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Last week Oxfam revealed that 62 people own the same amount of wealth as the poorest 3.6 billion people on the planet. Tax havens are at the heart of fueling this insane level of inequality. That’s why we’re taking them on and that’s why I want to do all I can in 2016 to put a stop to them.
Tax havens are about poverty. Tax havens conjure up images of yachts sailing into tropical islands. You wouldn’t normally associate them with the lives of people living in poverty. But they are part and parcel of the problem. When rich individuals or multinational corporations stash their wealth in tax havens, they can dodge paying their taxes in the countries where they do business and where they make their money. This in turn robs governments of vital funds which could be spent on free public services and infrastructure like schools, hospitals and roads.
Here are some headline figures:
- Developing countries lose between $100 – 200 billion a year due to corporate tax dodging.
- Almost a third of rich African’s wealth – a total of $500 billion – is held offshore in tax havens. It’s estimated that this costs African countries $14 billion a year in lost tax revenues, enough to employ enough teachers to get every African child into school.
These are startling numbers but what does it actually mean for people’s lives?
- Meet Morgan (photo at top). He’s 5 years old and lives in a slum in Nairobi. His mother earns money by sorting through rubbish in a dump. Even though Kenya’s economy is the fastest growing in Africa, too few people aren’t seeing the benefit. Morgan can’t go to school as his family can’t afford it.
- Meet Kyohairene (right). She’s a coffee farmer in Kenya. She pays her taxes. But she doesn’t have a decent road to transport and sell her coffee.
Tax havens mean that money which could be spent on the very services that we know are crucial to tackling poverty and inequality are sucked out of countries and communities where these are most needed.
Tax havens could seem like a scary thing to take on. They are created and run by people with money and power. How can we as campaigners take that on? By working together! Tax havens have been created by people. That means that people can un-create them, and put an end to their existence. As I write this 106,879 people have signed up to end the era of tax havens. That’s 106,817 more than the 62 billionaires. If this about people power, then we are already winning.
Here are a few things you can do to help us continue on the winning streak:
Demand that leaders end the era of tax havens. Sign the petition here.
Share Morgan’s story. The more we can speak together about the impact of tax havens on poverty, the more hearts and minds we can move to join our movement.
This entry posted by Francesca Carnibella (@frankcarnibella), Oxfam Global Inequality & Tax Campaigner, on 25 January 2016.
All photos: Oxfam.