The value of the Jamaican dollar has slowly declined on the world market over a period of 30 years, making it increasingly difficult for the average Jamaican to afford imported goods. In 1977 the Jamaican dollar was valued at 90.9 cents for every U.S. dollar; by December of 1999 the value of the Jamaican dollar had collapsed to J$42.25 for every U.S. dollar. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) classifies the Jamaican exchange rate as freely floating, which means that the value of the Jamaican dollar is determined by supply and demand in the foreign exchange market and not by government control. The government, however, has tried to stabilize the price of the Jamaican dollar under IMF supervision in order to stabilize its economy. These stabilization efforts have subjected Jamaicans to periods of high inflation, economic recession , and mounting national debt . In 1999 debt service accounted for J$97.5 billion, or 58.1 percent of the budget. Even so, Jamaica's debt is lower than that of many other Caribbean nations.
Jamaica has a single stock exchange, the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE), which began operations on 3 February 1969. During its first year of operation the JSE had 34 member companies with a total market capitalization of J$146 million. The JSE had as many as 51 member companies during the financial services boom of the mid-1990s, but dropped back down to 45 companies in 1999. That same year the total market capitalization of the companies trading on the JSE was J$104 billion.