,000 pop (2004 est.)
Death Rate:6.1 deaths/ 1,000 pop (2004 est.)
Infant Mortality Rate: 17 deaths/ 1,000 live births (World Bank)
Life expectancy: 76 years (World Bank)


Adult prevalence rate: 1.7% (2004 est.)

Drugs & Crime

Violent crime remains Jamaica’s top challenge, with direct links to crime in the UK. The murder rate is the second highest in the world (about 59 per 100,000). Jamaica is a major trans-shipment route for cocaine from South America to North America and Europe and faces a high rate of gang-related violence fuelled by drugs money. The Government announced a new crackdown on organised crime in October 2004, Operation Kingfish. The UK is providing substantial assistance to Jamaica’s law enforcement agencies.

Corruption is also a major concern, and the Jamaican police are sometimes criticised for excessive use of force. A series of reforms and investigation, has seen the police's Crime Management Unit disbanded and a number of police officers facing a range of charges, including murder and corruption. But Jamaica's police and legal system remains in need of further reform and funding.