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Crimes of the IMF and World Bank exposed
Life and debt

MOVIES: Life and Debt, produced and directed by Stephanie Black. Now showing in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities. Visit for other showings.

Review by Elizabeth Schulte | October 19, 2001 | Page 9

IF YOU want to understand the impact of IMF and World Bank policies, you only have to ask a farmer or sweatshop worker in Jamaica. And this is what Stephanie Black does in her powerful film Life and Debt.

The documentary contrasts the view of Jamaica as an "island paradise" for tourists with the poverty conditions for people who live there. It cuts to the heart of the crisis--the enormous debts that countries like Jamaica owe to global financial institutions, and the conditions that these institutions impose on poor countries.

Life and Debt includes interviews with Jamaica's former prime minister Michael Manley, as he describes what it's like to find you have "two nooses around the neck"--the IMF and World Bank. Manley's words are interspersed with an interview with IMF Deputy Director Stanley Fischer, who coldly explains the goals of the global loan sharks.

But the most eloquent analysis comes from Jamaican farmers and workers. As one dairy farmer explains IMF and World Bank policies: "If we lend you $50 million, you have to lower your trade barriers, and you have to compete with us on a level playing field. This is double talk…America subsidizes some of its exports by 137 percent. Nobody can compete with that."

The film then shows farmers dumping milk that they are unable to sell because of the glut of imported powdered milk.

A man describes a shipment of poultry brought in for sale in Jamaica that was found to be 20 years old. The company admitted that this was a mistake. The shipment was supposed to go to Haiti.

The film interviews workers in the Kingston "free enterprise zone," where clothing for companies like Tommy Hilfiger is stitched together--free of taxes and duties, and especially free of unions. "It's like working under slavery," says one woman, describing poverty wages and intense speedups without bathroom breaks.

Life and Debt is a damning indictment of the global free market--and a stunning film to watch. It has played to sold-out audiences in New York City because of word of mouth alone.

Life and Debt is a great resource for activists organizing against the IMF and World Bank--and an excellent way to convince others why they should join the fight.

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