(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)
|Introduction||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 obtained increasing independence from Britain, and 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.|
|History||The original Arawak or possibly Taino people from South America first settled on the island between 4000 and 1000 BC. Although some claim they became virtually extinct following contact with Europeans, others claim that some survived for a while. There is very little trace of the Arawak culture, and the Jamaican National Heritage Trust is attempting to locate and document any evidence of the Arawaks.
Jamaica was claimed for Spain after Christopher Columbus first landed there in 1494. The English Admiral William Penn (father of William Penn of Pennsylvania) and General Robert Venables seized the island in 1655. During its first 200 years of English (then British) rule, post Spanish rule, Jamaica became one of the world’s leading sugar exporting nations and produced over 77,000 tons of sugar annually between 1820 and 1824, which was achieved through the massive use of imported African slave labour. After the abolition of the slave trade the British imported Indian and Chinese indentured servants in the early 1800s as more cheap labour. The descendants of the Chinese and Indian indentured servants continue to reside in Jamaica today.
By the beginning of the 19th century, the United Kingdom’s heavy reliance on slavery resulted in blacks (Africans) outnumbering whites (Europeans) by a ratio of almost 20 to 1, leading to constant opportunities for revolt. Following a series of rebellions, slavery was formally abolished in 1834, with full emancipation from chattel slavery declared in 1838.
During the 1800’s a number of botanical gardens were established. These included the Castleton Garden in 1862 (set up to replace the Bath Garden which was established during the late 1770s and where breadfruit brought to Jamaica by Captain William Bligh was planted but which was subject to flooding), the Cinchona Plantation in 1868 and the Hope Garden during 1874.
In 1945, Sir Horace Hector Hearne became Chief Justice and Keeper of the Records in Jamaica and sat in the Supreme Court, Kingston between 1945 and 1950/1951 before going on to become Chief Justice in Kenya.
Jamaica slowly gained increasing independence from the United Kingdom. In 1958, it became a province in the Federation of the West Indies, a federation among all of the British West Indies. Jamaica attained full independence by leaving the federation in 1962.
Strong economic growth averaging about six percent per annum marked its first ten years of independence under conservative governments led successively by Prime Ministers Alexander Bustamante, Donald Sangster and Hugh Shearer. The growth was fueled by strong investments in bauxite/alumina, tourism, manufacturing industry and to a lesser extent the agricultural sector. However, the initial optimism of the first decade was accompanied by a growing sense of inequality and a sense that the benefits of growth were not being experienced by the urban poor. This, combined with the effects of a slow-down in the global economy in 1970, prompted the electorate to change the government, electing the PNP (People’s National Party) in 1972. However, despite efforts to create more socially equitable policies in education and health, Jamaica continued to lag economically, with its gross national product having fallen in 1980 to some twenty-five percent below the 1972 level. Rising foreign and local debt accompanied by large fiscal deficits resulted in the invitation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) financing from the USA and others, and the imposition of IMF austerity measures (with a greater than 25% interest rate per year).
Economic deterioration continued into the mid 1980s, exacerbated by the closure of the first (Alpart) and third (Alcoa) largest alumina producers, significant reduction in production by the second largest (Alcan), the exit of Reynolds Jamaica Mines Ltd from the Jamaican industry and reduced flows from tourism. During the 1980s Jamaica was still a prosperous country though increases in crime and petty theft began to weigh on the island.
The early capital of Jamaica was Spanish Town in the parish of St. Catherine, the site of the old Spanish colonial capital. The Spanish named the town Santiago de la Vega. In 1655 when the English captured the island, much of the old Spanish capital was burned by the invading troops. The town was rebuilt by the English and renamed Spanish Town. It remained the capital until 1872, when the city of Kingston was named the capital.
