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Caribbean Islands Table of Contents

Caribbean Islands


In the early 1980s, the construction industry had yet to recover from the short- and long-term decline experienced during the 1970s. Construction had increased during the initial expansion of the bauxite and tourist industries, because both required a great deal of physical infrastructure. Construction stagnated in the 1970s, however, because of aggregate declines in investment, downturns in tourism, and the peak in bauxite mining. By the 1980s, the most common construction activities were new factory space, tourist hotels, and residential housing.

Construction recovered in 1982 and 1983, but real production declined in 1984 and 1985 by 5 percent and 14 percent, respectively. Construction's share of GDP dropped from 6.1 percent in 1982 to 5.4 percent in 1985. Total output in 1985 equaled US$171 million, with virtually all activity dedicated to the local market. Only 745 housing starts and 1,867 completions were registered in 1985, down sharply from 1984 levels of 3,114 starts and 3,132 completions. Private-sector construction operations decreased by over 50 percent in 1985 alone. A 29-percent increase in the Ministry of Construction expenditures helped to stabilize the sector's downfall; the JIDC's national factory building program was important in this regard.

Many of the materials used in the construction industry were produced locally, although imports of iron, steel, and wood remained significant. Cement production reached 240,000 tons in the mid-1980s. All cement was produced at the Caribbean Cement (I.C.) plant in Kingston, of which government shares were sold to a Norwegian company in 1987. Steel, produced by the Caribbean Steel Company and BRC Ltd., stood at 18,300 tons by mid-decade. The Jamaica Mortgage Bank and the National Housing Trust were the key financial institutions in the construction sector.

Data as of November 1987