|Form of government||Parliamentary monarchy in the Commonwealth|
|Time zone||UTC −5|
|Telephone area code||001 (Source: ALLCITYCODES)|
The island state of Jamaica belongs to the group of the Greater Antilles and is located in the Caribbean. The Antilles are a chain of islands that extend in an arc from Cuba to Trinidad and separate the Caribbean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean. In addition to Jamaica, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Hispaniola belong to the Greater Antilles. Jamaica has a length of about 235 kilometers in an east-westerly direction, the widest point is about 80 kilometers. The total area of the country is 10 991 km².
Most of the island is mountainous. To the east are the Blue Mountains with the highest mountain, the Blue Mountain Peak (2,256 m). The cockpit country in the west contains the karst landscape typical of the island with limestone formations and underground caves. The coastal plains in the south are predominantly marshes, the white sand beaches, numerous bays and the evergreen rainforest are typical for the north coast.
The tropical climate in Jamaica does not have any major temperature differences. Average temperatures in Kingston, the country’s capital, are around 25 °C in January and around 28 °C in July. From May to October, most precipitation falls, with large regional fluctuations: Kingston measures an average of around 900 mm, in the northeastern mountains up to over 5,000 mm. Cyclones (hurricanes) often occur in late summer.
Flora and fauna
The tropical climate ensures lush vegetation, but large plantations (sugar cane, coffee, cocoa), which are constantly being expanded, are pushing back the original fauna. In the native language of Jamaica (Arawak or Aruak), the country name “Xaymaca” meant “land of forests and water”. Today, the tropical rainforest, which previously covered large areas of the island, is limited to areas in the northeast. The native trees include cedar, mahogany, rosewood, fan and coconut palm and allspice. The mahoe tree, which belongs to the hibiscus family, is considered the national tree of Jamaica.
The habitat of the local animal world is also limited accordingly, only a few areas are protected as nature reserves. Some of the animal species are endemic, meaning that they only occur on this island. These include around 25 of a total of 250 bird species such as the Jamaican hummingbird and the green or Jamaican todi. One of the endemic mammals is, for example, the Jamaican piglet rat, which belongs to the rodents.
Until the first half of the 19th century, Jamaica was an important base for Britain’s trade in slaves. According to COUNTRYAAH, even today, around 90% of the population are black of African descent, almost 7% are half-breeds. The island has around 2.64 million residents, and the number of Jamaicans living abroad, mostly in the United Kingdom and the United States, is not much smaller. Kingston on the south coast of Jamaica is the largest city on the island with around 587 800 residents, followed by Spanish Town (92 400) and Portmore (90 100). Check ALLCITYPOPULATION to see other large cities in Jamaica by population.
The official language is English, and Patois (or Jamaican Creole) is also spoken, a mixture of European languages and African dialects. Almost two thirds of the population are Christians and belong predominantly to Protestant communities, Catholics make up only a small minority. Almost a quarter of the residents practice African or Indian religions.
Jamaica is home to reggae, a music movement made famous worldwide by Bob Marley. It was through them that the Rastafaris (Rastas) and their philosophy became known. The stronghold of the Rastafarians in Jamaica is the small town of St. Ann’s Bay, once an important port for the slave trade. Overall, over 90% of the population can read and write; the population growth is 0.7%, the average life expectancy is 76 years.
The constitution dates from 1962. The formal head of state of the parliamentary monarchy in the Commonwealth is the British monarch Queen Elizabeth II (since February 1962). She appoints a governor general (Patrick Allen, since February 2009). The head of government is the Prime Minister, who is appointed by the Governor General (Portia Simpson Miller, since January 2012). The cabinet is formed by the governor, based on proposals from the prime minister.
The legislature lies with the bicameral parliament, which consists of the House of Representatives (63 members, directly elected by the people for five years) and the Senate. The 21 members of the Senate are selected by the governor every five years, 13 seats are planned for the ruling party and eight for the opposition party. Citizens aged 18 and over are entitled to vote.
Jamaica is divided into 14 districts.
Jamaica is one of the wealthier countries in the Caribbean, yet 17% of the population live below the poverty line. The official unemployment rate is 13%, but it is significantly higher for young workers (41%). The transfers from Jamaicans abroad make the greatest contribution to the economy alongside tourism.
Agriculture has traditionally played an important role in Jamaica. Bananas, tobacco, sugar cane, pineapple, grapefruit, cocoa and clove pepper are cultivated. Coffee is also grown and exported on a large scale. Blue Mountain coffee, which is grown in small businesses and only grows at altitudes above 1,000 m, is known worldwide. Overall, however, the agricultural sector now only generates around 7% of gross domestic product (GDP). The service sector, especially tourism and financial services, is responsible for 72% of GDP.
The most important export goods are bauxite and aluminum. Bauxite is mined centrally in the interior by international companies. Among other things, industrial and consumer goods and various raw materials are imported. The largest trading partner in Jamaica is the United States.
The currency is the Jamaican dollar.