Life and Debt
Through the eyes of Westerners taking holidays on the beautiful beaches of Jamaica, most will only be exposed to the bountiful sunshine constantly spraying across their faces, the perfect turquoise tropic waters surrounding the island, and the rich fruit that tastes so fresh it leaves you feeling as if it must have been picked off the tree only mere moments ago. In Life and Debt, the film portrays Jamaica from two substantially clashing views. First, it is highlighted as a perfect vacation spot. It shows how rich the country is in tourism and how ideal the ocean-front property surrounding the island truly is. However, the film counters the natural beauty of Jamaica with the harsh realization of the widespread unrelenting veracity of poverty that grips this small island nation. When Jamaica was granted its independence from Great Britain, the tiny nation lacked sufficient economic strength to survive on its own. Throughout the time Great Britain ruled over the island, she had taken Jamaica’s ample natural resources in the name of the Crown. Economically, when a nation does not have enough natural resources to survive, the situation turns very bitter in a short amount of time. Jamaica soon realized they were not able to finance what was needed to meet the needs of its citizens. Jamaica sought financial assistance through the private banking system, but was denied repeatedly. The country had no choice but to resort to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to borrow money from. The IMF’s role is that of a “helping hand.” As per Jamaica and the IMF’s agreement, the IMF established a five-year plan with Jamaica. This included the placement of stringent restrictions on what the tiny nation could spend the money on. As the Jamaicans slowly realized, this deal would serve them no purpose, except indebting the nation even further. The island was forced to cut certain government programs and devalue their currency to meet IMF demands. Jamaica was essentially bullied into expanding imports and diminishing exports. The island’s debt keeps rising and the capacity to export their own goods is becoming alarmingly reduced as time advances. In this never ending cycle, Jamaica is repeatedly forced to ask for loans, which the IMF and the island know that they cannot afford to repay. Since Jamaica can’t repay these loans, it is forced to take out different loans to finance the past balances and to meet the country’s current fiscal demands. With every new loan, come harsher and harsher impositions due to Jamaica being forced to breach the previous loan’s agreement in order to attain the new funding from the IMF. This process is in a perpetual circle of a cycle and will not cease until the IMF decides to cut the impoverished nation off and deny further loans. As Jamaica and the IMF both realize, when the IMF decides to cease the flow of capital to Jamaica, the tiny nation will still be forced to follow certain stringent economic policies the IMF desires the nation to abide by. These restrictions will undoubtedly harm Jamaica’s economic outlook for several years to come. The Jamaican Situation
Life and Debt showcases how the IMF’s harsh restrictions on the Jamaican economy are affecting the normal citizens of the island. In nearly every situation presented, the individual is facing extreme disrepair and is losing hope on a daily basis. These limitations that are being artificially imposed on the Jamaican economy are severely damaging a broad range of traditional industries across the nation. The IMF’s "investments" have brought about the near extinction of a once thriving dairy industry. In its place, is the severely under-priced, powdered milk industry that is heavily subsidized by the United States. Jamaica was once home to proud farmers and a prosperous agriculture industry. This, too, has greatly decayed as an influx of cheap produce is shipped from the U.S. The prices are so low that the local farmers can no longer...
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