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Country profile: Jamaica

A lush and beautiful island, Jamaica is struggling to overcome lawlessness which has given it one of the world's highest murder rates and threatens to jeopardise its tourism industry, the main foreign exchange earner.

Jamaica's political stability, plentiful bauxite deposits, attractive scenery and rich culture - best known for its reggae music - contrast with widespread crime and poverty.




Since independence in 1962, power in Jamaica has alternated between the social-democratic People's National Party and the conservative Jamaica Labour Party.

While elections have often been marred by violence, their results have always been accepted and, on the whole, political institutions have managed to retain their legitimacy.

But political stability has not turned into social and economic harmony. Contrasting with the luxury tourist resorts are densely-populated and impoverished ghettos.

The government has at times deployed army units to suppress violent unrest. There were 1,145 reported murders in 2004 and there have been accusations of extrajudicial killings by law-enforcers.

Jamaica is the birthplace of Rastafarianism, a religious movement whose followers venerate the former Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie I. Once regarded as a revolutionary threat, Rastafarianism became a cultural force, promulgated in art and music.

With its roots in the island's ska and rocksteady forms, reggae made Jamaica a global force in music, with Bob Marley as its most-famous ambassador.




  • Population: 2.7 million (UN, 2004)
  • Capital: Kingston
  • Area: 10,991 sq km (4,243 sq miles)
  • Major language: English
  • Major religion: Christianity
  • Life expectancy: 74 years (men), 78 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 Jamaican dollar = 100 cents
  • Main exports: Bauxite, alumina, sugar, bananas, rum
  • GNI per capita: US $2,760 (World Bank, 2003)
  • Internet domain: .jm
  • International dialling code: + 1876





Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General Sir Howard Felix Cooke

Prime minister: Percival James Patterson

PJ Patterson was re-elected to a fourth consecutive term in October 2002. His People's National Party won 35 seats to the rival Edward Seaga's Jamaica Labour Party's 25 seats.

Jamaican premier
Prime Minister Patterson

Born in 1935, he became an active member of the People's National Party in the 1950s, serving during 1972-80 in a number of portfolios, including minister of finance and deputy prime minister.


A lawyer by training, Mr Patterson became prime minister and party leader in 1992 after Michael Manley resigned, proceeding to win elections in 1993 and 1997.

He has successfully tackled Jamaica's rampant inflation through tight monetary and fiscal policies, and has sought to reduce the state's debt by privatising state enterprises.

Mr Patterson has supported moves towards making Jamaica a republic.

  • Foreign minister: Keith D Knight
  • Finance minister: Omar Davis
  • National security minister: Peter Phillips




    Jamaica enjoys a free press and its newspapers frequently criticise the establishment.

    The broadcast media are predominantly commercial and are open to diverse news and comment. The main newspapers are privately-owned.

    BBC Caribbean Service and World Service radio programmes are available via the BBC 104 FM network.

    The press

  • Jamaica Gleaner - daily
  • Daily Star - evening
  • Jamaica Observer - daily
  • Sunday Herald - weekly


  • Television Jamaica Limited (TVJ) - formerly Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation, it became TVJ when it was privatised in 1997
  • CVM Television - private
  • Love TV - religious


  • Radio Jamaica Ltd (RJR) - operates three commercial networks: RJR 94 FM; entertainment station FAME-FM; music and sports station Radio 2 FM
  • Irie FM - commercial, reggae
  • Hot 102 - commercial
  • KLAS FM - commercial
  • Power 106 - commercial
  • Roots 96.1 FM - community

    News agency

  • Jampress - government-run
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    This site was last updated 10/18/05

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