Tax justice groups in Asia are calling for a Day of Action on Tax Justice to be staged on September 23 to demand changes and reforms on taxes and fiscal system with Jeannie Manipon of The Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD) saying that “national tax systems are biased in favor of MNCs and the elites. We can also see the similar pattern in the international tax system”, emphasizing that a progressive mechanism must be put in place in order to allow the removal of the backwards tax and fiscal system.
In an online press conference organized by the Tax and Fiscal Justice – Asia (TAFJA), the combined and resounding messages of speakers stressed that regressive tax policies exemplified by VAT and GST impact women, workers, farmers and other marginalized sectors the most and severely undermine their capacities to prepare for, respond to, survive recover and rebuild when crisis or natural disasters strike. Regressive tax systems, with their elite and gender biases are legacies of colonialism, part of systems that enable countries of the Global North to extract wealth from the Global South.
As the 77th United Nations (UN) General Assembly meets on 13-27 of September 2022, TAFJA and APMDD leaders called attention to the impacts of flawed fiscal and tax systems on the marginalized and common citizens. “While people are dying [in Pakistan], taxes from basic utilities are rising. The total price of electricity has tripled [amidst the emergency]” says Farooq Tariq of the Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee. He mentioned that a Pakistani said that there are no relief efforts underway to alleviate the common people. “Regressive tax policies disproportionately burden women and disempowered, disadvantaged families” expressed by Vidya Dinker of the Indian Social Action Forum. Further elaborating that only when unfair tax burdens are removed from women and the marginalized can society move a step forward in eliminating poverty and inequality.
“In the Philippines, one public official, has already admitted that the cost of living of an ordinary worker is PhP42,000 (USD734) despite the reality that workers only receive about one-third of the cost of living expected by the public official” stated by Luke Espiritu of the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino or Solidarity of Filipino workers. Moreover, he said that taxing the billionaires even just 1% of their total assets, the Philippine government could come up with PhP1 trillion (USD17,469,384,000.00), a huge amount the state could use for a better delivery of social and public service.
“The same countries that give away a lot of money are the same countries that need it the most.” explained tax lawyer Tony Salvador of the Third World Network regarding the countries in Global South providing tax holidays for corporations while laborers continue to suffer from the burden of heavy taxation.
“While COVID-19 has brought further inequality, brought about extreme poverty, income loss, unemployment, and the suffering of the workers, the super rich have increased their wealth repeatedly during the pandemic” said Ah Maftuchan of The Prakarsa, citing that only if the people uphold the redistributive property of wealth taxing, can the society solve poverty and extreme inequality.
Sudhir Shrestha of the South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication explored the issues of taxation in Nepal pointing out that taxation policies in Nepal are made or drafted based on the interest of limited groups, instead of the general public, asking the question: “who is really running the government, the parliament or the businessmen?”
Dereje Alemayehu of the Global Alliance for Tax Justice (GATJ) criticized the “tax deal of the rich” being pushed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development as this proposition will only allow for further exploitation of the Global North countries of Global South countries. Instead the Global Alliance for Tax Justice together with its network members, including TAFJA and APMDD, calls on the UN to spearhead the return of international tax rules under UN auspices and the formation of a UN tax convention and body. Jeannie Manipon of APMDD called on governments and the international community to adopt a progressive tax and fiscal systems would not be prone to abuse by the elite and that would truly serve people’s needs.