Jamaica - Country Commercial Guide
Market Challenges
Last published date:

Crime and corruption remain significant concerns in Jamaica, with the security measures associated with the former adding to the cost of doing business. The Jamaican judicial system has a long tradition of being fair, but court cases can take years or even decades to resolve. The Chief Justice, appointed in 2018, has made efforts to streamline the delivery of judgments by bringing greater levels of efficiency to court administration and announced in September 2023 that the court had eliminated backlogs. Despite numerous allegations of public corruption and a few arrests, only one high ranking public official has been convicted of corruption since 1962. Jamaica ranked 69th, out of 180 countries, in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index in 2022. 

While trade liberalization has made it easier to import into Jamaica, some technical barriers, particularly sanitary and phyto-sanitary restrictions, remain. Jamaica is a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). Some goods imported from outside CARICOM are subject to a common external tariff (CET). Goods certified to be of CARICOM origin tend to enjoy duty-free status and are not subject to customs duty. However, these and other goods may be subject to additional taxes in Jamaica, including a 15 percent General Consumption Tax (GCT), Customs Administrative Fee (CAF), Standards Compliance Fee (SCF), and/or Special Consumption Taxes (SCT) in Jamaica. 

High electricity cost is also a major impediment for businesses, although Jamaica has modernized and diversified its generation infrastructure. The country has reduced its dependency on petroleum, shifting to LNG and renewables. In early 2020, the government issued its long-awaited Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which proposed over 1.5 GW of new generation capacity by 2037. Renewable energy will account for almost 80 percent of the new capacity and 400 MW should be implemented by 2024. The Government Procurement Entity issued a request for proposal (RFP) for the supply of up to Net 100 MW of Electricity Generation from Renewable Energy based power generation facilities on a build, own and operate basis in September 2023.

Obtaining work permits for foreign workers can be burdensome, as employers are expected to describe efforts to recruit locally to prove the requisite skills do not exist in Jamaica. However, the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) does not readily have data available to determine if the requisite skills exist in Jamaica, sometimes delaying decision making.

Additional challenges include navigation of the bureaucratic and regulatory processes and inadequate infrastructure, including transportation and digital connectivity. Access to financing for business operations can be a hurdle, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises. Also, an understanding of local laws and regulations is crucial to conducting business effectively.