They think that such provision of illegal money whitening only encourages the unscrupulous people to continue doing their misdeeds. They also proposed to review the existing tax exemption criteria.
Equitybd, a network of right-based organisations, hosted the seminar styled 'Political economy of black money: undisclosed economy, national budget and resources mobilisation' at the National Press Club.
Member of Parliament (MP) Dr MA Mannan, prominent economist and also Professor of Economics Department of Dhaka University Abu Ahmed, Programme Director of ActionAid (policy and campaign) Asgar Ali Sabri, President of Economic Reporters' Forum (ERF) Khwaza Moin Uddin and Zakir Hossain Khan of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) addressed the discussion, among others.
Equitybd researcher Ahsanul Karim presented a keynote paper while the chief moderator of the organisation Rezaul Karim Chowdhury moderated it.
Mr Mannan urged the election commission to withdraw the budgetary limitation on spending during elections for the aspiring parliament members.
Prof Ahmed said black money legalisation just promotes the country's corruption and irregularities that help generate more black money.
"Regrettably, the so-called whitening system allows dishonest people to legalise their illicit money by paying only seven to ten per cent tax, while the regular taxpayers need to pay around 20 per cent, which is frustrating for them", he added.
He also criticised the government's unhealthy attitude towards increasing the common value added tax (VAT) that directly affects the underprivileged group of people.
"The government only mobilises 30 per cent of the state capital through direct taxing system while the remaining 70 per cent comes from indirect sources", he added.
He also said that the parliament must pass the Financial Reporting Act, which is fundamental to develop reliable audit reporting.
Prof Ahmed said multinational companies must be transparent in disclosing how much profit they are repatriating.
He also opposed the proposed 15 per cent VAT on all products and services in general saying that imposition of uniform VAT in general at the consumption level is frustrating.
The keynote presenter said the current annual capital flight is around $ 1.8 billion, which is much greater than the total annual foreign aid and loan of $ 1.2 billion.
Mr Karim said in South Asia, Bangladesh has the highest percentage of black money which is around 38 per cent of the total economy while in India it is around 23 per cent.
He suggested the government to review the existing tax exemption facilities that allowed its neighbouring India for 10 years' tax exemption of coal-fired power plant under Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company (Pvt) Limited (BIFPCL).
Besides, tax exemption of parliament members that allows benefit of importing tax-free vehicles for which the country is deprived of around Tk 10 billion in taxes.
Published in The Financial Express
A network of several Civil Society Organizations has called for democratization of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) at a press conference in the city on the eve of its 46th annual conference which started in the Indian capital Delhi yesterday.
They presented a nine-point demands and urged the Bangladesh delegation to pursue their action based on these conditions. Hasan Mehedi of Humanity Watch, Syed Aminul Hoque of EquityBD, Rahela Rabbani of Karmajibi Nari, Shamim Arfin of AOSED, Javed Khalid Pasha Joy of Initiative for Right View (IRV), Mahfuzur Rahman Mukul of BELA and Kazi Hafizur Rahman of Swabalambi spoke on the occasion. Mustaga Kamal Akanda of EquityBD moderated it.
The nine-point demands are: one vote for one member in the 67 members organization instead of vote based on investment size, ensuring people's participation in approving Bank funded projects, open access to information to ADB funded projects, stopping indiscriminate denationalization, stop commercialization of natural resource, bring pressure on raising prices of utility services, protest commercialization of climate issues; and stop imposing PPP to big projects at all levels and cancellation of the immunity given to ADB in 1973.
They said seven big countries control 51 percent shares of ADB and they impose decisions on other countries specially on small countries like Bangladesh to make them their victims.
This is not democracy and rather bear out unethical attitude. Zaved Khalid Pasha said, Bangladesh is implementing 263 projects financed by ADB and most of them have caused or are causing long term damages to the livelihood of the local communities.
Even according to the ADB's own evaluation, the Sundarbans Bio-diversity Conservation Project (SBCP) and Khulna-Jessore Drainage Rehabilitation Project (KJDRP) are the examples of their failed projects although they cost hundreds of millions of Taka in local currency.
Syed Aminul Hoque of EquityBD said, ADB's pressure to increase prices of gas, electricity and fuel is bringing miseries to the poor and the farmers in particular. Its prescription for blanket privatization of the state-owned industries, privatizing the electricity and power sector, squeezing the public service sectors and promoting the shrimp culture are destroying the ecosystem.
Published in The New Nation.
Over the years, International Women's Day has taken on a festive character, a contrast to its beginnings more than 100 years ago when women workers, facing terrible labor conditions took to the streets demanding better treatment.
Many of the rights we enjoy today are the fruits of those early years of difficult struggles, and yearly, on March 8, we pay tribute to our sisters who were detained, beaten, deprived of their basic freedoms, in their determination and belief that women can enjoy a better quality of life, free from violence and discrimination.
Any scheme that further diverts water of the Indus River or Indus Delta should be rejected at the same time that the tail-end of the river must be rehabilitated in order to arrest the total ecological destruction of the region -- these were among the demands of civil society organizations, water experts, researchers, activists, environmentalists, politicians and fishing communities from all over Pakistan at the conclusion of a National Water Conference organized by Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum on January 9, 2013 at Hotel Indus, Hyderabad, Sindh, Pakistan.
