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Bangladesh lost US$24.7 billion in illicit financial flow to foreign countries between 1976 and 2010; a research work done by the London-based Tax Justice Network (TJN) has revealed.

TJN's latest findings has also revealed that only US$1 is flowing into the poor countries as foreign aid as against an average outflow of $10 in illicit transactions to the developed countries.

TJN is an independent organisation launched in the British Houses of parliament in March 2003. It is dedicated to high level research, analysis and advocacy in the field of tax and regulations.

The TJN finding was disclosed Saturday at a press conference, organised by the Equity and Justice Working Group Bangladesh (Equity BD), held at the National Press Club in the city to officially launch the Financial Secrecy Index 2013 (FSI) prepared by TJN in Bangladesh.

The FSI, published by TJN on November 7 ranked jurisdictions according to their secrecy and the scale of their activities using 15 indicators.

Ahsanul Karim Babor, Deputy Director of Equity BD presented the keynote of the programme styled "TJN Financial Secrecy Index Report, Countries in Top Ranks: Bangladesh Perspective".

Mr Babor presented a summary of the FSI-2013 which ranked Switzerland, Hong Kong, UK, Bahrain, Panama, Mauritius, Malaysia, Dubai, Bermuda and Lebanon as 10 top countries out of 82 nations fetching illicit financial flow mostly from developing countries.

The paper mentioned that an estimated $21 to $32 trillion of private financial wealth is located, untaxed or lightly taxed, in secrecy jurisdictions around the world.

It said illicit cross-border financial flows add up to an estimated $1-1.6 trillion each year.

"Since the 1970s African countries alone are estimated to have lost over $1 trillion in capital flight, dwarfing their current external debts of just $190 billion and making Africa a major net creditor to the world".

The report also pointed out that those assets are in the hands of a few wealthy people, protected by offshore secrecy, while the debts are shouldered by broad African populations.

Citing from TJN's research on Bangladesh in 2011, Babor's paper said that Bangladesh lost $24.7 billion as illicit financial flow from 1976 to 2010 which is bigger in size than the budget for the last financial year (2012-13).

The paper also said that the country's black money is between 48 and 84 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and a big chunk of it is spent during the general elections.

Citing from a 2006 World Bank report, the paper said total expenditure in a general parliamentary election is more than Tk 200 billion in Bangladesh.

The paper suggested taking examples from Indian government to stop illicit financial flow and its recovery.

India published white paper on black money and illicit financial flow and recovered around $4.43 billion alone in fiscal year 2011-2012.

"In the last ten years, India has initiated the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) with 88 countries. They have also reformed there tax administration," the paper pointed out.

Chief Moderator of EquityBD Rezaul Karim, director at the same organisation Mostafa Kamal Akanda, journalists Shwapan Bhuyian and Asjadul Kibria, joint secretary of Bangladesh Krishok Federation Md Mainul Islam among others spoke.

However, FSI-2013 also mentioned that besides the developing countries, richer nations are also victims of illicit money flow.

"In the recent global financial crisis, European countries like Greece, Italy and Portugal have been brought to their knees by decades of secrecy and tax evasion," it said.

It pointed out that a global industry has developed involving the world's biggest banks, law practices and accounting firms which not only provide secretive offshore structures to their tax- and law-dodging clients, but aggressively market them.

'Competition' between jurisdictions to provide secrecy facilities has, particularly since the era of 'the financial globalisation' took off in the 1980s, become a central feature of global financial markets, it said.

"The problems go far beyond tax. In providing secrecy, the offshore world corrupts and distorts markets and investments, shaping them in ways that have nothing to do with efficiency" the FSI said.

"This is not just a 'developing country' issue either: it hurts citizens of rich and poor countries alike" FSI said in its introductory remark.

Photo Courtesy of The Financial Express.

Article published in The Financial Express.

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Six rights groups and civil society networks yesterday demanded that the government conduct a survey and assessment on the internal climate-induced migration in Bangladesh before taking the issue to the upcoming international climate negotiations.

The Bangladesh delegation must demand a solid programme on climate migrants in the Poland conference due in November so that there is some agreement in Paris in 2015, said Qumrul Isalm Chowdhury of Forum of Environmental Journalists of Bangladesh (BEJF), addressing a seminar at the capital’s Jatiya Press Club.

Environment and Forest Minister Hasan Mahumd declared that Bangladesh Climate Change Strategic Action Plan would be revised and money would be allocated there for researches on climate migrants.

He said the developed countries had to take the responsibility of these migrants, and the definition of the UN refugee had to be revised to accommodate them.

