Advantageously situated in the western Caribbean, Jamaica is a country of immense beauty and endless diversity. The very mention of its name conjures up images of cascading waterfalls, pristine beaches, rolling green hills and majestic mountains. While the island is well known for its natural beauty, rich culture and vibrant creative industries, it is also widely regarded as the world’s business gateway to the Caribbean. The largest English-speaking island in the region and the third largest overall, Jamaica is an excellent location for investment and trading with the rest of the Western Hemisphere and beyond. With a population of 2.7 million, the country offers a literate, well-trained, multi-skilled and competitively priced labour force. It boasts an open and diverse economy with encouraging prospects in several industries and a strong international profile built on quality and bold creative energy.
Jamaica’s land area is 10,991 sq. km (4,244 sq. miles), measuring 235 km (146 miles) from west to east and 82 km (50 miles) from north to south at its widest point. The highest point on the island is the Blue Mountain Peak, which rises to 2,256 m (7,402 feet). Jamaica is 145 km (90 miles) south of Cuba and 885 km (550 miles) south of Miami, Florida. The island is characterized by a mountainous interior and beautiful white sand beaches located on the north and west coasts. Kingston, the capital city, is situated on the southern end of the island and is the country’s major commercial centre. It is home to the world’s seventh largest natural harbour – the Kingston Harbour. In the parish of St. James lies the resort town of Montego Bay, Jamaica’s second city and the tourism mecca of the Caribbean.
Jamaica has an inviting tropical climate, with the annual temperature falling between 24ºC or 75ºF to a maximum of 32ºC or 90ºF. Cooler temperatures are experienced in the mountainous areas and rainfall is seasonal.
English is the official language. However, most Jamaicans speak Jamaican creole or patois in everyday conversational language.
The vast majority of Jamaicans are Christians. However, other religions exist in Jamaica such as Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Rastafarianism.
Jamaica has an established tradition of democracy, with the Government being voted into power by constitutionally free elections. Parochial elections are held every three years, while national elections are held every five years. The system of government and the constitution of the country are based on the Westminster Parliamentary model. The judiciary exists as an independent arm of the government and there are constitutional provisions to protect the rights of citizens.
Jamaica operates as a mixed free-market economy with both state and private sector participation in productive enterprise. The economy recorded GDP of US$13.7 billion in 2010 with the main sectors of the economy being Tourism, Agriculture and Agro-processing, Mining, Manufacturing, Creative Industries and Financial Services.
The economy is driven by foreign direct investment (FDI) and foreign exchange earned through exports and remittances. Jamaica received an estimated US$201 million in FDIs in 2010. The most dynamic sectors in term of foreign direct investment (FDI) have been tourism, ICT and mining. The Jamaican Diaspora also contributes significantly to the economy through remittances, which amounted to over US$1.7 billion in 2009. Jamaica also boasts a developed tourism industry and continues to enjoy record levels of tourist arrivals. For the January to March 2011 period, tourist arrivals increased 4.4% with 553,304 compared to 529,934 in the corresponding period in 2010.
This follows increases of 4% and 6% in both tourism arrivals and revenues in 2010. Jamaican exporters are able to access several key markets through preferential trade agreements and other multilateral trade agreements. In 2010, merchandise exports earned US$1328 million. The export value of non-traditional goods specifically food and beverages and tobacco have also increased due to the marketing and recognition of Brand Jamaica.
The official currency is the Jamaican Dollar (JMD), but most financial institutions accept other major currencies.