Jamaica is the largest island in the English-speaking Caribbean, and the most populated with 2.93 million people. The country has a strong tourism product which continues to grow due to its beautiful physical attractions as well as the export of its culture and international successes of its athletes and artistes.
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Like its neighbors, Jamaica is vulnerable to natural disasters – such as hurricanes and flooding – and the effects of climate change. It is an upper middle-income economy that is 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% of GDP in 2018/19 and is expected to decline below 60% by 2025/26, in line with the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Law.
The rate of unemployment also fell to a historic low of 7.2% in October 2019, which is almost half the rate at the start of the reform program. 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 with rising per-capita GDP, lower unemployment, and strengthened safety nets. Jamaica has had a high level of debt for some time. The country has however been able to reduce its debt-to-GDP ratio over the past seven years.
With concerted effort involving the International Monetary Fund and both political parties, Jamaica reduced its debt-to-GDP ratio from 144% to 94% between 2012 and 2019. During 2020, primarily due to the COVID crisis impact on nominal GDP, debt has once more increased to 106% of GDP.