Jamaica has struggled with poverty, unemployment and crime for the past half century, but the nation has recently seen ambitious government economic policies bear fruit. Here are eight facts about poverty in Jamaica:
- Jamaica is not in extreme poverty and is regarded as a middle income country. For comparison, Jamaica has about 1/20th the GDP per capita of the United States, but a four-times-higher GDP per capita than the nearby country Haiti.
- Since the 1970s and 80s, Jamaica has experienced serious problems with poverty and unemployment. Through the 90s, unemployment remained around 15 percent, with poverty above 25 percent. The unemployment rate is currently 14 percent and poverty is 16 percent.
- A serious hindrance to Jamaica’s development has been slow rates of economic growth. In the past 30 years, Jamaica has had an average annual GDP growth rate of less than one percent. The slow growth rate is a major cause of persistent poverty in Jamaica.
- Relationships between Jamaican officials and crime groups cause widespread corruption, which results in many of Jamaica’s problems. The corruption not only hurts law abiding Jamaican citizens, but makes foreign investors far more hesitant to get involved in Jamaican industry.
- Public education in Jamaica is not entirely free, as there is a registration fee and other school expenses that are not covered by the government. As a result, many of the nation’s most poor children are not able to attend school.
- Jamaica jumped 27 places in the 2015 Doing Business ranking, as the Jamaican government has improved its credit rating and decreased the national debt. It is hoped that the improved ranking will increase investment and alleviate poverty in Jamaica.
- The World Bank has a positive outlook for Jamaica’s economy, with forecasts of the country’s GDP growth rate climbing to over two percent in 2017.
- The Jamaican Government is currently working with the UNDP and the European Union to alleviate poverty on both a macro and micro level. Poverty alleviation and achievement of Millennium Development Goals remains a top priority for the Jamaican government.
Despite Jamaica’s history of poverty and some ongoing problems, economic forecasts for the country remain optimistic. It is possible that Jamaica will experience an economic resurgence and alleviate problems of unemployment and poverty in coming years.
– John English