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Analysis of Globalization and Inequality in Jamaica and Dominica Using the Film 'Life and Debt'

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Globalization and inequality are represented throughout the film ‘Life and Debt’ and this links to media images of tourism that portray a contrasting image of Jamaica and Dominica. In this report, I intend to explore these issues in the Jamaican economy and in trade and media images of Jamaica and Dominica.

Globalization is presented negatively, allowing exploitation and aiding inequalities of Jamaican workers, in the film ‘Life and Debt’, this is highlighted in the scene that discusses the issues surrounding free trade in Jamaica. “There is no government regulation in the trading of any commodity” (‘Life and Debt’, Black, 2001), and this was in conjunction with the loan agreement from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Jamaica joined the IMF in 1963, and since then has had 16 arrangements of loans and has a current outstanding loan of $480.19 million (International Monetary Fund, 2019). As it has loaned the money from the IMF, its government is obligated to act on suggested reforms, even if they may not be helpful in the future as they said “long term development is your problem’ and ‘we will lend you money in a short timeframe” (‘Life and Debt’, Black, 2001).

The song ‘Banana Boat’, played in the film ‘Life and Debt’, contains the lyrics “come Mr. Tallyman, tally me banana”, and a tallyman is someone ‘who sells goods on credit, especially from door to door’ (Oxford, 2019), showing the history of the small-scale Jamaican farmers, who previously received preferential treatment to sell produce until the trade wars. The preferential treatment allowed trading tariffs for Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) exports to be much lower, supporting independent banana farmers, as they were not able to compete with the Transnational Corporations (TNCs) who dominated the market. This was the Lomé Agreement, and while it maintained ACP exports, it did not allow countries the ability to improve and compete with the TNCs. In 2016, after the US government complained, because of the preferential treatment to small farmers, the World Trade Organization (WTO) stopped the EU giving preferential treatment to the independent banana farmers, thus giving TNCs such as Chiquita the monopoly of the market. Already, the number of Jamaican banana farmers has shrunk from 45,000 to 3,000 (Black, 2001), and now TNCs control 95% of banana trade. This presents globalization negatively once again, because it shows how many people have lost income and their livelihoods, due to TNCs, who have control, and contributed to the poverty in Jamaica. It displays the issues that inequality can cause, as small-scale Jamaican famers simply cannot compete with these large companies, as they do not have the money or resources.

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The free trade zone in Kingston resulted in TNCs, such as Chiquita, taking advantage and creating low level employment, with wages that are much lower than in Jamaica. During the year 1993, 25,000 workers at Chiquita Farms in Colombia were protesting for better wages and the company resolved this by firing shots at the workers and killing 40 people (Black, 2001). This is just one example of the negative treatment from the large TNCs, in order to maintain low production costs and keep profit margins high and is a large issue created by globalization. Further to this, the work in the free trade zone was a way to address Jamaica’s economic issues, however, many of the companies brought in Asian workers to fill the jobs, which was counter to the idea of the free zone. Former World Bank Vice President Joseph Stiglitz stated that free markets ‘blur clear thinking’ on how economic issues can be addressed, and this is clearly the case for Jamaica, the free trade zone added to issues as the government couldn’t oppose the actions of the TNCs, for fear of production being moved elsewhere.

Comparing media images of tourism in Dominica to Jamaica, it is clear that Jamaica has experienced much more globalization. Dominica has no resort or chain hotel, but many eco lodges and the revenues benefit local communities, whereas many media images of Jamaica fit the stereotypical tourist view. This shows an idyllic beach front; however, this is not what native Jamaicans experience and every native would like a way out, however they are too poor. This displays the globalization that has occurred, due to the tourism because areas such as Montego Bay are highly commercialized and do not display authentic Jamaican culture, or allow it to thrive. This is also seen in the film ‘Life and Debt’, when the film shows a scene of tourists socializing, drinking and listening to music in English, and then changes to a scene of native Jamaicans socializing, singing traditional songs and discussing the issues with the trade competition with the United States. This is a complete contrast to Dominica as you can visit the cultural center, the Kalinago Barana Aute, for fascinating tours, and cultural experiences’, this promotes integration of tourists and natives and uses globalization as a force for good. The sustainable tourism in Dominica has clearly been more effective in aiding the struggling economy than in Jamaica, as the GNI per capita is US $5,220 in Jamaica and in Dominica it is US $6,760, implying that Dominica’s economy is struggling less than Jamaica’s.

A section of narration in the film states that “the Jamaica that I grew up in is not the Jamaica that you, a tourist would see now” (‘Life and Debt’, Black,2001) and blames it “partly on the new global economy” (‘Life and Debt’, Black, 2001). However, the media image of Rose Hall, a restored plantation house in the list of the ‘16 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Jamaica’ (Planet Ware, 2019) implies the opposite, as this is showing some of the past, that people in Jamaica experienced. However, this photo is not typical of the majority of the media images of Jamaica, and the caption glorifies the past, rather than respecting it, stating that ‘Legendary Annie Palmer (the White Witch) ruled here’ and tells of a ‘spooky candlelit evening tour’, with ‘tales of ghost sightings’ (Planet Ware, 2019). While this seems like an attempt to show authentic Jamaican culture, it has commercialized the past. This again shows that globalization is present, but ignores the injustices and inequalities that Jamaican people experienced in the past, making the attempt to explore the past seem insincere.

Overall, I would say that globalization creates the inequalities that Jamaicans experience, and tourism can help resolve some of these inequalities, if it is sustainable, such as in Dominica, however in Jamaica, this has not been the case and it has intensified and increased the issues. Globalization is part of the reason that tourism has increased in these Caribbean Nations, and this has led to increased inequalities among tourists and natives and much more poverty, crime and violence. Globalization has been a negative force, creating more issues for struggling economies.

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Analysis of Globalization and Inequality in Jamaica and Dominica Using the Film ‘Life and Debt’. (2023, March 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 30, 2023, from
“Analysis of Globalization and Inequality in Jamaica and Dominica Using the Film ‘Life and Debt’.” Edubirdie, 01 Mar. 2023,
Analysis of Globalization and Inequality in Jamaica and Dominica Using the Film ‘Life and Debt’. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 30 Mar. 2023].
Analysis of Globalization and Inequality in Jamaica and Dominica Using the Film ‘Life and Debt’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Mar 01 [cited 2023 Mar 30]. Available from:
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