Jamaica's most pressing challenge is the country’s debt, which, has in turn severely hampered the country’s economic growth. The debt to GDP ratio, among the highest in the developing world, is gradually beginning to decline as a result of debt restructuring and fiscal contraction. It is estimated at about 140 percent at the end of the fiscal year, 2014/15 (March 2015).

The country is also still mitigating the medium-term effects of the global economic crisis,  and protecting social gains while moving towards fiscal and debt sustainability.

For decades, Jamaica has struggled with low growth, high public debt and many external shocks that further weakened the economy. Over the last 30 years real per capita GDP increased at an average of just one percent per year, making Jamaica one of the slowest growing developing countries in the world..

In May 2013 a four-year Extended Fund Facility (EFF) was approved with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and yielded a total support package of US$932 million to facilitate the GoJ’s economic reform agenda to stabilize the economy, reduce debt and create the conditions for growth and resilience. In support to the IMF package, the World Bank Group and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) each allocated US$510 million to Jamaica for the same period. In addition, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) will continue to support private sector development.

Institutional reforms and measures to improve the environment for the private sector have started to restore confidence in the Jamaican economy. Jamaica jumped 27 places to 58 among 189 economies worldwide in the 2015 Doing Business ranking. The country has also successfully completed six of 16 reviews of its IMF program. 

The Jamaican Government is forecasting real gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 1.9 per cent for the fiscal year 2015/2016. Despite progress, the country is confronted by serious social issues that predominantly affect youth, such as high levels of crime and violence and high unemployment. Jamaica, which had seen its poverty rate drop almost 20 percent over two decades, saw it increase by eight percent in a few years.

The unemployment rate in Jamaica is about 13.4% (end 2013/14), with youth unemployment more than twice the national rate. However, among Jamaica’s assets are its skilled labor force and strong social and governance indicators. 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.


Last Updated: Mar 30, 2015

The World Bank has worked closely with Jamaica since the country gained its independence in 1962. Since then, the Bank has been actively engaged in extending credit and development assistance to the country through several projects in various sectors, including agriculture, rural and urban development, education, infrastructural development, tax administration reform, private sector development, small scale enterprise development and telecommunications.

In line with Jamaica’s 2030 National Plan, a new World Bank Group Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) for 2014-2017 was approved in April 2014 with a focus on:

  • Modernizing the public sector by strengthening the government capacity and effectiveness.
  • Creating an enabling environment for private sector growth by fostering investments in high potential sectors
  • Building social and climate resilience by strengthening the government’s social protection programs and supporting the development of a comprehensive framework for disaster and climate risk management. 


Last Updated: Mar 30, 2015

The World Bank currently has nine ongoing projects in Jamaica:

The Social Protection Project (US$40 million Additional financing approved in 2014) seeks to strengthen the country’s social insurance and social assistance system and is a follow-up to an earlier loan that supported the establishment of a conditional cash transfer program.

The Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) (US$15 million) aims to stimulate rural economic growth through the financing of approximately 110 rural subprojects that support revenue generating activities in agriculture and tourism, as well as the provision of critical infrastructure, marketing and management subprojects in these sectors.

The Early Childhood Development Project (US$27 million Additional Financing Approved 2014) co-finances the implementation of Jamaica’s National Strategic Plan for Early Childhood Development by improving services for young children and their parents.

The Education Transformation Capacity Building Project (US$16 million) supports the implementation of the national Education System Transformation Program (ESTP).

The Energy Security and Efficiency Project (US$15 million) supports the implementation of the government’s energy policy, particularly the goals of enhancing Jamaica’s energy security and efficiency by reducing energy costs and reducing the country’s high dependence on imported petroleum products.

The Jamaica Integrated Community Development Project (US$ 42 million) is an extension of a previous project with the goal of enhancing to access to basic urban infrastructure and services, and contributing towards increased community safety in selected economically vulnerable and socially volatile inner city and rural communities in Jamaica.

JM Strategic Public Sector Transformation Project (US$ 35 million) seeks to strengthen public resource management and support selected public sector institutions in facilitating a more enabling environment for private sector growth. There are five components to the project, the first component being strengthening the Public Investment Management System (PIMS).

JM Youth Employment in Digital and Animation Industries Project (US$ 20 million) is designed to support youth employment in the digital and animation industries in Jamaica. The project comprises of five components. The first component, skills and capacity to enhance employability and entrepreneurship will build capacity and skills of Jamaican youth to improve employability in the growing animation industry and in the global online labor market, and provide critical skills to young tech entrepreneurs

Jamaica Foundations for Competitiveness and Growth Project (US$ 50 million) aims to strengthen the business environment in Jamaica for private sector investment. The foundation component is designed to enhance competition in the business environment by providing technical assistance (TA) and implementation support to address critical business regulation and procedural issues that constrain firm entry, operation and expansion, competition, and trade and logistics.

Under the current strategy, the Bank has disbursed $205 million in budget support as part of the IFI support package.

The Bank also provides grant funding to Jamaica. Currently, there are about 4 grants under implementation totaling US$5.9 million, including  the Community-Based Landslide Risk Reduction (JSDF Grant) and the Jamaica Social and Economic Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities Project (US$3 million) which supports affirmative action for vulnerable citizens to access foundational education and social services.

Last Updated: Mar 30, 2015


Jamaica: Commitments by Fiscal Year (in millions of dollars)*

*Amounts include IBRD and IDA commitments