|Geography||Location: Caribbean, island in the Caribbean Sea, south of Cuba
Geographic coordinates: 18 15 N, 77 30 W
Map references: Central America and the Caribbean
Area: total: 10,991 sq km
land: 10,831 sq km
water: 160 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than Connecticut
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 1,022 km
Maritime claims: measured from claimed archipelagic straight baselines
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to edge of the continental margin
Climate: tropical; hot, humid; temperate interior
Terrain: mostly mountains, with narrow, discontinuous coastal plain
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Blue Mountain Peak 2,256 m
Natural resources: bauxite, gypsum, limestone
Land use: arable land: 15.83%
permanent crops: 10.01%
other: 74.16% (2005)
Irrigated land: 250 sq km (2002)
Total renewable water resources: 9.4 cu km (2000)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 0.41 cu km/yr (34%/17%/49%)
per capita: 155 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: hurricanes (especially July to November)
Environment – current issues: heavy rates of deforestation; coastal waters polluted by industrial waste, sewage, and oil spills; damage to coral reefs; air pollution in Kingston results from vehicle emissions
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: strategic location between Cayman Trench and Jamaica Channel, the main sea lanes for the Panama Canal
|Politics||Jamaica is a constitutional monarchy with the monarch being represented by a Governor-General. The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who officially uses the title “Queen of Jamaica” when she visits the country or performs duties overseas on Jamaica’s behalf. See Jamaican Royal Family. The Governor-General is nominated by the Prime Minister and the entire Cabinet and appointed by the monarch. All the members of the Cabinet are appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister. The monarch and the Governor-General serve largely ceremonial roles, apart from their potent reserve power to dismiss the Prime Minister or Parliament.
Jamaica’s current Constitution was drafted in 1962 by a bipartisan joint committee of the Jamaican legislature. It came into force with the Jamaica Independence Act, 1962 of the United Kingdom Parliament, which gave Jamaica political independence. This was followed by a reformation of the island’s flag.
Inside the Jamaican Parliament
The Parliament of Jamaica is bicameral, consisting of the House of Representatives (Lower House) and the Senate (Upper House). Members of the House (known as Members of Parliament or MPs) are directly elected, and the member of the House of Representatives who, in the Governor-General’s best judgement, is best able to command the confidence of a majority of the members of that House, is appointed by the Governor-General to be the Prime Minister. Senators are appointed jointly by the Prime Minister and the parliamentary Leader of the Opposition.
In February 2006, Portia Simpson-Miller was elected by delegates of the ruling People’s National Party (PNP) to replace P. J. Patterson as President of the Party. At the end of March 2006 when Patterson demitted office, Simpson-Miller became the first female Prime Minister of Jamaica. Former Prime Minister Patterson had held office since the 1992 resignation of Michael Manley. Patterson was re-elected three times, the last being in 2002.
On 3 September 2007, Bruce Golding of the Jamaica Labour Party was voted in as Prime Minister-Designate after achieving a 33 – 27 seat victory over Portia Simpson-Miller and the PNP in the 2007 Jamaican general election. Portia Simpson-Miller conceded defeat on the 5 September 2007. On 11 September 2007, after being sworn in by Governor-General Kenneth Hall, The Hon. Bruce Golding assumed office as Prime Minister of Jamaica.
Jamaica has traditionally had a two-party system, with power often alternating between the People’s National Party and Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). However, over the past decade a new political party called the National Democratic Movement (NDM) emerged in an attempt to challenge the two-party system. Unfortunately, the NDM has almost become irrelevant in the two party system as it garnered only 540 votes of the over 800,000 votes cast in the September 3 elections. Jamaica is a full and participating member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
|People||Population: 2,780,132 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 32.5% (male 459,968/female 444,963)
15-64 years: 60.1% (male 822,486/female 848,310)
65 years and over: 7.4% (male 91,856/female 112,549) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 23.2 years
male: 22.6 years
female: 23.7 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.777% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 20.44 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 6.59 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: -6.07 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.034 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.97 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.816 male(s)/female
total population: 0.978 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 15.73 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 16.4 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 15.01 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 73.12 years
male: 71.43 years
female: 74.9 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.36 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 1.2% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 22,000 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: 900 (2003 est.)
Nationality: noun: Jamaican(s)
Ethnic groups: black 91.2%, mixed 6.2%, other or unknown 2.6% (2001 census)
Religions: Protestant 62.5% (Seventh-Day Adventist 10.8%, Pentecostal 9.5%, Other Church of God 8.3%, Baptist 7.2%, New Testament Church of God 6.3%, Church of God in Jamaica 4.8%, Church of God of Prophecy 4.3%, Anglican 3.6%, other Christian 7.7%), Roman Catholic 2.6%, other or unspecified 14.2%, none 20.9%, (2001 census)
Languages: English, English patois
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over has ever attended school
total population: 87.9%