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notes on life and debt
Notes on Life and Debt
  • This film is a beautiful, lush and powerful documentary, but it has to be approached critically. In my view, the strength of the documentary is in setting the viewer on a path to wanting to know more. The outcome of a search for better truths about poverty in Jamaica will take the viewer far away from the documentary

Class notes: Michael Kevane, Dept. of Economics, Santa Clara University,[email protected]

the implicit argument of the documentary
The (implicit) argument of the documentary
  • Jamaica was relatively self-sufficient after independence, and had a thriving small farm sector
  • Agreements with international financial institutions ‘forced’ the country to open up its markets to imports from the U.S.
  • These imports- of potatoes and onion and powdered milk destroyed local farming
  • What’s worse, prices will go back up once domestic industry is ‘destroyed’

Class notes: Michael Kevane, Dept. of Economics, Santa Clara University,[email protected]

the argument continued
The argument (continued)
  • Moreover, the IMF lent money at high interest rates, and demanded that the government lend to farmers at high interest rates instead of the previous low interest rates.
  • The United States destroyed the Jamaican banana industry by insisting that bananas from Central America enter the European market on the same terms as Caribbean and African bananas

Class notes: Michael Kevane, Dept. of Economics, Santa Clara University,[email protected]

the argument continued1
The argument (continued)
  • The government received a large loan for a free-trade zone, that is now empty
  • In this free trade zone, government regulations were completely absent (contradicted in very next scene showing woman complaining about high taxes on her paycheck)
  • Government does not respect right to organize
  • NAFTA hurts Jamaica, since low wage jobs are ‘taken’ to Mexico

Class notes: Michael Kevane, Dept. of Economics, Santa Clara University,[email protected]

questions raised
Questions raised….
  • Is Jamaica getting poorer because of IMF programs?
  • Are Jamaica’s poor getting poorer because of IMF programs?
  • Did Jamaica not have any adjustment plan for farmers following liberalization?
  • Did consumers benefit from liberalization?
  • Are prices rising after liberalization?

Class notes: Michael Kevane, Dept. of Economics, Santa Clara University,[email protected]

questions not raised
Questions not raised...
  • Role of drug trade and marijuana production in escalating violence on the island
  • Role of Jamaican migrants to the U.S. and remittance income
  • Policies and corruption of Jamaican governments
  • Tourism industry expansion, wages, and ownership, and policy regarding tourism (esp. environment)

Class notes: Michael Kevane, Dept. of Economics, Santa Clara University,[email protected]

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