Life for foreigners
Jamaica's economy has traditionally been driven by the tourism industry. For the expatriate there are many ways to enjoy living in Jamaica. The beaches and the outdoor life of a Caribbean island are most appealing. In addition, a vigorous arts and culture movement has developed through active government and private sponsorship.
This heavy dependence on tourism is beginning to change as other sectors (IT, for example) are areas for growth and focuses of investment. As the economy diversifies, so too will the experience for businesspeople moving to Jamaica.
A vigorous arts and cultural movement has developed in Jamaica through active governmental and private sponsorship. Music, especially reggae, and dance are important areas of artistic expression.
As an independent member of the British Commonwealth, Jamaica's official head of state is Queen Elizabeth II of England. The Queen is represented by a governor general, who is appointed by the Crown on advice of the British Prime Minister. The governor general appoints the Jamaican Prime Minister, who is usually the leader of the majority party in Parliament. The prime minister makes the recommendation for the appointment of the members to his cabinet.
Executive power rests with the prime minister and his cabinet. The prime minister may call parliamentary elections at any time, but no later than five years after the previous election.
Legislative power is in the hands of a bicameral Parliament. There is a Senate with 21 appointed members - by the prime minister and the opposition party. The 60-member House of Representatives are popularly elected every five years. The next election is October of 2007.
Jamaica's key resources are bauxite and beaches. Low international prices have put the mining of bauxite and the allied industry of aluminum processing in a prolonged slump. However, tourists continue to flock to Jamaica's beaches in record numbers. The September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States hurt the tourist industry, it rebounded during 2003 and 2004.
Jamaica's famous resorts, most situated around the northern coast towns of Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, and Negril, host over a million and a half international visitors a year with the numbers steadily rising. There are also opportunities in Jamaica for non-traditional tourism in the growing area of ecology or nature tourism, which includes hiking, rafting, and bird watching.
In addition to the decline in earnings from the bauxite and aluminum industries, factors adversely affecting the Jamaican economy include high inflation, the decline of real income for the majority of the people, and high interest rates. Unemployment, depreciation of the Jamaican dollar, and labor unrest, are still serious issues. To address these problems the government is attempting to improve opportunities through education, skills training, welfare programs, and support for income-earning projects for the unemployed.
In addition, attention is focused on growing other industries, such as communications services in the form of call and data centers.
The quality of Jamaica's infrastructure ranks high among developing countries. The government is working to improve an underdeveloped inland-transportation system to attract more foreign corporations to the island. Jamaica also hopes to attract increasing foreign investment with a program of trade and investment incentives, tax incentives and exemptions, easy remittance of profits, duty-free import and export provisions, and free trade and single-firm free zones.