We in the Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development stand in solidarity with the Greek people as they struggle against the harsh loan conditions recently imposed by the European Union in exchange for a new debt deal.
The EU’s decision, pushed largely by Germany, came in the wake of the Greek people’s resounding referendum vote of “no!” to more austerity measures that in the past further exacerbated their poverty and deprivation and plunged them deeper in the abyss of debt. Widely scored as ruthless and vindictive, the new conditions consist of even more stringent measures that include additional VAT hikes, pension cuts, liberalization of the labor market, swift, far-reaching legislative changes and a massive selloff of valuable Greek assets amounting to $55 billion.
Two previous loan injections brought relief indeed -- not to Greece, but to the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the vulture funds and bondholders and other financial institutions. Offered as “bailouts” for the Greek people, they bailed out instead the very entities whose actions caused this crisis, from irresponsibly and aggressively peddling loans, to imposing onerous and enslaving loan conditionalities.
MANILA, 17 July 2015 – The Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development criticized the agreement from the third United Nations Financing for Development (FFD) summit in Ethiopia, which concluded yesterday.
“The outcome document is riddled with contradictions, reflecting the nature of the FFD process as a contestation between different paradigms and interests. Important passages under the Action Agenda reveal that the interests of big finance capital, private corporations, global elites and rich country governments have triumphed,” said Lidy Nacpil, APMDD coordinator.
“The process has failed to even yield what would have been small but important victories such as the commitments to set up a global intergovernmental tax body, to scale up climate finance, and to study and pursue the issue of illegitimate debt,” she added.
Concern 1: Technical discussions on tax will be discouraged by ‘politicizing’ the discussions.
Response: An Intergovernmental tax body will ensure the technical and political support required to reach global consensus on international tax matters. It should be noted that the OECD is itself an intergovernmental body. OECD’s Committee on Fiscal Affairs is an intergovernmental body and is supported by OECD’s Centre for Tax Policy and Administration (CTPA) that offers technical expertise.
CTPA is well resourced with a budget of EUR 10million as per 2013 financial statement. In contrast, the UN Tax Committee has an extremely limited budget of some $175,000/year, meets only five days a year, with members that work in their personal capacity and the Secretariat consists of 2.5 full-time staff members.
Concern 2: Universal membership will make the body too cumbersome to reach agreements.
Response: There are existing examples within the UN system of Intergovernmental bodies with universal membership. For example the UN’s Forum on Forests is a subsidiary body under the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) with universal membership. There are also examples of technical bodies supporting intergovernmental bodies, for example, the subsidiary bodies on scientific and technical advice under the UN Climate Convention and the Biodiversity Convention. Such bodies have shown themselves capable of negotiating legally binding agreements, despite having to manage significant political and technical differences amongst their membership.
Concern 3: The OECD has reached out to developing countries to participate in BEPS and other processes.
Response: OECD is answerable to its constituents- and cannot, and does not, represent developing countries. Few developing countries are involved in BEPS, with only G20 developing countries and OECD accession countries on equal footing, and not a single low income country is involved in decision making. This is far from the inclusive forum required. Outside of the G20 and OECD countries, 13 developing countries are participants in the BEPS project but cannot participate in decision-making and cannot influence the agenda.
A joint proposal by IMF, OECD and World Bank published in 2002 at the time of the Monterrey Conference stated that ‘Although it has extensive contacts with non-OECD countries and considerable awareness of developing country issues through its non-member programs, the OECD does not represent the views of developing countries’
At the BEPS regional consultations, developing countries raised the issue that the balance between source and residence taxation is significant for them. OECD has been unwilling to address this through BEPS since it challenges the underlying principle of residence tax bias in their policies- a principle that favours developed countries.
Essentially, the argument is that the OECD would be happy to invite developing countries to participate but is clear that they won’t get a vote.
Concern 4: FfD3 is not the appropriate forum to consider this proposal
Response: Strengthening the role of the UN in international tax matters has been discussed since Monterrey and in Doha where there was a commitment to consider this issue at the ECOSOC level, a process which has been taking place every year since 2011. G77 and China have not only expressed disappointment on the lack of movement to fulfil this mandate in this process but has repeatedly demanded, from 2011 to 2015, an intergovernmental UN body at this annual meeting.
What forum could be more appropriate for this proposal than FfD?
Concern 5: The Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes exists and could perform these functions.
Response: Global Forum is not a standard setting body, it only implements OECD standards. It is an OECD-led body based in Paris, which oversees implementation of standards set by OECD. Its mandate is limited to ensuring the implementation of standards of transparency and exchange of information on request in the tax area. This is very far from the sort of robust global intergovernmental body required to negotiate matters related to international tax cooperation.
