Tourism Fuels Economic Growth
The Labour Party defeated Manley in 1980 and its capitalist-oriented leader, Edward P. G. Seaga, was elected prime minister. He encouraged private investment and began an austerity program. Like other Caribbean countries, Jamaica was hard-hit by the 1981–1982 recession. Devaluation of the Jamaican dollar made Jamaican products more competitive on the world market, and the country achieved record growth in tourism and agriculture. While manufacturing also grew, food prices rose as much as 75% and thousands of Jamaicans fell deeper into poverty.
In 1989, Manley was reelected, but he resigned in 1992 and was replaced by P. J. Patterson. In May 1997, the government signed a “Ship-Rider Agreement,” allowing U.S. authorities to enter Jamaican waters and search vessels with the Jamaican government's permission in order to fight drug trafficking. In 2001, violence between politically connected gangs escalated in Kingston, promoting fears that the tourist industry could suffer. In Oct. 2002, Patterson won his third term in office.
In Sept. 2004, Hurricane Ivan, the worst storm to hit the island in decades, destroyed thousands of homes.
In March 2006, Portia Simpson Miller of the People's National Party (PNP) became Jamaica's first female prime minister. In the country's general election in September 2007, the opposition Jamaica Labour Party narrowly defeated the center-left People's National Party, 50.1% to 49.8%. The People's National Party had been in power for 18 years. Bruce Golding took office as prime minister days after the election.
Dozens of people died in the Tivoli Gardens section of Kingston in late May 2010 in clashes between police and supporters of drug lord Christopher Coke, who is wanted in the U.S. on gun- and drug-trafficking charges. When police entered the neighborhood to search for Coke, they were fired on by his supporters. About 75 civilians were killed. Coke was arrested in June and extradited to the U.S., where he will face trial in New York.