At the seminar, “Climate-induced migrants: Responsibilities at national and international level”, Dr Ahsanuddin of CGC said that if Bangladesh failed to present the estimated number of climate migrants, it would not get proper response at international level.

Bangladesh must tell the developed world that within its limited capacity, the country is spending almost $1 billion annually on safety net programmes, he added.

The seminar was jointly organised by Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon, Bangladesh Indigenous People Network on Climate Change and Biodiversity, Coastal Livelihood and Environmental Action Network, Climate Change Development Forum, Equity and Justice Working Group Bangladesh, and Campaign for Sustainable Rural Livelihood.

Citing data of CristianAid and prediction of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Hasan Mehdi, chief executive of Humanitywatch, said 2.5 crore people of the world were displaced due to climate change in 2007, while 15-20 crore people would be displaced by 2050. In Bangladesh, it causes displacement of 6-10 lakh people annually, he said.

Published in The Daily Star.

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Speakers at a seminar on Monday urged the government to consider a transparent and inclusive national designated authority to attract international climate finance.
The seminar titled "Green Climate Fund, Country Ownership, International Climate Finance: Is Bangladesh Ready?" held in the city. It was organised by BAPA, BIPNetCCBD, CCDF, CSRL and EquityBD with the sponsorship of Oxfam and European Union.

Rezaul Karim Chowdhury of EquityBD moderated it while Sayed Aminul Haque of presented the keynote speech.

Speakers said, the present climate finance is little coordinated and the climate change strategic action plan is a neglected document, as the present focal point at the Ministry of Forest and Environment has little authority over other ministries.

They said the country ownership should not be mere a government or bureaucratic ownership; it should be open for all affected community, media and other groups.

They cited examples that Indonesia and Philippines have already created supra coordination body like separate climate change commission and council, we must do it.

Dr Quazi Kholiquzzaman in his concluding remarks said that the country in fact should not be expecting much from foreign assistance in respect of climate finance although the country is continuously raising voice in international level. He said that there should be a national designated authority as a single supra coordination body in respect of climate planning, which is also a requirement of Green Climate Fund.

Published in The New Nation.

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Reducing inequality across the world should be the main agenda of the upcoming United Nations General Assembly where the post-2015 development goals will be discussed, said speakers at a seminar yesterday.

Countries failed to attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) set in 2000 to create a world without poverty and hunger by 2015. There are now more people who are hungry than what was in 2000, they added.

EquityBD orgained the seminar in the capital's Jatiya Press Club.

Environment and Forests Minister Hasan Mahmud said developed countries were responsible for the crises of climate change facing Bangladesh. "So we must make them pay us compensation," he said.

Stating that Bangladesh has been largely successful in reaching the MDGs two years ahead of the deadline, he said the challenge was to sustain the development and progress.
EquityBd Research Coordinator Barkat Ullah Maruf said the assembly's goals should be to control global arms and military expenditure while debts of least developed countries should be cancelled.

Published in The Daily Star.

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bangladesh july 16 2013Rights activists here on Tuesday urged the government to lay emphasis on corporate and direct tax and take effective steps to cut corruption in the VAT collection procedure.

They made the request at a press conference organised by eight rights-based civil society networks at the Jatiya Press Club in the capital.

Syed Aminul Haque of EquityBD read out the group's position paper at the press conference.

Rezaul Karim Chowdhury of EquityBD, Prodip K Roy of Online Knowledge Society, Jibanananda Joyanta of Surakkha O Agrogoti Foundation, Mejbah Uddin Ahmed of Jatiya Sromik Jote and Mostafa Kamal Akanda of EquityBD also spoke on the occasion.

In the group position paper, Syed Aminul Haque said the value added tax (VAT) is regressive especially to the poor and middle class consumers.

He alleged that there is huge corruption in the collection of VAT that involves national and international companies.

"No foreign and multinational companies are found at the top of the list as VAT depositor. The contribution of VAT and other indirect taxes in internal revenue of Bangladesh is about 70 percent while direct taxes are only 30 percent... scenario in the developed countries is contrary to this," he said.

Aminul Haque said the contribution of direct tax is 33 percent in neighboring India and 31 percent in Sri Lanka. "The government of Bangladesh increased VAT rate to 15 percent while it is only 5 percent in Singapore, 7 percent in Thailand, 10 percent in South Korea and 12 percent in New Zealand."

Rezaul Karim Chowdhury said that according to Bangladesh Bank statistics, there are about 28,000 personal bank accounts in the country, each having more than Tk 1 crore.

But only 1000 people give income tax of more than Tk 100,000.

He said the government must lay emphasis on individual income tax and corporate tax.

Prodip K Roy said almost all the ordinary people pay at least Tk 50 per day as VAT while they buy essentials.

Published in The New Nation.