Al Jazeera: Tax havens and global impoverishment

March 18th, 2013

flickr / Department for Community and Local Government

If there is a one sentence argument that we forward here at the Task Force, it is this: financial opacity, of all kinds, is a root cause of global poverty. Media reports sometimes fail to make this connection and sometimes tinker around the edges of it, but rarely make the link as directly as Hakima Abbas’ excellent op-ed for Al-Jazeera did today.

As the post-2015 Millenium Development Goal process advances, we should pause and take the opportunity to take a step back and look at the big picture. Can the world continue to maintain an opaque financial system, where criminals, tax evaders, and corrupt public officials can easily move money in complete secrecy? Can we fight global poverty while this system is still in place?

Abbas writes,

The world is at a critical juncture where the necessity to rethink our economic modelling, the values of consumption and accumulation have become critical. The planet, not only the people, simply cannot sustain the massive inequality that exists. Despite what we are told and sold, inequality is not inevitable. Global impoverishment will end only when those who gain from the system are held to account and the rules of the system are radically transformed.

While the transformation of the system will require multiple strategies, there has been a renewed focus since the economic crashes in the Global North on the reform of the global financial system. The rules of the system are skewed to the few individuals and corporations that reap benefits from the world’s resources and operate with a veil of secrecy to make excessive profits while avoiding tax obligations which would, at the very least, lessen national tax burdens from ordinary citizens and contribute to essential services.

People are mobilising to end these practices. An unusual sight met London commuters this week: a subvertising campaign launched on phone boxes across the city, bringing a distinct message on the causes of global inequality. Bearing a striking graphic of the City of London as an “urban island paradise”, at first glance the adverts look like a tourist promotion for the capital, but they are in fact a campaign encouraging Londoners to take a new look at their city: “Visit the City of London – The Tax Haven Capital of the World”.

You can read the whole article here.

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Written by EJ Fagan

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