Concern 6: Universal representation would mean including tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions in the body.
Response: There is no reason to believe that secrecy jurisdictions or tax havens can block debates in the UN any more than they have in the OECD. All stakeholders should be involved in these debates. If participation of secrecy jurisdictions as important as Switzerland, Luxembourg and UK (British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies include Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands, Jersey, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Bermuda) have been considered appropriate in OECD’s efforts in tax transparency matters, it should not be a concern at the UN to include small secrecy jurisdictions in the debates.
On the contrary, excluding any jurisdiction from global agreements would in fact increase the risk of isolating such countries and reduce ability to pressure them into cooperating. It may also provide incentives for some excluded countries to consider becoming tax havens, in the absence of a robust, inclusive global body that can enforce standards.
Concern 7: A universal UN tax body might inhibit global business.
Response: The absence of a truly global, representative body has meant that developing countries are already taking unilateral decisions that deviate from standards set by OECD and other developed countries. Brazil, China and India have already been innovating in areas such as transfer pricing that departs from the OECD standard. Mongolia and Argentina have unilaterally cancelled tax treaties with their developed counterparts with Mongolia’s Vice Finance Minister noting at the time "We started to question why these countries would have greater advantages in Mongolia than us”.
This trend might intensify with the uncertainties that are expected to come along with the BEPS initiative. It is in the interest of business to avoid such fragmentation of tax standards and ensure that UN is leading global tax cooperation.
 Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Latvia, People’s Republic of China, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa
 Albania, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Croatia, Jamaica, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, Tunisia, Viet Nam
The Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD) salutes the people of Greece for decisively choosing to break the chains of austerity and debt. In a historic referendum yesterday, July 5, over 60% of voters said “No” to stronger austerity measures imposed by the “troika” – the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Commission.
We and many other peoples of the global south share their struggle against illegitimate debt, austerity measures and neo-liberal economic policies. We know only too well the devastating impacts of debt and anti-people policies imposed by the IMF, other international financial institutions and lender governments.
They have wreaked havoc in countries around the world, plundering natural resources and pushing people deeper into poverty in favor of elites and corporations. But instead of owning up to their responsibility, they have chosen to blame the very people they have wronged and insist on the perpetuation of illicit financial policies and illegitimate debts.
We will continue to stand in solidarity with the people of Greece as they enter a new phase in their struggles. We reiterate our call for the cancellation of all illegitimate debts, in Greece, in our countries and elsewhere. We also call for an end to the imposition of austerity measures and other neo-liberal policies which have trampled on the very freedom and dignity of peoples across the world.
6 July 2015
MANILA, 3 July 2015 – In solidarity with the Greek people and government, an Asian alliance of social movements and organizations stated their support for the call for a "no" vote in this Sunday's historic referendum.
"We and many other peoples of the global south share the struggle of the people of Greece against illegitimate debt, austerity measures and neo-liberal economic policies. We know only too well the devastating impacts of debt and anti-people policies imposed by the International Monetary Fund, other international financial institutions and lender governments," said Lidy Nacpil, coordinator of the Asian Peoples' Movement on Debt and Development, a part of the global anti-debt network
"Thus we support the call of the Syriza government for a 'no' vote, and the right of the people of Greece to chart their own future free from the troika's stranglehold," she added in a statement.
On Sunday, July 5, Greeks will take part in a national referendum on a technically-defunct bailout offer which would enforce stronger austerity measures in their debt-ridden country. Greece missed a $1.7 billion loan payment to the IMF last Tuesday, the first developed country to do so.
A "yes" victory will pave the way towards the negotiation of a new bailout, with tougher budget cuts and tax rises, and undermine the Syriza government. A "no" victory, on the other hand, would support the government's rejection of the imposition of the "troika" – the IMF, European Central Bank and European Commission.
APMDD is also a signatory of an international statement released today which blamed the "troika" for Greece's current situation.
"The world has experienced how debt burdens and neoliberal impositions have created havoc on economies, depleted natural resources, exacerbated inequalities, and impoverished peoples while siphoning off billions of dollars to global capitalist banks, giant corporations and imperialist governments," the organizations said in the joint statement expressing solidarity with the Greek people.
"Your struggle is our struggle. Your victory is our victory," they also stated.
The Asian Peoples' Movement on Debt and Development (formerly Jubilee South–Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development) is a regional alliance of peoples' movements and organizations, coalitions, and nongovernmental organizations.