For the last two decades Jamaica’s economy has been characterized by slow growth and high debt. Jamaica’s debt was estimated at 146.2 percent of GDP in March 2013, making the country one of the most indebted middle income nations in the world.
Government efforts to stabilize the economy yielded positive results in 2009-2011, but were set-back by fiscal and environmental challenges. Since then the Government has recognized the need to embark on a reform program to stabilize the economy and revitalize growth.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved in May 2013 a four-year Extended Fund Facility (EFF) yielding a total support package of US$932 million to facilitate the Government of Jamaica’s (GoJ) economic reform agenda to stabilize the economy, reduce debt and create the conditions for growth and resilience. In coordination with the IMF, the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) have each allocated US$510 million over the same period to support these efforts.
The International Finance Corporation (IFC), through investment and advisory services, will also provide critical support to the growth agenda. The Jamaican economy is expected to grow at 1-2 percent over the medium term and has already showed signs of recovery.
The country is also confronted by serious social issues that predominantly affect youth, such as high levels of crime and violence and high unemployment. Despite the progress registered in the last two decades, poverty and inequality have increased in Jamaica between 2007 and 2010.
From the early 1990s until 2007 Jamaica achieved significant advances in reducing poverty and lowering inequality. Nonetheless, its limited ability to deliver high growth and build a diversified economy has resulted in little fiscal capability to shelter the poor and vulnerable.
In 2010 poverty rates soared to 17.6 percent from just under 10 percent in 2007. This has been attributed to the global crisis, together with increasing food and energy prices. Most of the poor are concentrated in rural areas, where poverty increased from 17 percent in 2008 to 23.2 percent in 2010.
The unemployment rate stands at about 15.2 percent at the end of 2013 with youth unemployment at about 30 percent. However, among Jamaica’s assets are its skilled labor force and strong social and governance indicators. In order to restore self-sustaining and job-creating growth, Jamaica will have to improve its international competitiveness and productivity, while also tackling urgent short-term economic and social needs.
For more data on Jamaica, visit World Bank's Open Data site.