Jamaica Country Report
The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), led by Andrew Holness, has undertaken fiscal reforms to boost economic growth, despite having a narrow majority in parliament. His government raised the personal income tax threshold to JMD1.5 million from JMD592,800, and introduced a new 30% rate for personal incomes over USD 48,000. Violent crime, fuelled by drug-trafficking and lottery scams, has led to one of the highest murder rates in the world, and the government has declared state of emergency in certain parishes. Jamaica's heavy debt burden and reliance on tourism and remittances increase non-payment risks.
Although transport and telecommunications infrastructure has improved in recent years, obstacles for private-sector activities include the high level of violent crime, which increases the cost of doing business due to the need to divert expenditure towards security. Despite policies aimed at improving education, efforts to strengthen human capital have suffered because of negative net migration rates. Red tape and comparatively high corruption are further operational obstacles. The onset of the hurricane season (July–October) can have a significant negative effect on business operations. Severe flooding in in May and October 2018 highlighted the ongoing vulnerability of existing infrastructure.
There are no politically motivated and organised armed terrorist groups in Jamaica. Nonetheless, given the ease of access to firearms, and the very significant number of potential ‘soft targets’ offered by Jamaica’s huge tourism sector, which caters heavily to US visitors, there is a minor risk of incidents.
Jamaica faces no potential war risks, as it prefers to resolve international disputes diplomatically.
Social unrest has traditionally focused around political violence during elections, but that trend has fallen considerably since the late 1990s. There is no evidence for its resurgence, despite a few incidents of violence involving party supporters during the 2016 elections. The collapse of the major gang structures has led to the emergence of networks of smaller gangs. There is a low risk of labour strikes disrupting operations at ports or transport routes.
Vaccines required to enter the country
Yellow fever: There is no risk of contracting yellow fever in Jamaica. However, the government requires proof of vaccination for travelers arriving from countries with a risk of yellow fever transmission. A single dose of YF vaccine is sufficient to confer sustained life-long immunity against the disease.
Vaccines recommended for all travelers
Routine vaccinations: Consult your doctor to ensure all routine vaccinations - such as for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, influenza, measles, mumps, pertussis, rubella, varicella, etc. - are up to date (include booster shots if necessary).
Vaccines recommended for most travelers
Hepatitis A: The vaccine is given in two doses, six months apart, and is nearly 100 percent effective. The WHO recommends the vaccine be integrated into national routine immunization schedules for children aged one year or older.
Typhoid fever: The typhoid fever vaccine can be administered via injection (administered in one dose) or orally (four doses). The vaccine is only 50-80 percent effective, so travelers to areas with a risk of exposure to typhoid fever, a bacterial disease, should also take hygienic precautions (e.g. drink only bottled water, avoid undercooked foods, wash hands regularly, etc.). Children can be given the shot beginning at two years of age (six for the oral vaccine).
Vaccines recommended for some travelers
Hepatitis B: The WHO recommends that all infants receive their first dose of vaccine as soon as possible after birth, preferably within 24 hours. The birth dose should be followed by two or three doses to complete the primary series. Routine booster doses are not routinely recommended for any age group.
Rabies: The rabies vaccination is typically only recommended for travel to remote areas and if the traveler will be at high risk of exposure (e.g. undertaking activities that will bring them into contact with dogs, cats, bats, or other mammals). The vaccination is administered in three doses over a three-to-four week period. Post exposure prophylaxis is also available and should be administered as soon as possible following contact with an animal suspected of being infected (e.g. bites and scratches).
Travelers should also be aware that hurricane season lasts from June through November, with the highest risk of storms in September. Storms often provoke landslides, power outages, and severe transport disruptions. Several recent hurricanes have been particularly devastating to the island, notably Tropical Storm Nicole in September 2010, which left some 20 people dead. It is advisable to stock up on essential goods (e.g. food, water, medications, etc.) in anticipation of possible business closures during or after a hurricane or tropical storm. Note that acts of looting are common after storms.
Jamaica is within an active seismic zone and, consequently, is susceptible to earthquakes.
Driving conditions can be dangerous in Jamaica, including on many highways, due to poorly maintained roads, lack of signage, and unsafe driving habits. Driving at night should be avoided as it is particularly hazardous. Note that Jamaicans drive on the left side of the road in this former British colony.
Due to crime concerns, it is advisable to drive with windows closed and doors locked; all personal possessions should be stored out of sight. Avoid parking on the street and use garages or attended parking lots whenever possible. Due to the risk of carjacking, always be aware of your surroundings and leave room to maneuver between your car and the car ahead.
Public transportation should be avoided, as buses are often overcrowded and passengers are easy targets for opportunistic petty criminals. Taxis associated with hotels are considered relatively safe.
Jamaica has a tropical maritime climate with steady temperatures all year long. The rainy season lasts from May until December. The northern coast receives more rain than the southern coast. Hurricanes sometimes strike the island between June and November.
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