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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. In 1958 it joined other British Caribbean colonies in forming the Federation of the West Indies. Jamaica gained full independence when it...

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Economic and Trade Policy Directions: Jamaica has an open economy that is dominated by services. Production of bauxite/alumina and remittances also continues to be its source of foreign exchange. Tourism, along with other services sectors, has grown considerably, following a decline in manufacturing over the past decade. Accounting for around 60 per cent of economic activity, tourism is now the backbone of Jamaica's economy. Mining, the other significant contributor to Jamaica's GDP, is based around the country's large commercial deposits of mineral resources such as limestone, bauxite, gypsum, marble, silica sand and clays. Jamaica competes with Australia in alumina/bauxite ...

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Government: The 1962 constitution established a parliamentary system based on the U.K. model. As chief of state, Queen Elizabeth II appoints a governor general, on the advice of the prime minister, as her representative in Jamaica. The governor general's role is largely ceremonial. Executive power is vested in the cabinet, led by the prime minister. The People's National Party (PNP) government that was ...

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International Relations: Jamaica has diplomatic relations with most nations and is a member of the United Nations and the Organisation of American States. Jamaica is an active member of the Commonwealth. It is also linked with the other countries of the English-speaking Caribbean through the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and more broadly through the Association of Caribbean States (ACS).

Caribbean Community Secretariat (CARICOM) (http://www.caricom.org)

Association of Caribbean States (ACS) (http://www.acs-aec.org/)

Relations with the UK

The UK and Jamaica have a strong and long-standing ...

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The Commonwealth Caribbean islands make up a large subcomponent of the hundreds of islands in the Caribbean Sea, forming a wide arc between Florida in the north and Venezuela in the south, as well as a barrier between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Varying considerably in size, the islands, which are the isolated upper parts of a submerged chain of volcanic mountains, are scattered ...

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Area Handbook Series
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