Jamaica gained full independence within the British Commonwealth in 1962. Deteriorating economic conditions during the 1970s led to recurrent violence and a dropoff in tourism. Elections in 1980 saw the democratic socialists voted out of office, and a more conservative government installed. Political violence marred elections during the 1990s.
Key sectors in this island economy are bauxite (alumina and bauxite account for more than half of exports) and tourism. Since assuming office in 1992, Prime Minister PATTERSON has eliminated most price controls, streamlined tax schedules, and privatized government enterprises. Continued tight monetary and fiscal policies have helped slow inflation--although inflationary pressures are mounting--and stabilize the exchange rate, but have resulted in the slowdown of economic growth (moving from 1.5% in 1992 to 0.5% in 1995). In 1996, GDP showed negative growth (-1.4%) and remained negative through 1999. Serious problems include: high interest rates; increased foreign competition; the weak financial condition of business in general resulting in receiverships or closures and downsizings of companies; the shift in investment portfolios to non-productive, short-term high yield instruments; a pressured, sometimes sliding, exchange rate; a widening merchandise trade deficit; and a growing internal debt for government bailouts to various ailing sectors of the economy, particularly the financial sector. Depressed economic conditions in 1999 led to increased civil unrest, including a mounting crime rate. Jamaica's medium-term prospects will depend upon encouraging investment in the productive sectors, maintaining a competitive exchange rate, stabilizing the labor environment, selling off reacquired firms, and implementing proper fiscal and monetary policies.
From the CIA World Factbook 2000 and the U.S. Department of State website. Not Wikified.