The Commonwealth of Jamaica


2.8 million


Jamaican dollar ($J)


Bilingual – Jamaican Standard English and Jamaican Patois


Jamaica is an independent state in the Greater Antilles, located in the Caribbean Sea, south of Cuba. Jamaica is the fourth largest island in the Caribbean in terms of land mass and population. Jamaica was originally inhabited by an indigenous population, before being claimed by Christopher Columbus for the Spanish in the 15th century, and later for the British in 1655. Jamaica became independent of Great Britain in 1962, but chose to retain the British Monarch as Head of State. Queen Elizabeth II is the current Head of State of Jamaica, and is represented locally by a Governor General. Jamaica is a member of the Commonwealth and CARICOM. The Constitution is the supreme law of Jamaica, and it establishes the executive, legislature and judiciary.

The capital city of Jamaica, Kingston, is located in the south-east of the island, and is the focus for the country’s economic and Government activity. Montego Bay, often referred to as Jamaica’s second city, is a popular tourist city, along with the towns of Ocho Rios and Negril. Jamaica is split into fourteen parishes and three historic counties. The population of Jamaica is 2.8 million and it has a land mass of 4,213 square miles (making it the largest country by land mass in the Commonwealth Caribbean). Jamaica is considered a bilingual country, as although English is the official language (termed Jamaican Standard English – JSE), Jamaican Patois, an English-based creole, is the primary spoken language. In a 2005 survey of 1000 respondents, 89% spoke Jamaican Standard English, 88% spoke Jamaican Patois

and 78% spoke both languages. The currency of Jamaica is the Jamaican dollar, (J$) which is not fixed to any other currency.

Jamaica operates as a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy. Parliament is divided into the Lower and Upper Houses. The Upper House is the Senate, and the Lower House is the House of Representatives. Under the Jamaican Constitution, members of the House of Representatives are elected, whilst members of the Senate are nominated jointly by the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition and appointed by the Governor General.