G20 Meeting Let-down

November 9th, 2009

The G20 Finance ministers met in St. Andrews, Scotland on Friday and Saturday, culminating with the release of a fairly weak communiqué.  Action Aid had the following comments on the joint statement:

At today’s G20 meeting, Finance Ministers have failed to keep the promise they made to developing countries in April, ActionAid says.

At the London summit in April, the G20 made a commitment to deliver proposals on tax havens to benefit developing countries by the end of 2009. But today’s communiqué merely suggests “the possible use of a multilateral instrument” for this purpose.

ActionAid’s Martin Hearson, who is at the summit, said: “This is a real disappointment. The communiqué is vague and unsubstantiated and leaves developing nations out in the cold as far as tackling tax evasion is concerned.

“We now have a two two-tier system: tax havens must exchange information with rich countries or face the threat of powerful sanctions, but there is no pressure on them to do the same with poorer nations, which suffer the most from tax evasion.

“The G20 promised that developing countries would not be left out of the tax haven crackdown, and today was their last chance. They’ve gone back on that promise – at least for now.

Task Force member Christian Aid echoed Action Aid’s sentiment, calling the statement a “broken promise”:

G20 Finance ministers today forfeited an historic opportunity to enable developing countries to claw back the billions of dollars that they currently lose each year to tax dodgers, says Christian Aid.

In April, G20 Ministers promised to produce a plan by the end of this year to help developing countries benefit from global cooperation on tax matters.

The meeting in St Andrews was the last chance for them to fulfil their pledge. They have failed to deliver anything concrete – only that a global deal is a vague possibility.

Christian Aid calculates that at present, tax dodging by multinational companies is robbing poor countries of at least $160 billion every year.

This money, if spent in the same way as existing tax revenues, would save the lives of 350,000 children under the age of five every year.

‘We understand the that the UK government did everything in its power to push for a multilateral deal on tax information sharing, but were unable to ensure concrete progress,’ says Dr David McNair, Christian Aid’s Senior Economic Adviser.

‘We are disappointed but this means there is an even more urgent need to ensure progress going forward.

‘A multilateral deal would have been better than the present situation, in which tax havens do bilateral deals with other countries, almost all of which are rich. This does nothing for developing countries.

‘A global agreement is now a possibility, but it is incumbent on the G20 to ensure rapid progress, towards *multilateral *and *automatic *sharing of tax information, with a review process to ensure that the system is working.

‘Only then are poor countries likely to get the information they need in order to claw back some of the billions of dollars that they lose each year to tax dodgers – money they urgently need in order to improve public services such as health and education.’

Written by Clark Gascoigne

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