The documentary Life and Debt portrays a true example of the impact economic globalization can have on a developing country. When most Americans think about Jamaica, we think about the beautiful beaches, warm weather, and friendly people that make it a fabulous vacation spot. This movie shows the place in a different light, by showing a pressuring problem of debt. The everyday survival of many Jamaicans is based on the economic decisions of the United States and other powerful foreign countries.
The film opens with camera shots portraying Jamaica as the beautiful and carefree place that most Americans view it as. The vast majority are oblivious to the fact that the delicious food they indulge in on their voyage probably came off a ship from Miami. In the 1970 s, the country's former prime minister signed a loan agreement which ultimately led Jamaica to over four billion dollars in debt to the World Bank and IMF. This ultimately caused a sinking economy of low valued imports and sweatshops are destroying local businesses and agriculture.
In the video, we see workers who are working gruesome six-day-a-week work schedules to receive the legal minimum wage of only $30 in US money for the entire week. Many women have protested against the poor compensation, and have been fired from their jobs; being placed on a blacklist preventing them from ever getting work again. The country's ports are lined with the factories of high profile companies, all which are available to wealthy corporations at low cost. It's there that these companies can bring in shiploads of goods tax free. The items are processed or developed and then shipped directly back out of the country. The film mentions Hanes as one of the beneficiaries, who eventually relocated to find even cheaper work elsewhere.
No matter how long or little each corporations lasts in this Free Trade Zone, Jamaica is benefiting very little by the presence of the factories. The film also shows a chicken plant which was once very prosperous and known for its high quality chicken. The business was damaged when the United States began dumping low grade chicken into Jamaica. There are many restrictions about the kind of foods that can imported into American, however there are few rules about what we can export to developing countries. Bananas are another industry that is suffering in Jamaica. American companies like Chiquita and Dole rely solely on developing countries for production of their product.
Farmers have to deal with the competition of countries that are even less costly to the US, such as Columbia. Milk production was once very strong in Jamaica and has now dramatically declined due to taxes implemented on the country. The people of Jamaica have no influence on the daily economic decisions that affect their lives. For almost 25 years, Jamaica has been able to keep a very small percentage of its national revenue because of agencies like the World Bank and IMF. While other big name countries continue to grow economically, these unfair laws and loans have taken advantage of Jamaica and prevented it from being self-sufficient. Our world is not growing together, it's growing apart..