Jamaica - Country Commercial Guide
Market Challenges

Learn about barriers to market entry and local requirements, i.e., things to be aware of when entering the market for this country.

Last published date: 2021-08-14

Crime and corruption remain significant concerns in Jamaica, with the security measures associated with the former adding considerably 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 articulated plans to streamline the delivery of judgments by bringing greater levels of efficiency to court administration and targeting throughput rates in line with international best practice within five years.  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 2020.

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 16.5 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, with 400 MW to be implemented by 2024.  This timeline could be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  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.