By Caitlin Price, President of Oxfam St Andrews Student Society
Caitlin attended Oxfam and ActionAid’s “Tax Tour” event in Edinburgh to learn more about the link between tax injustice and poverty. Here she writes about her experience and what she learned.
“I went along to the first event of Oxfam’s Tax Tour, which was held in Edinburgh on 20 February. I was excited to find out about an issue that I had only read briefly about on the news, and I felt really very ignorant going in.
I had no idea that the problem would be so interesting, so wide-spread and so linked to the poverty that Oxfam is working to eradicate. I learned that eight people now own the same wealth as half the world’s population – it was incredibly eye-opening that so much wealth inequality has been caused, at least in part, by tax injustice.
Each speaker brought a different perspective on the issue of tax justice. Andy Wightman MSP opened with a great explanation of the issue of tax avoidance in the United Kingdom. It was illuminating to find out that Britain could do more to tackle tax evasion, especially in its territories overseas. I found it frustrating to hear that our political leaders could make a difference to stop the extent of the issue, yet they don’t.
Wanjiru Kanyiha spoke next, elucidating the extent of the issue in Kenya. As a lawyer and a tax activist, her knowledge on the issue was vast, but it was also saddening to know that this corruption is so entrenched in Kenyan society that many do not even know it is an issue.
And then Onyinye Okechukwi gave an inspiring insight into her work as a tax justice campaigner in Nigeria. It was exasperating to hear about the extent of corruption in this country, contributing to its poverty.
It was incredible to see how tax injustice affects all these countries, and how it has such a tangible effect on societies. It was equally frustrating to know that this issue is so controlled by governments, who appear incredibly apathetic to changing it. Two facets of tax injustice that I picked up on are how complex it is, and how political it has become.
However, there was a palpable sense of positivity from the speakers and from the audience. Positive change has already been made in Kenya and Nigeria: that’s not to say that there’s not a great deal more to do, but it’s a start. Spreading knowledge at these Tax Tour talks is the basis upon which apathy can be turned into action by educating those who did not feel incensed by tax injustice before, myself included.”
It’s a global scandal. Poor countries lose a staggering $170 billion to tax havens – vital revenue that’s desperately needed to pay for vital public services like healthcare and education.
While the super-rich are able to stash their wealth in these top-secret, low-tax hideaways, millions of people living in poverty are denied these basic human needs.
This has to change. We won’t live with poverty, so we can’t live with tax havens any longer.
Photo credit: Monique Campbell