Jamaica

Ease of Doing Business Rank: 71

Overview

 

Geographic location

Jamaica is a country located in the West Indies surrounded by the Caribbean Sea.

Cuba lies to the north, the Cayman Islands, Mexico and Central America lie to the west and Haiti and the Dominican Republic lie to the east.

Spoken language

The official language of Jamaica is English and primarily used in written documents. Jamaican Patois is the main spoken language for approximately 90% of the population. Over 88% of the population can speak both English and Patois.

Minority languages include Arawakan and Spanish.

Population

The 2020 population estimate is 2.55 million.

Kingston is the capital and largest city (584,627), followed by Portmore (182,153) and Montego Bay (110,115).

Popular industries

The top industries in Jamaica are tourism, agriculture, mining and manufacturing.

Education

The Times World University Rankings includes one Jamaican university in the top 1,000 in the world.

The Legatum Prosperity Index ranks Jamaica’s educational system 82nd out of 167 countries.

Popular entity types

The most common type of business entities in Jamaica are Limited Liability Company, Public Limited Company, Partnership and Sole Proprietorship.

The overwhelming majority of businesses are in the form of a Limited Liability Company.

Jamaica incentives for business

Jamaica offers several Special Economic Zones to developers or occupants that do not qualify for relief under other enactments. Incentives include asset tax relief and reduced income, property, general consumption, transfer and customs duty rates. Some industries and activities are prohibited within Special Economic Zones.

The country also offers tax relief to qualifying companies undertaking urban renewal in special development areas. Incentives include tax relief on rental income, interest earned within an Urban Renewal Bond, stamp duty and property transfer tax. Credits are also available for capital improvement works in some cases.

Qualifying companies with stock listed on the Junior Stock Exchange also enjoy an income tax exemption on profits for the first 5 years and a 50% exemption for the following 5 years.

Jamaican employers may also qualify for a non-refundable employment tax credit. Calculations are based on payroll taxes paid and can reduce income tax from the standard rate of 25% to as low as 17.5%.

Large-scale projects or companies operating in pioneer industries may also enjoy tax relief after ministerial approval. Additionally, companies importing materials unavailable in the area but needed for the production or manufacturing of primary products may qualify for stamp and customs duty relief.

Jamaica also encourages bauxite and alumina production through tax incentives. These include customs, stamp duty, and general consumption relief on the importation of plant, machinery, vehicles, some fuels and oils and more.

Non-residents may also enjoy tax-free interest on deposits in Jamaican banks in some cases. Deposits may be designated in foreign currency or Jamaican dollars.

Jamaica offers a foreign tax credit to companies that operate within a CARICOM treaty or if they are liable or pay tax under the Commonwealth Income Tax.

History & Features

 

Main cities for business

Kingston is the capital and financial center of the country.

Popular historical & tourist attractions

Jamaica is best-known for its Caribbean vibe and fantastic natural landscapes. It offers unparalleled sandy, golden beaches, turquoise seas with coral reefs and lush rainforests.

In 2015, Jamaica’s Blue and John Crow Mountains became the country’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. It includes hundreds of flowering plants specific to Jamaica and is also one of two habitats in the world for the giant swallowtail butterfly. This area also has cultural significance as it was the refuge for escaping indigenous peoples and slaves during the colonial period.

The Luminous Lagoon was once a place for English vessels to transfer goods to smaller ships bound for inland passages. Today, it is a favorite place for tourists to swim amongst millions of minute phosphorescent creatures that produce an eerie glow at night. The lagoon is the largest and most brilliant of its kind in the world.

Another outstanding natural attraction is the Green Grotto Caves in St. Ann. These caves include stalactites, stalagmites and an expansive underground lake. One cave system was used by runaway slaves, pirates, smugglers and as a storage area for rum. The other was used as the location for the James Bond movie ‘Live and Let Die’. Approximately 10 million bats thrive in the caves today.

The Blue Lagoon near Port Antonio is surrounded by steep hillsides and dense green vegetation. Caribbean seawater pools to 200 feet at the deepest point and is favored by swimmers and nature lovers due to its lush, postcard-perfect landscape.

Jamaica also has many fine architectural examples. Fort Charles was the first English fort built in Port Royal after they seized the area from the Spanish in the 17th century. Surprisingly, it survived since a massive earthquake destroyed most of the city in 1692. Much of the city lies below 40 feet of water, making it a favorite destination for divers and archaeologists.

