flag Jamaica Jamaica: Economic Outline

Economic Indicators

Jamaica is an upper-middle-income economy that is nevertheless struggling due to low growth, high public debt, and exposure to external shocks. According to the World Bank, the Jamaican economy surpassed its pre-pandemic level, expanding in real terms by 2.9% year-on-year in the first three quarters of 2023. Growth was driven by net exports from a record expansion in tourism and mining, while agriculture declined due to an extended drought. However, over the medium term, annual growth should hover around only 1.7% year-on-year due to waning global demand and constrained capital investments from fiscal austerity measures. Growth is projected to be supported by mining, tourism, and private investment in hospitality capacity and infrastructure.

In 2023, the Jamaican government maintained its commitment to fiscal consolidation while giving priority to social protection. Strong tax revenues bolstered the fiscal stance. However, despite these efforts, the fiscal account is estimated to have shifted from a surplus of 1.6% of GDP in 2022 to a deficit of 1.4% in 2023. This change was primarily due to heightened expenditure on wages and salaries following the approval of a three-year plan. The fiscal account is anticipated to return to surplus over the medium term, driven by enhancements in tax revenue and careful spending. Expenditure is forecasted to decrease slightly owing to reduced interest payments. Since 2013, the government (GOJ) has successfully implemented fiscal consolidation measures, reducing the public debt-to-GDP ratio by more than 60 percentage points to 75.5% in 2023 – the lowest level in 25 years. Public debt is expected to continue its downward trend, reaching 65.9% of GDP by 2026 (data World Bank). In January 2024, annual inflation surged to 7.4%, compared to 5.1% in October 2023, exceeding the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ)'s reference range of 5 ±1%. Over the last 30 years, real GDP per capita has increased at an average of just 1% per year, making Jamaica one of the slowest-growing developing countries in the world. The economy is diverse, but industries lack investment and modernization. The country continues to derive most of its foreign exchange from tourism, remittances, and bauxite/alumina. Therefore, Jamaica is exceptionally susceptible to external shocks due to its heavy dependence on imports and tourism. Tourism and agriculture, together constituting over half of the job market, remain particularly vulnerable to external influences, especially climate-related disruptions, which have the potential to hinder both growth and poverty alleviation efforts. While the financial sector maintains stability, robust capitalization, and profitability, it remains exposed to a range of potential shocks.

The World Bank estimated the unemployment rate at 5.4% in 2023, down from 5.5% one year earlier. In recent years, living conditions have improved in terms of access to basic services, education, and healthcare. Jamaica has been classified as an upper-middle-income country by the World Bank, with a GDP per capita (PPP) estimated at USD 11,939 in 2022. The poverty rate, defined as living on USD 6.85 per day, decreased from 13.9% in 2021 to an estimated 12.3% in 2023. However, concerns persist regarding the quality of employment due to significant informality, with 46.8% of non-agricultural employment in 2020 falling into this category. Moreover, average working hours remain lower compared to pre-pandemic levels.

 
Main Indicators 20222023 (E)2024 (E)2025 (E)2026 (E)
GDP (billions USD) 17.0018.8820.1020.8621.54
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) 5.22.21.81.71.6
GDP per Capita (USD) 6,1986,8767,3097,5767,817
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 77.171.867.564.762.1
Inflation Rate (%) 10.36.57.05.05.0
Current Account (billions USD) -0.130.280.06-0.18-0.35
Current Account (in % of GDP) -0.81.50.3-0.9-1.6

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database - October 2021.

Note: (e) Estimated Data


 
Monetary Indicators 20162017201820192020
Jamaican Dollar (JMD) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 GBP 168.90164.69171.94166.63182.57

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 

Main Sectors of Industry

 
Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 15.5 16.2 68.3
Value Added (in % of GDP) 8.1 19.9 58.3
Value Added (Annual % Change) 9.0 -0.4 6.3

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 
Socio-Demographic Indicators 2024 (e)2025 (e)2026 (e)
Unemployment Rate (%) 0.00.00.0

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database - Latest available data

 

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The Active Population in Figures

201820192020
Labour Force 1,473,3831,502,8581,457,011

Source: International Labour Organization, ILOSTAT database

 
201720182019
Total activity rate 71.15%70.44%71.38%
Men activity rate 76.49%76.02%77.10%
Women activity rate 65.94%65.01%65.82%

Source: International Labour Organization, ILOSTAT database

 

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Indicator of Economic Freedom

Definition:

The Economic freedom index measure ten components of economic freedom, grouped into four broad categories or pillars of economic freedom: Rule of Law (property rights, freedom from corruption); Limited Government (fiscal freedom, government spending); Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labour freedom, monetary freedom); and Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). Each of the freedoms within these four broad categories is individually scored on a scale of 0 to 100. A country’s overall economic freedom score is a simple average of its scores on the 10 individual freedoms.

Score:
69/100
World Rank:
45
Regional Rank:
5

Economic freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Index of Economic Freedom, Heritage Foundation

 
 

Country Risk

See the country risk analysis provided by Coface.

 

Indicator of Political Freedom

Definition:

The Indicator of Political Freedom provides an annual evaluation of the state of freedom in a country as experienced by individuals. The survey measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions (on Electoral Process, Political Pluralism and Participation, Functioning of Government) and 15 civil liberties questions (on Freedom of Expression, Belief, Associational and Organizational Rights, Rule of Law, Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights). Scores are awarded to each of these questions on a scale of 0 to 4, where a score of 0 represents the smallest degree and 4 the greatest degree of rights or liberties present. The total score awarded to the political rights and civil liberties checklist determines the political rights and civil liberties rating. Each rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of freedom, corresponds to a range of total scores.

Ranking:
Free
Political Freedom:
2/7

Political freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Freedom in the World Report, Freedom House

 

Indicator of Freedom of the Press

Definition:

The world rankings, published annually, measures violations of press freedom worldwide. It reflects the degree of freedom enjoyed by journalists, the media and digital citizens of each country and the means used by states to respect and uphold this freedom. Finally, a note and a position are assigned to each country. To compile this index, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) prepared a questionnaire incorporating the main criteria (44 in total) to assess the situation of press freedom in a given country. This questionnaire was sent to partner organisations,150 RWB correspondents, journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists. It includes every kind of direct attacks against journalists and digital citizens (murders, imprisonment, assault, threats, etc.) or against the media (censorship, confiscation, searches and harassment etc.).

World Rank:
7/180

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Sources of General Economic Information

Main Online Newspapers and Portals
Jamaica Observer
The Gleaner Jamaica
Jamaica Newspapers
Useful Resources
Ministry of Finance and the Public Service
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade
Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce
National Bank
 
 

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Latest Update: May 2024

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