Film Analysis: Life and Debt






Film Analysis: Life and Debt

The expected outcomes of globalization are the creation of synergetic relationships among different economies. However, the impacts of globalization on Jamaica as presented in the documentary Life and Debt by Stephanie Black illustrates a significantly different perspective on globalization. Jamaica is a small country that is struggling with economic challenges that have affected the livelihood of its citizens especially the farmers. The documentary not only delineates the economic environment created by the globalization phenomena but also examines the international and local policies that have largely contributed to the deteriorating economy.

The documentary begins with be describing the fact that though the tourists find Jamaica as the ideal holiday destination, their perception of the country and that of the locals are significantly different (Black). The tourists gain access to the country with ease, yet the Jamaican citizens find it challenging to afford such thrifty exuberance. The documentary focuses on the challenges that workers, traders, and farmers face in making ends meet. The fact that globalization had done little to improve the country’s economy delineates the extent within which the local factors of production are undermined in favor of foreign interests.

The explanations of the extreme interest rates are numerous especially the impacts of International Monetary Funds (IMF) structural adjustment policies that instead of reviving the Jamaican economy, have contributed to a devalued currency, high inflation rates, and excessive imports that only contribute to increase the cost of living in the country(Black). The devaluation of the local currency has significantly increased production costs which make it easier for foreign interests to import the same products at considerably cheap prices.

The pressure on the Jamaican government to impose higher taxes on agricultural production to secure more debt is among the factors that have caused farmers to lose the capacity to produce for the local market. Instead, agricultural products such as onions are bought directly from the farms and taken to foreign markets since they cannot compete locally with similar imported products (Black).
Though the aim of global organizations such as the IMF and World Bank is to preserve a synergetic economic climate that fosters growth in the international arena, their policies have caused more harm than good for smaller countries such as Jamaica. The fact that people cannot afford to buy locally produced foods illustrate the extent within which globalization has negatively influenced Jamaica’s economy. The assertion that all products including foods served to locals and tourists may have been imported from Miami depicts an imbalance in the global trade dynamics (Black). The stronger economies progressively take advantage of the weaker economies by ensuring that they flood their markets with cheaper products at the expense of local production; hence economic development and growth are stifled as is the case of Jamaica.
The economic challenges facing the country are not only constrained to finance and production factors but also experienced in the deteriorated infrastructure. The Narrator observes that the tourist may not be concerned with what happens to the toilet water after it has been flashed or bath water that has been drained. Evidently, the country lacks the adequate infrastructure to perform basic functions such as process sewage waste. The drainage of such waste to the ocean exemplifies the deteriorating nature of not only the economic climate but also the declining human conditions in Jamaica.
While Tourists are depicted enjoying themselves in luxurious hotels, playing games and dancing oblivious to the real situation in the country, the locals are exploited by foreign interests. The unproductive economy causes the workers to be exploited in deplorable conditions only to earn a minimum wage of 1200 Jamaican dollars that are equivalent to USD $30 a week (Black). All the while, the fruits of their labor are exported to the American market that is the primary beneficiary of Jamaica’s deteriorating economic situation. The laborers are unable to negotiate for better wages considering that they are not allowed to form unions that could act on their behalf. Ironically, the foreign companies’ imports their raw materials free of tax prior to transporting the finished products to global markets, but they cannot pay adequate wages to the workers.
The adverse effects resulting from the devaluation of the Jamaican currency has far-reaching implications including making the country the opportune dumping ground for cheap foreign products. For instance, the narrator examines the chicken business that has since been unable to continue operating as a result of poor quality chicken being dumped in the country. Furthermore, the oppressive nature of larger economies to the smaller economies is depicted by the United States protesting against the tax-free import quota agreement between Britain and Jamaica in the banana trade (Black). The fact that the banana industry was flourishing prior to the United States intervention through the World Trade Organization illustrates that Jamaica is capable of positive economic growth if it engaged in trade agreements with the right countries.
The Documentary, Life and Debt depicts a number of lessons that have been studied; the development and impact of globalization and the classification of countries especially on the basis of the economic development (Marks 67). Significantly, trade is among the issues that have been studied and largely addressed in the documentary. The development of mutually beneficial trade relationships between countries is critical; however, in the case of Jamaica, globalization and subsequent devaluation of its currency has resulted in unfair trade practices that have negatively impacted its economy. The country’s dependence on imports has contributed to the country’s inability to sustain its production.
Significantly, the documentary demonstrated the dynamics of checks and controlled implemented to control trade within the local and international markets. Trade restrictions through imposition of taxes and duties are critical to ensuring a balanced system of trade (Marks 86). However, Jamaica is depicted to have ignored such checks through a reduction of trade barriers with the aim of attracting foreign trade and investments.

The outcome of such an action is an upsurge in the rate of imports especially of consumer products such as meat and milk from developed countries including the United States, Britain, and Canada. Since food production is significantly low in such countries, they can afford to produce in surplus with the aim of exporting to other countries. However, Jamaica’s policy of relaxed trade restrictions causes many foreign companies to take advantage and import cheap and inferior products at the expense of the local products.
In addition, the film explores the dynamics of fiscal and financial policies that instead of improving the economy, they have caused it to suffer more. The influence of global trade organizations is among the issues that connect with the documentary. Globalization is based on trade agreements among different countries of equal and unequal economic strength. However, if a country does not check its economic policies and international trade provisions, it is highly likely to be influenced to implement policies that have an adverse effect on the economy (Marks 88).
Jamaica’s economic challenges can only be solved through a comprehensive examination of its policies, rules and regulations regarding trade, taxation and production policies. Since the government faces challenges of sustaining its population’s needs, it must identify alternative sources of funding other than debt to finance its programs. The increasing foreign debt only serves to worsen the condition, since the more the country borrows, the more its resources are controlled by foreign interests.


















Works Cited

Black, Stephanie. Life and Debt. Tuff Gong Pictures, 16 June 2001. Web. 25 September 2015. <>..

Marks, Robert. The Origins of The Modern World. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2007. Print.