Country profile: Jamaica
Known for its strong sense
of self identity expressed through its music, food and rich cultural
mix, Jamaica's influence extends far beyond its shores.
luminaries such as the black nationalist Marcus Garvey and musician Bob
Marley, Jamaicans are proud of their cultural and religious heritage.
Jamaicans have migrated in significant numbers to the United States,
Canada and Britain and their music stars are known around the globe.
The island is the birthplace of Rastafarianism, a religious movement
which has been adopted by groups around the world who venerate the
former Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie. Once regarded as a
revolutionary threat, Rastafarianism became a cultural force, reflected
in art and music.
With its roots in the island's ska and rocksteady forms, reggae made
Jamaica a leader in music, with Bob Marley as its most famous
The island is also known for its beauty, political
stability and plentiful resources in the form of bauxite and sugar.
However, these features contrast with widespread poverty and crime.
independence from Britain 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
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
more than 1,300 reported murders in 2006 and there have been
accusations of extrajudicial killings by law enforcers. The police have
secured outside help to deal with what is one of the world's highest
murder rates alongside South Africa and Colombia.
- Full name: Jamaica
- Population: 2.7 million (UN, 2009)
- Capital: Kingston
- Area: 10,991 sq km (4,243 sq miles)
- Major language: English (official), English patois
- Major religion: Christianity
- Life expectancy: 68 years (men), 75 years (women) (UN)
- Monetary unit: 1 Jamaican dollar = 100 cents
- Main exports: Bauxite, alumina, garments, sugar, bananas, rum
- GNI per capita: US $4,870 (World Bank, 2008)
- Internet domain: .jm
- International dialling code: + 1876
Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General Patrick Allen
Prime minister: Bruce Golding
Golding was sworn in as prime minister in September 2007 after leading
his Jamaica Labour Party to victory in a closely fought election.
The JLP ended the 18-year reign of the People's National Party and
halted the short tenure of prime minister Portia Simpson Miller, the
first woman to lead Jamaica's government.
In his inaugural
address, Mr Golding pledged to tackle crime and corruption, draft a new
charter of fundamental rights, and give more independence to Jamaica's
Mr Golding's father was an MP at the time Jamaica
sought independence from the Federation of the West Indies, a grouping
born of British colonies in the Caribbean.
He won his own seat
in parliament at 24 years of age, making him the youngest ever elected
to the parliament, and rose rapidly in the JLP, becoming general
secretary shortly after Edward Seaga took the leadership in 1974.
split with the JLP in the mid-1990s and helped found the National
Democratic Movement, a third party that never got off the ground.
He returned to the JLP in 2002 and claimed the leadership when Seaga stepped down after three decades at its helm.
Golding was born in 1947 and graduated from the University of the West
Indies in 1969 with a degree in economics and majored in public
Jamaica enjoys a free press and its newspapers frequently criticise the establishment.
broadcast media are predominantly commercial and are open to diverse
news and comment. There are three terrestrial TV broadcasters as well
as a handful of local cable channels. The main newspapers are
BBC Caribbean Service and World Service radio programmes are available via the BBC 104 FM network.
- Jampress - government-run