The documentary ‘Life and Debt’ begin with the tourists
traveling to Jamaica for vacations. As the film continues, the viewers come to
know the value of Jamaican dollar is cheaper than compared to the U.S. dollar,
which is an outcome of the devaluations imposed by the IMF as part of an
agreement in order to increase the nation’s export.
In 1977, former Prime Minister Michael
Manley was forced to sign Jamaica’s first loan agreement with IMF due to
overall economic development to get out of the status of the third world
country and to transform the Jamaican economy system into a free market
economy. After that, the consequences of free market zone changed their lives as no
taxes were imposed on the foreign goods, cheaper and better-quality products
imported from other countries mainly U.S. have been displayed on shelves in the
market instead of domestic products such as potato, lettuce, onions, bananas, carrots,
and milk. The IMF believed by charging higher interest rates on loan and setting
cutbacks in government expenditure will shift resources from domestic
consumption. The result was increased unemployment, poor healthcare facilities,
and higher illiteracy rate in the state.
IMF and Inter-American Development Bank
offered loans to Jamaican government worth $50 millions, and in exchange asked
for the cut in trade barriers, and compete with foreign multinationals in the
domestic market. The milk farmers in the Europe and the U.S. have received huge
subsidies to keep their milk price low for self-sufficient in milk production.
The price of milk products from the U.S and Europe was at an artificially low in
the Jamaican market due to subsidies, and it left Jamaica’s local milk
productions out of business. Under the Lomé agreement, the Jamaican banana’s
industry exported tariff free bananas to the European market, but after U.S.
filed a case against the discriminatory European system, WTO removed the Lomé
quota, and Jamaican industries were forced to compete with U.S. industries growing
their bananas in South America. As a consequence, the number of banana growers
in the state reduced from 45,000 to 3,000. Jamaican farmers did not have enough
power and capacity to deal with the mass production plants, such as McDonald. Thus,
wealthy nations have started to invest and build up the mass production plants
in the free trade zone, considering it as a valuable opportunity to maximize
their profits. These corporations offered workers who worked five-six days a
week under low-quality work conditions with the legal minimum wage of $30 U.S
dollars, and forming unions was not permitted in the free trade zone.
The whole idea was to set such conditions
in an agreement that the government couldn’t meet and if they fail, renegotiate
a new agreement which made the circumstances tighter. At present, Jamaican
government owes more than $4.5 billion to the IMF, and the result is value of
its currency has been depreciated, and the nation is losing its market
competitive power against foreign multinational corporations. Thus, the unfair
trading conditions of agreements with IMF and World Bank have caused increased
unemployment, higher illiteracy, increased violence, and provided poor
healthcare facilities to the locals.
The agreement was supposed to lead
Jamaica into the global market, however commercial banks, and other organizations
have collected the great amount of interest and contributed to the destruction
of local agriculture and manufacturing. Jamaica’s free trade zone is full of
the victims of globalization and the nation’s economy has collapsed due to the
unbalanced import and export rate with enormous amount of debt. This film exposes
us the reality of what the IMF and World Bank have done to the Jamaica and how
they damaged the Jamaican economy under the name of globalization and free
trade zone. They didn’t improve the living quality in Jamaica, but used it as a
neocolonialism so that they can earn money by the huge amount of debt that
Jamaican government cannot possibly pay back.