Jamaica Country Report
The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), led by Andrew Holness, since regaining office in March 2016 and, despite having a narrow majority in parliament, has undertaken fiscal reforms to boost economic growth. 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, is a major problem and has led to one of the highest murder rates in the world. 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 because of 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 April and November 2017 highlighted the vulnerability of existing infrastructure.
There are no politically motivated and organised armed terrorist groups in Jamaica. Nonetheless, given the ease of access to firearms in Jamaica, 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 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 have led to the emergence of networks of smaller gangs. There is a low risk of labour strikes disrupting operations at ports or transport.
Vaccinations required to enter the country
Proof of vaccination against yellow fever is required for travelers over one year of age arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever (YFV) transmission and for travelers who have been in transit in an airport located in a country with risk of YFV transmission.
Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.
Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.
Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).
Typhoid Fever: If your travels take you to regions with poor sanitary conditions (for children two years old and up).
Rabies: For prolonged stays in an isolated region (for children from when they can walk).
For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.
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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