Overview

  • Jamaica is the largest island in the English-speaking Caribbean, and the most populated with 2.89 million people. Like its neighbors, Jamaica is vulnerable to natural disasters, in particular hurricanes, flooding, and the effects of climate change. It is an upper middle-income economy that is nevertheless struggling due to low growth, high public debt, and exposure to external shocks.

    In 2013, Jamaica launched an ambitious reform program to stabilize the economy, reduce debt, and fuel growth, gaining national and international support.

    Public debt fell below 100 percent of GDP in 2018/19 and decline below 60 percent by 2025/26.  The employment rate in October 2018 was 8.7 percent, a reduction of 1.8 percentage points relative to 10.5 percent in October 2017, and almost half the rate at the start of the reform program.

    The Jamaican economy grew a year-on-year 2.0 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018, bolstered by growth in agriculture, manufacturing, construction, mining, and quarrying activities. Preliminary estimates for the calendar year 2018 show a 1.9 per cent growth in the Jamaican economy.

    Inequality in Jamaica’s  is lower than in most countries in the Latin America and Caribbean region, but poverty at 17.1 percent in 2016 is still significant. Stronger and more resilient economic growth is needed to eliminate poverty and boost shared prosperity. Crime and violence levels remain high, emphasizing the need to address the issues of youth unemployment, education, and social cohesion.

    Poverty is expected to decline further on rising per-capita GDP, lower unemployment, and strengthened safety nets. 

    Last Updated: Apr 01, 2019

  • Since 2013, the World Bank Group (WBG) has provided more than US$500 million of development policy and investment financing to Jamaica, helping to support private sector-led growth, public sector transformation, and social and climate resilience. The WBG’s Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) for 2014-19 is aligned with Jamaica’s Vision 2030, with focuses on:

    • Public sector modernization to enhance the government’s capacity and effectiveness.
    • Private sector-led growth by improving the business climate and fostering investment in high-potential sectors.
    • 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. 

    In addition, the WBG has provided two grants to help the country improve its management of climate data and information and support the social and economic inclusion of people with disabilities. The WBG has a 55-year partnership with Jamaica and has provided over US$ 3 billion in loan and grant financing, as well as knowledge, and advisory support in key areas such as education and early childhood development, infrastructure (Mobay airport, Highway 2000), agriculture, and the power sector (wind farm and power plants).

    The IFC, the private-sector arm of the WBG, works across a broad range of sectors in Jamaica, including financial markets, infrastructure, information and communications technology, and manufacturing and services.

    In the last five years, the IFC has committed US$20 million (US$10 million for its own account) in a renewable power project that will help Jamaica's electricity generation sector diversify away from fossil fuels and support climate change investments. Another US$20 million was invested in a telecommunications project, allowing a Jamaican corporation to expand regionally, widen its linkages with small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and support inclusive growth across the company's value chain. Additionally, US$81 million was invested through the Global Trade Finance Program to help banks deliver trade financing by providing risk mitigation in new or challenging markets where trade lines for credit may be constrained.

    Last Updated: Apr 01, 2019

  • Government and private sector projects financed by the World Bank Group have achieved important results in recent years. Some highlights include:

    • More than 387,000 Jamaicans benefited from the government’s Programme of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH), a conditional cash transfer program that helps improve the school attendance and health visits of children in poor households, putting families on a better track toward human capital accumulation.
    • The Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) is helping improve market access for micro- and small-scale farmers and their service providers by supporting revenue-generating activities in agriculture and tourism while also providing critical infrastructure, marketing, and management support. More than 1,400 farmers have benefited from improved technology, training, and access to markets. A Second REDI project will scale up investments and will benefit more than 20,000 individual beneficiaries—of which an estimated 40 percent will be women and 30 percent youths.
    • An education “passport” has been implemented to track the growth and progress of each Jamaican child in their first few years of life, while also setting the quality standards for ECD institutions through the Early Childhood Development Project.
    • The Jamaica Integrated Community Development Project has helped improve community safety and development in 18 economically and socially vulnerable inner city and rural communities by improving infrastructure such as solar street lighting, water supply systems, solid waste management, the installation of fire hydrants, and introducing violence interrupters and school-based violence prevention. A total of 362 young people has been trained in entrepreneurship, CPR and first aid, community mediation, and restorative justice.
    • The Jamaica Energy Security and Efficiency Enhancement Project has supported the development of regulation and policy for renewable energy and natural gas, contributing to increase the share of generation capacity from 9 percent at the start of the project to 12 percent in 2017 and expected to reach over 20 percent in 2030
    • With support from the Strategic Public Sector Transformation Project, formal participatory budgeting has become part of the annual budgeting process in Jamaica since 2015, strengthening the management of public investments. Indeed, a public investment management system has been put in place to help policymakers provide better governance of public investments.
    • The Youth Employment in Digital and Animation Industries Project is building on successful pilots in the Digital Jam and KingstOOn events, with more than 4,000 young Jamaicans engaged in digital enterprises, supporting the growth of Jamaican animation training and industry.
    • As disaster risk management has become a key priority for Jamaica, the Climate Data and Information Management Project is helping improve collection and analysis of climate data, and strengthening early warning systems. The Disaster Vulnerability Reduction Project (DVRP) is helping enhance physical resilience to disasters. The Bank is supporting Jamaica to elaborate and put in place a comprehensive disaster risk financing architecture.
    • The IFC supported the BMR Jamaica Wind Project, a 36-megawatt wind farm. The project, the largest led by the private sector in renewable energy, is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 66,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent per year, equivalent to taking roughly 13,000 cars off the road.
    • The IFC worked with Sagicor Bank Jamaica Limited to establish SME best practices, improving the bank’s reach to a financially underserved sector. 
    • The IFC is providing advisory services to the Jamaican government to improve the regulatory, institutional, and administrative framework for business taxation.
    • The IFC is working with Jamaican coffee producers to help increase the quality and quantity of coffee grown and processed through a combination of activities focused on improving genetics, sharing best practices in agronomy, and creating inclusive business models.
    • IFC Advisory services are helping Jamaican producers of sauces and spices to strengthen the value chain of SMEs in the sector by enhancing market linkages, using market feedback to address supply-side coordination failures, and improving the food safety standards of firms.
    • IFC Advisory services worked with the Jamaican government to structure and implement a PPP concession for the Norman Manley International Airport. This will improve airport access and quality of services for passengers, expand infrastructure capacity, increase operational efficiencies, and spur private investment. 
    • IFC is also working on four Advisory Cooperation Agreements in Jamaica to improve transactions security, expand farmers’ access to credit, build a trade portal with key information on goods exports and imports, and support investment climate reforms for doing business in the country. 

    Last Updated: Apr 01, 2019

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1818 H Street NW, Washington, DC 20433
cchapoy@worldbank.org