Rose Hall Great House in Montego Bay sits on a 6,600-acre plantation. This restored colonial mansion demonstrates the lifestyle of the European bourgeoisie in the Caribbean during the 18th century. The property includes tropical gardens and lavish décor.

After emancipation many previously suppressed Jamaicans prospered. The restored Devon House built in 1881 was the residence of Jamaica’s first black millionaire. It is a designated National Heritage Site packed with lush furnishings and artwork and surrounded by lush gardens, palm trees and fountains.

Bob Marley’s status as Jamaica’s greatest performer is unsurpassed. Visitors can tour his former recording studio and home filled with memorabilia and prized possessions in Kingston for a glimpse of his life.

History

The original inhabitants of Jamaica were the Arawak, or Tainos, that emigrated from South America 2,500 years ago. The first contact from Europeans occurred when Christopher Columbus landed at St Ann’s Bay in 1494. The Arawak attacked his men, but Columbus needed to restock and repair his vessels. Consequently, Columbus sailed further down the coast to Discovery Bay.

He met more hostile Arawak, retaliated and eventually landed his ships, claiming the island for Spain. Over time, the Spaniards eliminated the Arawak. However, few Spaniards settled in the area. It was used as a supply base for exploits in the Americas.

In 1509, the first Spanish colonists arrived in the St. Ann’s Bay area. Most towns were small, with the exception of the capital of Spanish Town. Spain paid little attention to the new colony which led to strife between governors and church authorities and weakened rule.

From about 1630, sea attacks increased as more lawless French, Dutch and English adventurers turned to piracy. There sailors were eventually called buccaneers.

In 1655, the English invaded Jamaica and the Spanish surrendered. The English viewed buccaneering as a low-budget method to fight the Spanish at sea. They licensed buccaneers, legalized operations, invited their ships and loot into Port Royal harbor and took a share of the profits.

Port Royal became the most prosperous city in the Caribbean. Royal Navy officers lead buccaneers and activities continued regardless of whether England was at war with Spain or France, or not.

Meanwhile, settlers grew tobacco, indigo, cocoa and sugar for export to England. Between 1673 and 1739 demand for sugar grew quickly and plantations increased dramatically. Enslaved Africans provided the labor.

Colonists profited greatly from the slave trade. British ships laden with goods sailed to Africa where they traded for slaves. These ships sailed to the West Indies, where they sold their slaves and took on sugar, rum, molasses and other goods bound for England.

Some slaves escaped to the mountains and became known as Maroons. By the 18th century the British faced slave rebellions and Maroon Wars. In 1740, the British signed a treaty with the Maroons, but slave rebellions continued.

Increasing pressure from humanitarian groups finally led to the abolition of slavery in 1808. The Emancipation act of 1833 included a period of apprenticeship between slavery and freedom. Full freedom was finally granted in 1838.

Jamaica underwent a difficult period after the end of slavery. New plantation owners were deaf to the population’s needs and supplies to the island were cut off due to the American Civil War. The country underwent a severe drought.

In 1866, an uprising led to property destruction and hundreds of deaths. Repercussions included floggings and executions. The British withdrew their legislator and the island became a crown colony on a path towards recovery. Kingston became the capital in 1872.

Jamaica suffered during the 1930s due to the world-wide economic depression, unemployment, falling sugar prices and the loss of the banana industry due to disease. By 1938, the island experienced widespread violence and rioting which eventually led to the formation of labor unions. Labor union leaders spearheaded Jamaica’s move towards self-government.

Later, Jamaica temporarily united within a federation of 10 other Caribbean countries. However, the country wanted full independence and in 1962, Jamaica finally split away from Britain after over 300 years under colonial rule.

Today, Jamaica operates under a democratic constitutional monarchy. They have a mixed economic system.

Other relevant facts

According to 2011 data, most inhabitants identify as Black (92.1%), followed by mixed race (6.1%), East Indian (.8%) and other or unspecified races.

The same data suggests most Jamaicans are Protestant (64.8%), followed by Roman Catholic (2.2%), Jehovah’s Witness (1.9%), Rastafarian (1.1%) and other or unspecified religion.

Additional Information for Business

According to Forbes’ 2019 Best Countries for Business, Jamaica is 80th best country in the world for conducting business.

The 2019 Index of Economic Freedom rates Jamaica 39th globally and states, “Growth has been impeded by a bloated public sector, high crime and corruption, red tape, weak rule of law, and a high debt-to-GDP ratio.”

World Bank’s “Doing Business” rankings rate Jamaica 71st for ease of doing business in the world.

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