Since independence from the British in 1962,
the right-wing Jamaica's Labor Party (JLP) and the
Socialist People's Nationalist Party (PNP) have been
reversed by government. The era since the 1960s has been
characterized by an economic roller coaster, social
unrest and gang crime.
Jamaica became an independent state on August 6, 1962
after gradually gaining self-government from the
colonial power of Britain (see Older History). The
ruling right-wing party JLP retained power in the 1967
parliamentary elections. JLP pursued a Western-friendly
policy and encouraged foreign investment in the country.
Capital flowed to the island, whose mining industry
expanded. This resulted in high economic growth, while
the social gaps increased. Tensions led to violence, and
demands for social reform laid the foundation for a
change of government.
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Jamaica. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
In the 1972 election, the Socialist PNP took power
under Michael Manley, son of the party's founder Norman
Manley (see Older History). His political line was
called "democratic socialism", which meant the
stateization of certain industries, land reform, social
reforms, free schooling and adult education. Foreign
policy, Jamaica was striving for stronger relations with
the Third World, not least Cuba.
Economic crisis and social unrest
The long economic upswing broke in 1973, when
international oil prices soared. The economy shrank for
the rest of the decade. During its second term
(1976-1980), the PNP faced increasing problems and
The electoral movement in 1980 became the most
violent country. Over 1,000 people were killed and
emergency permits were introduced. PNP lost big and JLP
took over with party leader Edward Seaga as prime
Seaga again began to pursue a Western-friendly policy
and sought close ties with the United States in hopes of
attracting foreign capital to the country. He also
sought financial assistance from the International
Monetary Fund (IMF). However, the economy did not
improve, instead Jamaica became increasingly dependent
on US aid.
Government popularity temporarily increased in 1983
when Jamaica participated with a force in the US-led
invasion of Grenada. Seaga seized the opportunity and
announced new elections. The election held in December
was boycotted by the PNP in protest that the voting
lengths had not been updated. The JLP won all the seats
in Parliament. The next few years became concerned with
continued financial problems. Demolished food subsidies
and other price increases led to demonstrations and
In September 1988, Jamaica was hit by "Gilbert", the
worst hurricane in the country's modern history. Over
100,000 homes were destroyed and large parts of
agriculture were knocked out. Seaga was criticized for
favoring JLP supporters when emergency aid was
PNP dominates politics
The 1989 election resulted in PNP regaining power.
Prime Minister Michael Manley had embraced the idea of
market-oriented reforms and the Socialist government
was now pursuing an economic policy in line with IMF
recommendations. That resulted in growth, but the
Jamaican dollar collapsed in value when it was released
in 1990. The collapse led to rapid price increases on
imported goods, and PNP's popularity fell as fast as the
After a short period of stronger economic growth, the
country was hit by a series of strikes, at the same time
as the government was forced to take large sums from the
Treasury to save the crisis-hit financial sector.
In March 1992, Manley resigned for health reasons and
was succeeded by Deputy Prime Minister and PNP leader
Percival Patterson. PNP also won the 1993, 1997 and 2002
elections, which was largely due to internal struggles
within the JLP. The JLP conflict culminated in 1995 when
Seaga's Crown Prince Bruce Golding broke out and formed
the National Democratic Movement (NDM). Prior to the
2002 election, however, Golding returned to JLP and
replaced Seaga at the party leader post.
"Last P" becomes Prime Minister
Since Patterson announced that he wanted to resign,
PNP appointed Portia Simpson Miller as new party leader
in early 2006. Thus, Jamaica also got its first female
prime minister. The choice of "Last P" (Sister P) split
the PNP, as several party members reacted to her poor
background. But her upbringing in the slums also made
her popular among the poor, women and unemployed.
However, it was not enough to keep the PNP in power
when the parliamentary elections were held in September
2007. After 18 years in opposition, the JLP won by very
little margin and Bruce Golding became the new prime
The JLP government announced that its highest
priority was to fight violence and corruption in
society. A special ombudsman responsible for combating
corruption was established and an independent
investigation into the use of force within the police
and the army was appointed.
The "Dudus" Coke grips
However, gang-related violence indirectly became a
reason why Bruce Golding eventually resigned, as both
head of government and party leader. Golding had been
criticized for long opposing the extradition of a drug
king, Christopher "Dudus" Coke, to the United States.
When Coke, who had his base in Golding's constituency
in Kingston, was yet to be arrested, violence broke out
between security forces and gang members. An emergency
permit was issued but the violence lasted for several
weeks and became among the bloodiest in the country's
history. Over 70 people were killed, the vast majority
Golding resigned just over a year later, in September
2011, and partially cited criticism of him for the Coke
affair. Golding was succeeded by Education Minister
Andrew Holness, who immediately announced parliamentary
elections. Holness hoped to strengthen its mandate to
continue pursuing economic reform policy. But the
election was a setback for JLP, which received only a
third of the mandate.
Following the election held in December 2011, PNP
leader Portia Simpson Miller returned as prime minister.
She still had great support from the country's poor, who
were tired of the lack of jobs and housing, sky-high
electricity prices and an uncertain supply of water.
Restructuring of debts
The PNP faced major challenges and during the mandate
period, wage hikes were introduced, while purchasing
power eroded when the Jamaican dollar lost in value. The
tightening yielded results as growth increased, albeit
from a low level.
Simpson Miller managed to negotiate a new loan
agreement by the IMF, on condition that the government
implemented cuts. When the government announced that
thousands of jobs in the public sector would disappear,
the trade union movement protested. But according to the
Prime Minister, it was absolutely necessary to push down
the country's large government debt (see Economic
The government also agreed to continue to fight the
widespread violent crime, which has slowed somewhat
since the 2010 violence, among other things, a campaign
was launched to destroy thousands of illegal weapons and
ammunition that the police had seized. But the declining
violence trend reversed in 2015 when the number of
murders again increased substantially.
At the end of January 2016, Simpson Miller announced
elections that were held a month later.