Commonwealth realm
Flag of Jamaica Coat of Arms of Jamaica
Out of Many, One People
Jamaica, Land We Love
God Save the Queen
Map of Jamaica
Government Constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy
- From 1962Elizabeth II
- 1991-2006Sir Howard Felix Hanlan Cooke
- 2006-2009Sir Kenneth Octavius Hall
- From 2009Patrick Allen
Prime Minister
- 1992-2006Percival Noel James Patterson
- 2006-2007Portia Simpson Mille
- 2007-2011Bruce Golding
- 2011-2012Andrew Holness
- From 2012Portia Simpson Mille
Legislature Parliament
- Upper houseSenate
- Lower houseHouse of Representatives
August 6, 1962Independence from the United Kingdom
Commonwealth accessionAugust 6, 1962
Area10,991 km²
- 20102,847,232
GDP2010 (PPP)
- TotalUS$ 24.9 billion
- Per capitaUS$ 8,777
CurrencyJamaican dollar
Flag of the West Indies West Indies

Jamaica is a commonwealth realm and a parliamentary democracy in the Caribbean.


The island - discovered by Christopher COLUMBUS in 1494 - was settled by the Spanish early in the 16th century. The native Taino Indians, who had inhabited Jamaica for centuries, were gradually exterminated and replaced by African slaves. England seized the island in 1655 and established a plantation economy based on sugar, cocoa, and coffee. The abolition of slavery in 1834 freed a quarter million slaves, many of whom became small farmers. Jamaica gradually increased its independence from Britain. In 1958 it joined other British Caribbean colonies in forming the Federation of the West Indies. Jamaica gained full independence when it withdrew from the Federation in 1962. Deteriorating economic conditions during the 1970s led to recurrent violence as rival gangs affiliated with the major political parties evolved into powerful organized crime networks involved in international drug smuggling and money laundering. Violent crime, drug trafficking, and poverty pose significant challenges to the government today. Nonetheless, many rural and resort areas remain relatively safe and contribute substantially to the economy.[1]


The Jamaican economy is heavily dependent on services, which now account for nearly 65% of GDP. The country continues to derive most of its foreign exchange from tourism, remittances, and bauxite/alumina. Remittances account for nearly 15% of GDP and exports of bauxite and alumina make up about 10%. The bauxite/alumina sector was most affected by the global downturn while the tourism industry was resilient, experiencing an increase of 4% in tourist arrivals. Tourism revenues account for roughly 10% of GDP, and both arrivals and revenues grew in 2010, up 4% and 6% respectively. Jamaica's economy faces many challenges to growth: high crime and corruption, large-scale unemployment and underemployment, and a debt-to-GDP ratio of more than 120%. Jamaicas onerous public debt burden is the result of government bailouts to ailing sectors of the economy, most notably to the financial sector in the mid-to-late 1990s. In early 2010, the Jamaican government created the Jamaica Debt Exchange in order to retire high-priced domestic bonds and significantly reduce annual debt servicing. The Government of Jamaica signed a $1.27 billion, 27-month Standby Agreement with the International Monetary Fund for balance of payment support in February 2010. Other multilaterals have also provided millions of dollars in loans and grants. Despite the improvement, debt servicing costs still hinder the governments ability to spend on infrastructure and social programs, particularly as job losses rise in a shrinking economy. The SIMPSON-MILLER administration faces the difficult prospect of having to achieve fiscal discipline in order to maintain debt payments, while simultaneously attacking a serious crime problem that is hampering economic growth. High unemployment exacerbates the crime problem, including gang violence that is fueled by the drug trade.[2]


  • Elizabeth II () (August 6, 1962 - )


  • Sir Howard Felix Hanlan Cooke () (August 1, 1991 - February 15, 2006)
  • Sir Kenneth Octavius Hall () (February 15, 2006 - February 26, 2009)
  • Patrick Allen () (February 26, 2009 - )

Prime Minister

  • Percival Noel James Patterson () (March 30, 1992 - March 30, 2006)
  • Portia Simpson Mille () (March 30, 2006 - September 11, 2007)
  • Bruce Golding () (September 11, 2007 - October 23, 2011)
  • Andrew Holness () (October 23, 2011 - January 5, 2012)
  • Portia Simpson Mille () (January 5, 2012 - )


Jamaican Polities

Neighbouring Nations


  1. The CIA World Factbook: Introduction - Background
  2. The CIA World Factbook: Economy - Overview

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