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COUNTRY BRIEFS


OVERVIEW

Australia and Jamaica enjoy warm and friendly relations, based on our shared membership of the Commonwealth and common historical, cultural and social links. Sport, particularly cricket and athletics, forms an important tie between our countries.

Consistent with the Australian Government's commitment to strengthening relations with the Caribbean, the Government formally established relations with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) through a Memorandum of Understanding signed by Mr Rudd, as Prime Minister, in the margins of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Trinidad and Tobago on 29 November 2009. A centrepiece of the Government's renewed ties with the region is a A$60 million Development Assistance Partnership.

Australia opened its first and only diplomatic mission in the Caribbean in Jamaica in 1974, before the mission relocated to Barbados in 1994 and then moved to Trinidad and Tobago in 2004. The Australian High Commissioner resident in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, holds non-resident accreditation to Jamaica.

Jamaica is a senior member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and was among the first countries to join the Caribbean Single Market (CSM). Jamaica has also ratified the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in its original jurisdiction (ie as a disputes mechanism for the CSM) but has yet to pass legislation recognising the CCJ in its appellate jurisdiction. As such, the UK Privy Council remains the country's court of last resort.

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POLITICAL OVERVIEW

Jamaica is a parliamentary democracy based on the Westminster parliamentary system. Jamaica is a member of the Commonwealth and Queen Elizabeth II is the Head of State, represented by the Governor-General. Parliament consists of an elected House of Representatives containing 60 members, and an appointed Senate. Executive power is vested in the Cabinet, of which between two and four members must be drawn from the Senate. General elections must be held within five years after the formation of a new government, but may be held sooner. Senators are appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. Under Jamaica's parliamentary democracy, the head of the ruling party becomes Prime Minister. Bruce Golding, the leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), became Prime Minister in the September 2007 general election. Mr Golding is Jamaica's eighth prime minister since independence.

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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 production, although production costs in Jamaica are currently higher than in Australia.

The IMF forecast Jamaica's GDP contracted by 2.8 per cent in 2009. Unfavorable economic conditions, such as the downturn in the US economy and the continued negative balance of trade, have hindered short term efforts to boost growth.

High crime rates are also hindering economic growth. Jamaica has one of the world's highest murder rates, unemployment is high, and social problems such as drugs, street violence and an alarming crime rate, have all dampened attempts to rejuvenate the tourist sector.

Jamaica's main trading partners are the US, the European Union and other CARICOM members. 

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BILATERAL RELATIONS

Australia established diplomatic relations with Jamaica in January 1974. Australia and Jamaica cooperate in various international fora including the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Jamaica is also a member of the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Caribbean Development Bank, and it plays an active role in CARICOM.

In September 2008, Australia provided A$1 million in relief to the Caribbean to help the victims of Tropical Storm Fay and Hurricanes Gustav, Hanna and Ike; A$300,000 was directed to relief efforts in Jamaica, the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos. Australia's assistance was provided through the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies for relief supplies, temporary shelter, health services and other emergency relief activities. 

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BILATERAL ECONOMIC AND TRADE RELATIONSHIP

Trade between Australia and Jamaica is modest, with the balance heavily in Australia's favour. In 2009-10, two-way merchandise trade between Australia and Jamaica amounted to around A$20 million. Australian exports to Jamaica in 2009-10 totalled around A$20 million (increasing from A$5 million in 1995) and mainly consisted of meat. Australian imports from Jamaica during this period amounted to around A$1million and were mainly alcoholic beverages.

For the latest economic data, please refer to the Jamaica fact sheet (http://www.dfat.gov.au/geo/fs/jmca.pdf).

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EXPORT OPPORTUNITIES

Possible opportunities for Australian exporters exist in a number of areas. Please refer to the Austrade related page on Jamaica (http://www.austrade.gov.au/Jamaica-profile/default.aspx).

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Last Updated: November 2010

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