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Life and Debt
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by Thom

"That big fracas in Seattle must have been about SOME thing"
5 stars

An expose of the crippling policies of the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization towards Jamaica’s economy and the devastating effect it’s had on its people.

The documentary opens with the following sentence .. “when you arrive in Jamaica as a tourist … this is what you will see”. Film maker Stephanie Black continues this theme of the pretty face of Jamaica for tourists and the difficult reality of life for Jamaicans. When you are on vacation in Jamaica, you are not helping the Jamaican economy because nothing consumed by tourists is produced in Jamaica. In fact, Jamaica has become nothing more than a US owned shopping mall staffed entirely by a servant class of natives.

The IMF has restructured Jamaica’s economy to favor the US and has obliterated Jamaica’s agriculture infrastructure, it’s once primary industry. Now Jamaica is completely dependant on other countries, mostly the US, for its food and is unable to produce and sell it’s own food to pay off the enormous debt it owes to the International Monetary Fund.

Essentially, the IMF has turned Jamaica into a colony of US corporate interests while making it impossible for Jamaica to establish an independent economy. The Jamaican people, like the Hawaians, were relegated to a servant class for the industrial world. Much of the Rastafarian religious imagery is about the oppressive industrial world as Babylon from whose clutches Jah (God) will rescue them.

Which is essentially the story of the early Christians, and the early Hebrews. The African Slaves in America highly identified with the story of Moses because they saw their own plight and potential for a solution in it.

Unless Jah’s got a fat checkbook, they can just keep on praying. It might make them feel better at any rate because after watching Life and Debt it seems like unless the IMF restructures Jamaica’s debt or the World Trade Organization exempts them from restrictive trade practices, Jamaica is, as they say in the hacker world, 0\/\/N3D!

The WTO forces Jamaica to compete in a global market as a condition of their loans from the International Monetary Fund, rather than a local market, knowing full well that American agricultural companies can substantially undercut local grower’s prices, which is how they forced them all out of business and ensured Jamaica’s reliance on importing goods from the US.

And since the trade deficit is so high and Jamaican’s don’t own any of the resorts or attractions that make all that tourist money, Jamaica can’t pay any of its bills, further increasing its reliance on the IMF.

The IMF’s stated policies are to help developing nations strengthen their economy but what they actually do is undermine the economy of developing nations so they end up under the control of the economic interests of other countries, like the US.

The documentary includes interviews with former Prime Minister Michael Manley, the Deputy Director of the International Monetary Fund Stanley Fischer and commentary from the former president of Haiti Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the former president of Ghana Jerry Rawlings, who have both had to grapple with the iron grip of the IMF.

The most telling interviews are with local farmers who show you first hand how farmland has gone fallow and the dairy industry has been decimated because there is no demand for “overpriced” Jamaican goods among the hotels and fast food restaurants.

And in a final slap, American clothing manufacturers who opened factories in a special section of Jamaica that is not even governed by Jamaica, began importing workers from Asia, who work faster and cheaper and don’t complain, displacing thousands of local workers who were supposed to benefit from influx of factory jobs. They were not very happy about this.

The thing to remember is that this is not a news story about Jamaica past but is a film about Jamaica present. The images are a year old but the issues are current.

The Life and Debt soundtrack will be released by Tuff Gong on February 5, 2002. Profits from soundtrack sales will be donated to URGE ( a non-profit organization founded by Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers. URGE is devoted to bringing relief and hope to suffering and underprivileged people around the world.

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originally posted: 01/25/02 06:54:33
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User Comments

5/23/07 fools♫gold O, I'd love to go on a tour (that is: get out of whereIam now; that is: thiscomputer seat). 5 stars
11/14/03 Judith S I lived in Ja. when Manley was in power and when the IMF came in and this brough it back 5 stars
6/29/03 Davd pass 1 stars
3/26/02 Christopher Lynch GREAT MOVIE 5 stars
3/13/02 dahlia fantastically done and it is sooo educational, that i'm doing my global studies project on 5 stars
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  05-Jun-2003 (G)

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