In-depth

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With an area of 11,000 square kilometres and an estimated population of 2.8 million people, Jamaica is the 3rd largest island in the Caribbean and the most populous English-speaking country in the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC region).  It is an upper middle-income country (MIC) with a Human Development Index rank of 96 out of 187 countries (2014 HDR).

The island has made significant progress in health and education. Life expectancy in Jamaica is 73 years. Infant mortality rates have improved to 20 per 1,000.  Access to safe water is now enjoyed by 81 percent of Jamaican households, and almost all households have access to sanitary facilities, according to Jamaica’s latest Survey of Living Conditions.  The HIV prevalence rate is 1.7% and has not changed significantly over the years. The country has however made enormous progress in eliminating mother to child transmission of HIV. The country's adult literacy rate is 87%. There is almost 100% enrollment in primary school and 93% enrollment in secondary schools.

Low rates of economic growth, high rates of indebtedness and high rates of crime and violence have however proven to be persistent problems which the country is struggling to deal with. With public debt having risen to almost 150 percent of GDP, the Jamaican economy has averaged real GDP growth at less than one-percent per year.  This has been accompanied by sustained high unemployment rates, large-scale emigration of skilled labour and high poverty rates. The unemployment rate is 14.2% as of January 2015 with the unemployment rate for males at 10.7% compared to 18.5% for females. The youth unemployment rate stands well above the national average at 34.5%.

Jamaica is also faces challenges in the high cost of energy which has a serious impact on the productive sectors. The country’s continued dependence on imported petroleum is costly. The need to diversify and move into alternative and greener energy supplies is recognised in the country’s current energy policy (2009-2030) and associated sub-policies.

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