If you have trouble seeing anything sinister about something as utopian sounding as "global economy," you might want to check out this eye-opening documentary from filmmaker Stephanie Black. Using the appalling state of the Jamaican economy as a case study, Black demonstrates how a small, "developing" country becomes an economic disaster under the auspices of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization. The film opens with a startling question: Could Jamaica be worse off that it was since gaining its independence from Great Britain in 1962? The answer appears to be a resounding yes: For the past 25 years, Jamaica has had a negative per capita GDP growth, with the majority of its national product going towards paying a $7 billion debt. Black, with the help of a number of impressive talking heads including former Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley traces this sorry state of affairs back to the 1970s. Faced with mounting debts and a precipitous increase in the price of oil, Jamaica struck a Faustian bargain with the IMF and several international lending agencies. Jamaica got cash, and in return submitted to a little "structural adjustment," reducing all trade barriers and subsidized exports (a move that effectively strangled the once-burgeoning banana industry), devaluing its currency (which stimulated foreign interest and inflation), and restricting domestic spending on such frills as health and education, as well as long-term planning that might have led to a stable economic infrastructure. Black structures her film around a hypothetical Caribbean vacation (narrated with bits of Jamaica Kincaid's haunting prose) that contrasts the smiling face of Jamaica's tourist industry with the grim reality of actually living there. She traces the fate of Jamaica's once-flourishing exports carrots, bananas, milk and ends with a deeply disturbing exposé of the Kingston Free Zone, where Jamaicans toil for foreign garment industries under a cruel system that smacks of plantation economics. The only criticism that can possibly be leveled at Black's film is its narrow focus, but it's not hard to extrapolate. The story of how the IMF/WTO/World Bank triumvirate global entities elected by no one and accountable only to their most powerful members has reduced Jamaica to an import-dependent country deprived of its native culture and plagued by poverty and civil unrest is becoming an all-too-familiar one. Welcome to the world, mon.
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- Released: 2001
- Rating: NR
- Review: If you have trouble seeing anything sinister about something as utopian sounding as "global economy," you might want to check out this eye-opening documentary from filmmaker Stephanie Black. Using the appalling state of the Jamaican economy as a case study… (more)