Before the Ebola outbreak
happened, the three worst affected countries, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia,
had an average of one hospital bed per 2128 people. Sierra Leone had 136
doctors on a population of 6 million, while Liberia had 51 doctors on a
population of 4.2 million. The NGO ActionAid
showed that these three countries had spent about $237 million on health
while having lost an average of $287.6 million in potential domestic revenue
because of corporate tax dodging (using 2011 data).
Photo courtesy: The Daily Signal
Since I started work at Oxfam
Novib, I have had to explain my work and the topic of fair taxation with many
of my friends and fellow students. These conversations tend to be extremely interesting
and always lead to debates as tax itself is such a politically-laden topic. I
noticed during these discussions that most people focus on the unfairness of certain
tax practices, like corporate tax dodging, for us citizens of the Netherlands
without realizing what harmful effects unfair tax practices can have on those
poor living in less developed countries.
According to the Washington-based non-profit Global
Financial Integrity (GFI), corrupt practices and corporate tax evasion
resulted in an outflow of $991 billion from developing countries in 2012.
This non-taxed loss is enormous
and makes clear a sad reality:
Developing countries are losing more money to illicit financial flows
than they receive in official development aid.
Photo courtesy: www.healthpovertyaction.org
11.1 times more according to GFI,
and this does not go without implications for those living in the developing
When firms and individuals do not
pay their tax, governments don’t collect much needed revenue that could have been spent on public health,
basic services, social protection, fighting hunger and other services that could have assisted the already poor and
marginalized as well as the general development of nations and their productive
workforce. It is this that I find truly unfair. It also is precisely this issue
that was underlined a few weeks ago Max Lawson, Oxfam GB’s Head of Global
Policy and Campaigns, in his powerful blogpost “My
Friend Died Last Week – Tax Could Have Saved His Life”. I encourage you to
read his post and see the simple implications that often difficult fiscal
policies can have.
Jan-Willem is working on the Fair Tax project at Oxfam Novib. When he
is not expressing his disdain regarding growing economic inequality, he finds
peace in early morning empty train rides. His quick ability to name any tax
haven in the world is suspicious and fascinating at the same time.