Cameron urged to put tax at heart of global anti-poverty action

By staff writers
March 26, 2013

David Cameron and other leaders working on a global anti-poverty plan have been told to ensure it helps poor countries collect the tax billions they are owed.

This is the message coming out of UK-based churches' global development agency Christian Aid, in a report issued on the eve of the latest talks on the plan in Bali, Indonesia.

The new briefing from the charity highlights that so far, very little attention has been given to the question of how to pay for the sustainable development plan that will replace the Millennium Development Goals after 2015.

"Tax is a crucial part of the answer [to addressing global poverty]," said Helen Dennis, Senior Adviser on Poverty and Inequality at Christian Aid on Monday 25 March 2013.

"Successful action against tax avoidance and evasion could generate more money than rich countries give in aid every year and that, in turn, could make a dramatic difference to the lives of women and men living in poverty," she added.

Ms Dennis continued: "Christian Aid estimates that tax dodging by multinationals alone costs poor countries $160 billion a year. That’s why it’s vital that David Cameron and the other leaders who are working on the world’s new development plan ensure that it includes effective action to help poor countries collect the taxes they are owed.

"The Prime Minister has already made it clear that he wants the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland this year to make progress against the international problem of tax dodging. It makes sense for him to ensure that it is also part of the conversations in Bali," she said.

The new briefing, Tax and The Post-2015 Agenda, argues that the global plan should require all countries to help create a global financial system which serves ordinary people - not just the most wealthy and powerful.

"Good governance is in no way a ‘developing world problem’," it says. "If you dig deep, it becomes clear that corruption and tax evasion are often facilitated by service providers such as banks and lawyers based in the global North."

"We believe a post-2015 development framework should also stimulate better global governance and require both individual countries and multilaterals such as the G20 to take steps in support of a more transparent financial system," the Christian Aid briefing says.

The NGO has published its briefing to coincide with the opening of the final round of consultations on the new sustainable development plan in Bali, Indonesia.

British Prime Minister David Cameron was expected to attend the talks because he is a co-chair of the United Nations’ High Level Panel on what should follow the MDGs, but it turns out that he will not be present after all.

Ms Dennis added: "It is disappointing that David Cameron will not attend this critical meeting but we hope that he will keep raising the subject of tax over the coming months, as the important report on the post-2015 plan is drafted.”

The new briefing points out that as well as helping to fund poverty reduction, tax systems can help tackle inequality, by redistributing money from richer to poorer people.

There is widespread agreement across governments, businesses and civil society orgaisations that any new global development plan should also help reduce inequality.

It concludes by suggesting how tax could be integrated into a new global development plan. For instance, it shows how a revised goal on ‘partnership for development’ could be underpinned by commitments made by governments to financial transparency and information exchange; nor undermining another country’s tax revenue base; prioritising development concerns in international tax treaties and negotiations, and universal participation in negotiations on changing global tax rules.

In relation to a goal on inequality, the Christian Aid briefing says: "A target to reduce income inequality could easily fit under a number of headings including ‘inclusive growth’. The most important thing is that this is captured within a new framework and regarded as absolutely central to the pursuit of sustainable development.

* The full briefing, Tax and The Post-2015 Agenda, can be read here (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat file):

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