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The Economy of Jamaica

Excerpted from the book, Tour Jamaica, by Margaret Morris

The major contributors to the gross national product are tourism, bauxite and agriculture.

The largest foreign exchange earner grossed US$920 million in 1994. There are 170 registered hotels, 258 guests houses, 937 resort cottages and villas, and 429 apartments providing nearly 20,000 tourism rooms! Tourism arrivals in 94 exceeded 1.1 million including almost 600,000 cruise ship passengers. Although the indigenous tourist operators are wary of the loss of revenue to the cruise-ship trade, these visitors are all happily welcomed as grist to the foreign exchange mill. In addition, non-traditional markets like Europe, Japan and South America are growing and the summer season is now as strong as the traditional winter season.

The raw material of aluminum is mined and exported. It is also processed into "alumina" the first stage of aluminum production. A major market for bauxite was the former USSR Enduring markets for alumina are the U.S. and Canada. The government of Jamaica is now in partnership with two U.S. firms and one Canadian firm operating in Jamaica.

Sugar is still the largest employer and major agricultural earner. The government is currently divesting its sugar holdings to private enterprise. The banana industry is in the process of rehabilitation. Coffee cultivation has been revived and vastly increased but too rapid expansion, especially in the Blue Mountains has created environmental problems. Other important export crops are pimento (allspice), citrus, papayas and yams. Ganja (marijuana) though illegal, represents a significant contribution to the economy. It is probable that during the 70s and early
80s the revenue from ganja equaled or surpassed that of bauxite or tourism. Thus the control of the ganja trade is fraught with economic and political implications. Nevertheless successive governments have always co-operated with U.S. anti-narcotic squads in their attempts to curtail the importation of marijuana into the U.S. Local, eradication programs involving spraying of ganja fields have proved extremely controversial.

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