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Country Reports

Jamaica Country Report

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Risk Level

Low
Moderate
Elevated
High
Very High
Severe
Extreme

Overview

Executive Summary

The ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), led by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, has been in office since March 2016. It holds a slim parliamentary majority with 33 seats – versus 30 seats held by the opposition People’s National Party (PNP) – in the 63-seat House of Representatives, parliament’s lower chamber. Despite its narrow majority, the JLP has successfully pursued various priority policies, including reducing financial turnover taxes. A three-year Stand-By Agreement with the IMF ended in November 2019. Following years of compliance with the IMF, Jamaica has set high expectations for the continuation of well-guided fiscal austerity policies that support macroeconomic stability and a stronger external position. Primary fiscal surpluses are helping to reduce government debt levels, although still-high interest rate payments partly restrict fiscal policy flexibility. The JLP welcomes local and foreign investment and has progressed infrastructure and logistics projects, including the expansion of Kingston Freeport Terminal and the upgrade of Sangster International Airport. IHS Markit has lowered its growth forecast for Jamaica for 2019 from 2.4% to 1.7%, given weak domestic demand and a less-supportive external sector. Despite adherence to fiscal policy objectives and improving debt levels, Jamaica’s economy remains vulnerable to swings in global growth and international commodity prices given its poor diversification. The government of Holness has sought to counter high crime rates by introducing states of emergencies (SOEs) in different parishes since January 2018. SOEs have been repeatedly extended in Westmoreland, Hanover, and St James parishes, in response to high levels of inter-gang crime. In July 2019, the government also introduced a new SOE in South St Andrew police division. Long-term visitors face higher risks of death and injury than short-term travellers due to the targeting of personal residences and small businesses by gangs.
Last update: November 20, 2019

Operational Outlook

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.

Last update: November 14, 2019

Terrorism

Elevated

There are no politically motivated and organised armed terrorist groups in Jamaica. Nonetheless, given the ease of access to firearms, and thesignificant number of potential ‘soft targets’ offered by Jamaica’s huge tourism sector, which caters heavily to US visitors, there is a risk of incidents. Caribbean nationals, mainly Trinidad and Tobago, have travelled to Islamic State controlled territories in recent years. Following the loss of such territories, there is an elevated likelihood of radicalized individuals returning, or of homegrown radicalization, moderately raising terrorism risks across the Caribbean, affecting Western assets or tourism zones. However, there is no history of such attacks in the region.

Last update: November 14, 2019

Crime

Jamaica has a high level of homicides, at around 47 per 100,000 in 2018. Although the rate reduced from 56 in 2017, gangs are heavily involved in gun-related crime, especially in West Kingston and St James parish, where the tourist hotspot of Montego Bay is located. Gang activity is largely related to drug trafficking, extortion of small and large businesses, financial crime, and armed robbery. The government has implemented an anti-crime strategy since 2017 involving the deployment of armed forces and police with enhanced powers to designated zones, which has contributed to reduced crime levels. However, corruption and a lack of judicial and police capacity are significant obstacles.

Last update: September 3, 2019

War Risks

War risks in Jamaica are low as the country has traditionally resolved international disputes diplomatically, and as there are no long-standing bilateral disputes involving Jamaica. Although illegal fishing in its Exclusive Economic Zone is an ongoing issue, the Jamaica Defence Force Coast Guard remains under-resourced and prioritises anti-drug-smuggling activities. Small boats and fishing vessels navigating in Jamaican waters are at risk of being seized by the coastguard if they are suspected of carrying illegal drugs.

Last update: November 14, 2019

Social Stability

Moderate

Social unrest has traditionally been focused around political violence during elections, but this trend has reduced; with only a few incidents of violence involving party supporters during the 2016 elections. Austerity measures, as part of debt reduction policies, have not resulted in large protests so far in 2019; however, the release in July 2019 by the Integrity Commission of findings of government corruption within the Petrojam refinery, led to low-profile opposition-backed protests in July 2019. Protests are unlikely to pose significant death and injury or property damage risks, however traffic disruption is likely near government buildings.

Last update: November 20, 2019

Health Risk

Very high

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).

Last update: April 5, 2019

Natural Risks

Severe

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.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Transportation

Moderate

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.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Practical Information

Climate

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.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +1 876
Police: 119
Fire Dept.: 110

Electricity

Voltage: 110 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

Last update: April 5, 2019