The dollar is the official currency of Jamaica. It is subdivided into 100 cents, and while the dollar sign is used alone internally, it can be prefixed with a J to distinguish it from other dollar currencies. The dollar was first issued in 1969 in order to decimalise the Jamaican currency system. The Bank of Jamaica, the country’s central bank, is the sole issuer of the national currency.
Fully understanding the history of Jamaican currency requires knowledge about the currencies of all British West Indies countries. The first currency used in Jamaica was Spanish coins called maravedies based on the Spanish dollar, but in 1825, Britain ordered that all colonies, including Jamaica, adopt the pound sterling at a rate of one Spanish dollar: 4 shillings 4 pence. In 1840, all Spanish currency was demonetised in Jamaica, and coins exclusively for Jamaican use began to be minted in 1869. Banknotes were introduced into Jamaica in 1904.
When the Bank of Jamaica was established in 1960, it was given the sole authority to issue currency in the country through coins and banknotes. Nine years later, the Jamaican government voted to decimalise the national currency and the Jamaican dollar was introduced at a rate of one dollar: one-half pound sterling. This made the Jamaican dollar unique from other new British West Indies currencies that were based on the either the U.S. or Spanish dollar.
In 1985, the Bank of Jamaica underwent reform to characterize it as a modern central bank. In addition to issuing currency and administrating foreign reserves, the Bank of Jamaica influences credit to promote expansion and employment, acts as the banker to the government and works to maintain overall monetary stability.
The economy of Jamaican is heavily reliant on the services industry, which comprises 70 percent of the nation’s GDP. Most of the profit made in the country is related to tourism and bauxite mining. A number of problems have caused the Jamaican dollar to depreciate substantially in recent years. In 2008, 1 AUD exchanged for 57 JMD. The following year, the rate jumped to 1 AUD: 80 JMD, and in 2011, the Jamaican dollar reached a new low at 1 AUD: 93 JMD. Among the economic hardships experienced by Jamaica are a decline in tourism, increased competition and internal debt. While measures were taken to slow devaluation, they have also led to a decrease in economic growth.