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Jamaica Overview

Jamaica is the third largest island in the Caribbean. It is 234 kilometres in length and as much as 80 kilometres in width, and amounts to 10,990 square kilometres. It is situated approximately 145 kilometres south of Cuba and 191 kilometres west of the nation-states of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The climate in Jamaica is tropical, with hot and humid weather; although higher inland regions are more temperate. Chief towns and cities include the capital Kingston, along with Spanish Town, Mandeville, Maypen, Negril and Montego Bay. Kingston Harbour is the seventh largest natural harbour in the world.

Jamaica is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy with the monarch being represented by a Governor-General. The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II. The Governor General is nominated by the Prime Minister (Andrew Michael HOLNESS since March 3, 2016) 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. The Parliament of Jamaica consists of the House of Representatives (Lower House) and the Senate (Upper House). Members of the House 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 nominated jointly by the Prime Minister and the parliamentary Leader of the Opposition and are then appointed by the Governor-General.

Jamaica has traditionally had a two-party system, with power often alternating between the People's National Party (PNP) and Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). Jamaica is a full and participating member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

Jamaica has a mixed economy with both state enterprises and private sector businesses. Major sectors of the Jamaican economy include mining, tourism, agriculture, manufacturing, and financial and insurance services. Tourism and mining are the leading earners of foreign exchange.

Supported by multilateral financial institutions, since the early 1980s, Jamaica has sought to implement structural reforms aimed at fostering private sector activity and increasing the role of market forces in resource allocation. The government has followed a program of economic liberalization and stabilization by removing exchange controls, floating the exchange rate, cutting tariffs, stabilizing the Jamaican currency, reducing inflation and removing restrictions on foreign investment. Emphasis has been placed on maintaining strict fiscal discipline, greater openness to trade and financial flows, market liberalization and reduction in the size of government. During this period, a large share of the economy was returned to private sector ownership through divestment and privatization programs.

The global economic downturn had a significant impact on the Jamaican economy for the years 2007 to 2009, resulting in negative economic growth. The government implemented a new Debt Management Initiative, the Jamaica Debt Exchange (JDX) on January 14, 2010. The initiative would see holders of Government of Jamaica (GOJ) bonds returning the high interest earning instruments for bonds with lower yields and longer maturities. The offer was taken up by over 95% of local financial institutions and was deemed a success by the government. Owing to the success of the JDX program, the Bruce Golding led government was successful in entering into a borrowing arrangement with the IMF on February 4, 2010 for the amount of US$1.27B. The loan agreement is for a period of three years.

   
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