Jamaica is a small island country in the Caribbean Sea, about half the size of the American state, New Jersey. Since its origin, the country has functioned through an agricultural emphasis. Settled by the Spanish and English in its early discovery, Jamaica was used as a slave island that farmed staple crops to accommodate world trade. Even after gaining independence in 1962, the country’s economy remained agricultural as a consequence of the past slavery.
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Overall, the Caribbean region has lagged in its recovery from the global recession that began six years ago. In some Eastern Caribbean nations, unemployment is still as high as 20% and debt as a percentage of GDP exceeds 100%. There has also been a change in the region’s economic environment, as many nations are transferring their focus from agriculture to services. For sustainable economic growth to occur, countries in the Caribbean need to diversify their economies and expand their export markets.
The rolling tides of economic woes have slammed the shores of Jamaica. The island nation’s unemployment rate has risen above 12% while its debt-to-GDP ratio is at a staggering 130% - not far behind Greece. Discussion has started with the International Monetary Fund for a significant amount of debt relief.
This will not be the first time the international financial institution has come to Jamaica’s aid for in 2010, the country received $1.27 billion. Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller of the People’s National Party, who stepped into office early January 2012, has yet to implement many of her social and economic policies (one of which includes finalizing negotiations for financial aid with the IMF). Other hot topics of Jamaica’s political discussion are tax and pension reform and reducing wages for government workers.