Jamaica's Economy


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Jamaica’s economy depends heavily on tourism and bauxite, and has changed very little since 1995.1 There have been recent economic slowdowns because of September 11, 2001, mainly in the tourism area. Many people are now afraid of taking trips to Jamaica, which involves going on an airplane. The government of Jamaica is currently creating economic goals for the nation, like more investment, keeping a competitive exchange rate, implementing proper monetary policies, and selling off firms that have been acquired. Unfortunately, Jamaica’s Economy is suffering heavily.

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Jamaica suffered its fourth consecutive year of negative economic growth in 1999.2 And after September 11, 2001, it’s safe to say that this year, 2003, will probably be its eighth year of economic decline. In fact, the bauxite and tourism sectors are the only sectors that aren’t shrinking. Jamaica is very weak in finance, speculation, and the lower levels of investment. Jamaica’s government continually encourages foreign investment (especially in areas that can save or earn foreign exchange), creating employment, and using raw materials. Even so, Jamaica currently has a budget deficit in the millions. Jamaica cannot compete with international competition because of delays in shipments, caused by drug contamination in deliveries, and increased cost for operation and security. Furthermore, over the last five years, the fashion industry in Jamaica has suffered due to a decrease in export earnings. Simply put, Jamaica’s economy is suffering. Deeply suffering.

Jamaica’s main concerns in its economy are its high interest rates, more foreign competition, an increasing trade deficit, growing internal debt, and growing crime rates (due to depression and decreases in the economy). Just look at the numbers:

"GDP: $ 9.8 billion
GDP per capita: $3 700
Revenues: $2.23 billion
Expenditures: $2.56 billion"3

$3 700 per Jamaican. Canada’s GDP per capita is about $24 000 higher!4 In addition, Jamaica’s unemployment rate was 16%- more than double Canada’s unemployment rate!5 In fact, even with government aid, the Jamaican dollar has been slipping to an exchange rate of about J$ 43.50 to the U.S $1.00 (as of 2000).6 As you can see, the numbers tell all as the majority of Jamaica is in poverty. The fact that Jamaica’s economy is tumbling is no help. In fact, they’re losing money in the millions (as you can see through their revenues and expenditures)! And because of this poverty, many Jamaicans are looking into crimes and violence to solve their problems. Jamaica isn’t able to keep up with technological advancements and foreign competition, and as a result, their export commodities will soon be obsolete. Also, take a look at the stuff they produce:

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Export commodities: alumina, bauxite, sugar, bananas, and rum.

Sure, alumina and bauxite are popular at the moment, but the rest of their resources are becoming less and less popular as the coming decades will revolve around technological advances, unlike the decades of the old.

Look at what extremely developed nations like Canada are producing today:

Export commodities: motor vehicles and parts, industrial machinery, aircraft, telecommunications equipment, chemicals, plastics, fertilizers, wood pulp, timber, crude petroleum, natural gas, electricity, aluminum.

The manufacturing of machinery and telecommunications equipment is of the current age, and Jamaica is too far in the past. They need to be looking more into the future if they want to improve their economy. It is not enough to rely on what they have now, but to expand with what’s going to be sought for tomorrow.

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Jamaica is in trouble- there is no doubt about that. In just about every economic area, Jamaica is suffering. But how can they be saved from total economic meltdown? We know, for one, that they are having trouble keeping up with technological advancements. The main reason for this is that most of the people in Jamaica aren’t as educated as the rest of the world. And as the less educated people become teachers, they in turn, are the ones who teach the young people of Jamaica’s future. It is a vicious cycle as the people of Jamaica become less and less educated, and these youngsters are unable to help their economy. One way to solve this is to attract professional and successful educators from North America to come to Jamaica and establish an education system that works. With the experience of professionals and up-to-date schooling, the young people of Jamaica will be able to become educated enough to help re-shape this failing economy.

Another problem is how Jamaica doesn’t have many resources that are wanted by other nations. Sure, they have bauxite, but they can’t fully rely on that industry. Currently, their primary sectors are worsening (with the exception of the bauxite industry) and their tertiary sectors are not evolving at all. The Jamaican government needs to attract companies from other nations, and maybe encourage them to relocate some of their factories and offices to Jamaica. This way, more manufacturing jobs will be opened up, and hopefully the unemployment rate will decrease.

Jamaica also needs to take advantage of global telecommunications, as it is becoming such a large field in our world. If they can attract companies to relocate to their nation, and can attract skilled professionals from the developed and industrialized world, they will maybe have a shot at competing with foreign competition in the long run. There are no short terms solutions to Jamaica’s long list of problems- but anything is possible in this day and age.



1"CIA Factbook for Jamaica," http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/jm.html
2"Global Edge on Jamaica,"
http://globaledge.msu.edu/ibrd/CountryEconomy.asp?CountryID=135&RegionID=4
3"CIA Factbook for Jamaica," http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/jm.html
4Ibid.
5Ibid.
6"Global Edge on Jamaica,"
http://globaledge.msu.edu/ibrd/CountryEconomy.asp?CountryID=135&RegionID=4

A Krista de la Rama, Joshua Liu, and Lauren Wood Production | 2002-2003
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