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Life and Debt

Anyone dismayed by protesters at International Monetary Fund and the World Bank meetings probably thinks free trade and global economy are great for us all, but this film looks at how the IMF affected Jamaica, and claims it destroyed that country's industry and agriculture, ending a self-sufficient economy, and converted Jamaica into a market for North American goods and a source of underpaid labor.

Subsidized American milk powder wiped out Jamaica's milk industry, and Jamaican bananas' last market, England, is embattled, as corporate heads think even one independent Jamaican banana is too many. Banana workers in South and Central America earn $1 a day; Jamaicans can't live on that. Other products reflect similar corporate habits: Subsidized Idaho potatoes bankrupted Jamaican potato farmers; McDonald's won't buy local meat; Jamaican onions are undersold by American onions sold at a loss.

To "help" Jamaica, multinational corporations established 'free zones': fenced-in production areas where workers get $30/wk to assemble goods that arrive and leave by container ship without officially being on Jamaican turf. Working conditions are subhuman, labor unions are banned, strikers work at gunpoint, and deductions are withheld from pay for health and retirement plans that don't exist. One clothing division of a huge Chicago company operated there until pulling out for even cheaper workers elsewhere.

The IMF lends money to local businesses, but Jamaica's former prime minister Michael Manley says it charges twice the world rate of interest, and forbids the country from charging its lenders less. An IMF small business loan in Jamaica might charge 25-percent interest.

'Who does the IMF benefit?' Manley demands. "Who set it up?' IMF policies can only be changed by an 80-percent vote, which the U.S., Japan, Germany, England, Canada, and Italy wield. Thus, developing economies are deliberately destroyed and turned into captive markets for the rich, while their once self-sufficient inhabitants become cheap labor, and local competition is penalized. Is this true? PBS considers it well-grounded enough to have shown the documentary twice. Why do demonstrators remain so angry? This film answers.
Director(s): Stephanie Black
Writer(s): Jamaica Kincaid
Cast: Jamaica Kincaid
Release Date: 2001   
Keyword: Globalization; the effect on Jamaica; bananas; potatoes; swe
Target Age: 14+   Category: human rights
Documentary: yes
Language: English   Reviewer's Name: Micah
Review: http://MRQE
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