Overseas Business Risk – Jamaica

Information on key security and political risks which UK businesses may face when operating in Jamaica.

The Doing Business in Jamaica guide is a good starting place when deciding to do business in Jamaica. It offers information on opportunities, challenges and practical advice to help you make the most of doing business in Jamaica.

Jamaica is very welcoming of overseas investment and businesses as the Government and business community are aware of the economic benefits that can be derived from them. This is demonstrated by a number of incentives to attract business. Many UK companies are already in Jamaica, including Diageo, British Airways, De La Rue ,Virgin Atlantic and Cable and Wireless (trading as LIME), and are doing good business in the country. Jamaica is the largest English –speaking country in the Caribbean and has natural advantages including proximity to North America, a strong telecommunications network, large natural harbours and copious deposits of minerals. There is a population of 2.8 million people and the majority of whom are skilled, literate and hard-working. The country does face economic challenges which may seem like a deterrent but may actually offer some opportunities.

Political and Economic

Jamaica has an economy that has been struggling to stay on a growth trajectory and, where there is growth, it is modest. The country is however buoyed by a strong underground economy, estimated at 35% by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2008, and considerable natural resources. In 2012/2013 financial year, the country reported a GDP of US$15.2b. The GDP is largely supported by tourism and remittances The country’s economic challenges are largely the fault of crushing debt. One of the goals of the present Government is to reduce debt and to increase revenues to begin to kick-start more robust growth. The country also enjoys the generosity of grants and loans from international aid agencies that assist with moving developmental goals forward and help to increase macroeconomic stability.

Jamaica’s main exports include sugar, rum, coffee, yams, beverages and minerals. . Principal imports include oil, food and other consumer goods, industrial parts, transport and machinery equipment and construction materials. Jamaica is beginning to see growth in a number of areas including Information Communications Technology (ICT) and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), renewable energy,

Jamaica’s political landscape is both stable and democratic. Led by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, the government is focused on economic development balanced by social intervention programmes to ensure that the vulnerable in the society are aided. Her government, the People’s National Party (PNP), has a large parliamentary majority and this should help in passing necessary legislation to move the country forward.

More information on political risk, including political demonstrations, is available in the FCO Travel Advice.

Human Rights and Business

Jamaica recognizes the UN guiding principles on Business and Human Rights. The country has been a member state of the ILO since 1962 and has ratified all the core conventions on labour rights. The country also has set legislation which governs industrial and human relations, wage standards and social benefits.

Trade Unions factor very strongly in Jamaica’s political history and have been in existence from as early as 1938. In modern Jamaica, there are several active trade unions, each with large membership, significant clout and recognition in worker representation and bargaining rights. Despite the passing of the Child Care and Protection Act in 2004, which explicitly prohibits child labour, there have been a few reported incidents of children engaging in informal economic activity. The government has however responded quickly to this problem by working closely with the ILO to institute national programmes to prevent and eliminate child labour.

National laws protect against gender discrimination in the labour market. Women have made significant progress in all areas of work in Jamaica and have done far better than men in areas of education. This trend is not readily reflected in the labour market however; where males continue to have lower unemployment rates and earn higher wages.

Bribery and Corruption

Bribery is illegal. It is an offence for British nationals or someone who is ordinarily resident in the UK, a body incorporated in the UK or a Scottish partnership, to bribe anywhere in the world.

In addition, a commercial organisation carrying on a business in the UK can be liable for the conduct of a person who is neither a UK national or resident in the UK or a body incorporated or formed in the UK. In this case it does not matter whether the acts or omissions which form part of the offence take place in the UK or elsewhere.

In 2013, Jamaica maintained its ranking in the Transparency International’s corruption perception index (CPI) ranking 83rd out of 176 countries.

The Government and civil society are continually implementing measures to stem the tide of corruption and improve the transparency of doing business in Jamaica

Visit the Business Anti-Corruption portal page providing advice and guidance about corruption in Jamaica and some basic effective procedures you can establish to protect your company from them.

Read the information provided on our Bribery and corruption page.

Terrorism Threat

There is a low threat from terrorism. But you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate attacks that could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

For more general information see Terrorism Abroad. We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.

Read the information provided on our Terrorism threat page

Protective Security Advice

The Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure also provides protective security advice to businesses

Jamaica has a serious crime problem that is usually confined to its nationals but being cautious is necessary as a visitor or expatriate living in Jamaica. As with many cities, there are basic security precautions that one should take to ensure your safety. Be cognisant of your surroundings, seek advice on safe areas to visit and use the transportation recommended by the hotels or trusted associates. We recommend that you avoid walking or using the buses at night. Do not carry large amounts of cash or wear eye-catching jewellery in public places. Use hotel safety deposit boxes to store valuables, money and passports.

Further advice may be sought from the Jamaican High Commission in London and/or the local Jamaican Information Service.

Read the information provided on our Protective security advice page.

Intellectual Property

Jamaica is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization and has a central Intellectual Property Rights office that deals with the administration of both Industrial Property and Copyright and Related Rights. The office was set up to fulfil the country’s bilateral and multilateral obligations in the field of Intellectual Property. There have been incidences of copyright infringements in Jamaica, however the government is moving aggressively against these illegal practices under the country’s Copyright Act.

Jamaica’s copyrights are across borders, with the exception of USA where a body of work must be lodged with the Library of Congress to prove ownership. However, all other IP areas such as trademarks, industrial designs, patents, etc., are territorial where protection is only given in the countries where they are registered. We highly recommend that you seek protection in Jamaica.

For information on registering your Trademark in Jamaica, you should contact :

The Jamaica Intellectual Property Office

4dth floor, PCJ Bldg

36 Trafalgar Road

Kingston 10

Tel: (876) 960-1852, 754-6350, 754-6360

Fax: (876) 929-1190

Email: info@jipo.gov.jm

Read the information provided on our Intellectual Property page.

Organised Crime

Jamaica has its share of lottery scams and Ponzi schemes that the regulatory bodies have had success in squashing. There is also criminal activity linked to drugs and firearms that the UK and the Government of Jamaica currently work closely in intelligence gathering and implementing effective actions. These activities have a limited impact on businesses.

Read the information provided on our Organised crime page.

More information is available on overseas business risk in a range of markets.

UK Trade & Investment Contact:


Countries: Jamaica
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