Caitlyn Tait Dr. Detraz POLS 1501 Life and Debt Documentary Reaction Paper In Life and Debt the director, Stephanie Black, sets the scene with how you would visualize Jamaica as an American tourist and proceeds to explain the contrasting views of the Jamaican people. For example, the voice over explains how many American tourists feel rich when they exchange money because their American dollars go for many Jamaican dollars due to the high inflation rates causing their currency to be valued so little.
Throughout the rest of the documentary, Black’s main goal is to show what post-colonial Jamaica is really like since the IMF has given them loans and what the Jamaican people have had to sacrifice in the process. Within the documentary, they explain who the IMF was set up by and how it was set up for short term loans after WWII with the idea of rebuilding a devastated Europe. Now the IMF hands out short term loans with immense restrictions that are mostly impossible to reach. The main storyline of the documentary is showing many examples of just how the IMF loans have impacted the Jamaican economy.
It provides examples from different food producers, such as banana farmers, cabbage farmers, and dairy farmers, as well as the factories in the free zones. One of the key strengths of this documentary is just how convincing their examples are. All of them fully show the struggles that the farmers and workers go through because of the actions of the IMF. It is said that the IMF thought that by raising the trade barriers it would help the economy but the reality is the exact opposite.
With the trade barriers that protected what little of an economy Jamaica had before the IMF came in either reduced or absent, foreign food and other imports that could be produced in Jamaica are now cheaper than the Jamaican goods forcing Jamaicans out of business. They show videos of cabbage, bananas, and milk just being thrown away because too much is being produced compared to how much is actually selling. Farmers are also interviewed and explain their struggles, these simple interviews persuade the viewer that the farmers are being completely manipulated by the IMF and there is nothing they can do to stop it.
Without the visuals of the throwing the food away or the interviews the point that the IMF has caused more problems than they have actually solved would be mute. A weakness of the documentary is the fact that the whole movie is only from one viewpoint-the struggling labor worker. It never shows what goes on in the background such as drug trafficking and gang problems. The movie starts out by saying how beautiful Jamaica looks to the average American tourist and how tourism is a main source of income to the people, but never says exactly where that money goes to.
That money may in fact be heavily taxed and only goes straight to the government which is only interested in helping countries such as the US because they help the rich, but we never know. By not showing another viewpoint some of the force behind the documentary as a whole is left behind. This documentary goes right along with many topics that we have talked about in class. When talking about economic liberalism we said that increasing interdependence among economies because of trade produced economic development.
With that said if Jamaica was able to set up an agreement with the US and other countries that import certain goods that Jamaica needed and not goods like bananas then Jamaica’s economy could develop in a positive way. We also talked about how according to economic nationalism the Jamaican government is supposed to protect domestic industries from foreign competition. However with the government bowing down to the IMF because it helps them, they are destroying the lower classes source of income because the government has allowed the IMF to reduce or completely take away the trade barriers.
Some solutions to the Jamaicans issue could have been solved by going to the World Bank instead of the IMF in the first place. The World Bank is used to dealing with middle and lower income countries so even though Jamaica would have had to still had interest payments and conditions on which the money could have been for, it is possible that the effects would not have been so drastic as having to cut government programs completely. Jamaica could also try to follow the Beijing Consensus by having a multitude of state run enterprises instead of allowing the MNC’s to run heir country in a sense. However, this solution runs into a problem with coming up with the money to start the enterprises. Overall, this documentary was extremely informative in the situation that Jamaica is in economically. It also makes the viewer wonder if the IMF should be run a little differently because of the repercussions that occur because of the loans that it hands out. I was pleased with this documentary because of the examples it showed and how the voice over fully explained everything that was going on.