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close this book Daughters of Sysiphus
close this folder Jamaica - A background
View the document Population
View the document Natural hazards and disasters
View the document Economy
View the document Politics
View the document Urban kingston
View the document Historical aspects of the household in Jamaica
View the document Shelter policies
View the document The construction labour force


Sugar, bananas and tourism were Jamaica's main foreign-exchange earners until the early 1960s when extensive deposits of high-grade bauxite were discovered and alumina. the processed form of bauxite and the basic component of aluminium, soon became the island's major export product. This led to a rapid and concentrated investment of capital in Jamaica which was accompanied by the growth of a sophisticated financial and banking sector in Kingston.

Following serious negative growth during the 1970s. the island was faced with major economic problems when the alumina and bauxite markets contracted in the early 1980s. The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) was elected to power by a landslide in 1980 and began a major programme of structural adjustment under the guidance of the International Monetary Fund. The aim of the restructuring was to develop a private-sector, exported economy with emphasis on growth within the tourism and nontraditional export sectors. The adjustment programme included major cuts in government expenditure on health, education and social services.

The general unemployment rate for Jamaica stands at approximately 25 per cent. Distribution of the island's wealth has changed little since independence in 1962. Ten per cent of the population account for 60 per cent of the wealth. However, there is a large and thriving informal economy which provides some avenues for economic mobility for those excluded, or wishing to exclude themselves, from the more formal markets.