Tax-havened companies bailed out while poverty doubles amid pandemic

May 12, 2020
Funds hidden in tax havens should go to combating the global poverty outbreak that now threatens millions with starvation in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Image: TRƯƠNG QUÂN/Pixabay

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the world is now facing a doubling in the number of global poor. The crisis is pushing millions of people into poverty and 300,000 could die daily from hunger. These are alarming statistics.

Meanwhile, governments are now implementing huge rescue packages to save corporations in the aviation and fossil fuel industries from taking too big a hit. It is reported that businesses registered in tax havens are also now receiving huge publicly-funded bailouts from governments.

Georgetown University law professor Adam Levitin has pointed out that the latest such packages in the United States are in fact designed for “robbing taxpayers to bailout the rich”. The safety packages being rolled out in the US, according to Levitin, could amount to US$4.25 trillion, with “virtually none” of the funds going to small businesses.

The Tax Justice Network (TJN) describes the US bailouts as a “corporate coup”, reshaping the economy in the interest of the rich.

According to the TJN, governments could potentially tap into the vast amounts of wealth hidden offshore, if the political will exists. “There’s some [US]$8 trillion–35 trillion or so sitting offshore, depending on how broadly this is measured, which can certainly be tapped…

“We must never forget that while all countries are victims of offshore chicanery, lower-income countries are the worst hit, as dictators and oligarchs loot national treasuries and sew up their economies into private fiefdoms, then transfer their ill-gotten gains overseas and stash it offshore.”

The OECD countries, the G20 group and many nations are now widely accepting this possibility.

However, Britain has been enabling these tax havens and appears likely to continue.

Several countries such as France, Poland and Denmark, are reportedly ruling out any COVID-19 bailouts for tax-havened companies — news that ought to trickle down fast to the rest of the world’s politicians.

More can and should be done. Not merely halting bailouts to big business with tax payer money, but taking back money that has been stolen from tax payers.

About 10% of global wealth from taxes is said to land in offshore tax havens.

These funds should go to combating the global poverty outbreak that now threatens millions with starvation this year, amidst the coronavirus crisis.

The problem with so-called “tax havens” is how countries continue to exist with low or no taxation of the rich and wealthy corporations.

Basic incomes for all, ensuring the global poor come out of poverty and tapping into tax havens ought to be on world leaders' agendas now.

However, such measures are seen as “drastic”, and are unlikely to happen without pressure from below.

While these are not long-term solutions to our corrupt global landscape and could be seen as just temporary “remedies” for the poverty capitalism causes, the global humanitarian crisis warned about by Oxfam, the United Nations, the World Bank and other global actors can and should still be prevented. There is no financial reason for governments not to act now.

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