Participants to the conference dubbed "Restoration of Rivers and Question of More Dams and Diversions on Indus" expressed grave concern that the Indus Delta, the sixth largest river in the world, is on the verge of death for several years now. Dams and water diversions have made water unavailable for communities downstream as well as caused sea water intrusion that has inundated 2.7 million acres of fertile land in the Badin and Thatta districts of Sindh.
A declaration signed by of the participants of the conference highlighted the fact that around 50,000 large dams block most big river systems. Dams now hold back 15% of the world's annual freshwater runoff.
It was also noted that around forty to eighty million people have been displaced by dams and that approximately two million people are relocated every year.
The declaration stressed the need for a new integrated water paradigm that brings together the various aspects of ground water, surface water and land management as well as considers communities and the environment as essential users of water.
The participants also agreed to demand that the right "of" and "to" water should be respected within the framework of food sovereignty. They defined right "of" water as respect for the entire water cycle.
They further regarded privatization and commodification of water and other common goods such as land, seeds, and knowledge as crimes against the planet and humanity. They stated that large-scale dams and hydro-electric projects grab and sequester water without taking into account the needs, traditional practices and opinions of local communities, and totally disregards the protection of ecosystems.
Prior to the drafting of the declaration, several speakers discussed various perspectives and issues concerning water and dams to further advance the knowledge of the participants and enable them to build consensus on water concerns.
Gulab Shah, District President of PFF Thatta, shared the community perspective on social, economic and ecological disasters in Indus Delta and the causes of such. Meanwhile, Ishaq Mangrio, a well-known journalist, provided the perspective of indigenous peoples on the degradation of Indus Delta.
Mustafa Baloch, Regional Manger SPO, shared his experiences on working in the coastal belt of Sindh and Balochistan. He emphasized that the degradation of Indus Delta is not only the concern of communities but also of people living in the cities. The inaccessibility of sweet water downstream reduces mangrove production that protect the land from cyclones and tsunamis. He said these looming disasters are a big threat to people living in villages and cities near the coastal belt.
Abrar Qazi (Awami Jamhori Party) spoke about the mega infrastructure for irrigation and power generation in the Indus and its impacts on the Indus River. On the other hand, Nazeer Eesani GM SIDA underscored that water is not an economic good but a right of everyone.
In the afternoon of the conference, the other speakers talked about the political aspects of the issue. Qadir Magsi (Sindh Taraqi Pasand Party) emphasized the need for land reform and laser leveling in Sindh. Representing PMLN, Ayoub shared that his organization is not in favor of the Kalabhagh dam.
Dr. Dhudo Mehri (Sindh United Party) delivered an emotional speech as he called for the rejection of dams after sharing the historical background of the Indus and pointing out that the degradation started way back in 1919.
Secretary General of Pakistan Peoples Party Sindh Mr. Taj Haider spoke on behalf of government and shared his party's perspective on water crises as well as discussed issues of water logging.
After the discussions of the speakers, a declaration concerning water issues was approved by the participants of the conference.
Today, on International Migrants Day, Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) celebrates the contributions made by millions of migrants all over the world and calls on the global community to respect the human rights and dignity of migrant workers and members of their families!
More than 214 million people worldwide are migrants – living, working, raising families and building communities in places outside their countries of origin. The contributions of migrants are vast and multifaceted, with their hard work, dedication and creativity supporting the social, economic and cultural foundations of societies around the world. Countries have prospered as migrant workers have built their national infrastructure and fuelled the engines of their economies.
It is also a feat that in 2012, Indonesia became the 46th State to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (UN 1990 MWC). We will not tire and falter in our ratification campaign until all States ratify and implement the Convention.
While today should be a celebratory occasion on the achievements of and for migrant workers, let us also be reminded of the persistent challenge of the global economic downturn that creates a climate of instability, precarious work and continuing struggles of migrant workers and members of their families. Vulnerable groups including migrant workers are strongly affected by these economic shocks. While they are already discriminated because of their status, their discrimination is increased in times of fiscal crisis. Often they are blamed for causing the instability of the economy and society. This situation calls for a comprehensive approach that not only addresses the working conditions of migrant workers but also of local workers in migrant receiving countries. Instead of pitting migrant and local workers against each other, we should strike at the systemic roots of inequality that promote social and economic injustice.
Migrant Domestic Workers
Although domestic workers are still part of a system of invisible workers who are mostly women, members of minority groups, and are migrant workers, they are becoming more empowered and breaking free from the bounds of slavery. They are organizing and advocating for fair wages, rest days, freedom of association and simply to be treated as human beings. MFA joins hands with the global trade unions and civil society organizations in their campaign for the universal ratification and implementation of ILO Convention 189 and Recommendation 201 (ILO C189 R201). The ratifications of Uruguay, Philippines and Mauritius of the ILO C89 R201 are significant milestones in the formal recognition on the labor rights of domestic workers.
We call other States and the rest of society for change, to recognize that domestic work is work, domestic workers are workers and are not slaves.
Irregular Migrant Workers
We note that migrants, particularly irregular migrants, are increasingly becoming targets of strict border controls, detention and deportation practices. They are detained on administrative grounds – they lack the required employment and residency permits, identity documents and the like. However, the "act" or "state" of being undocumented seems to be an automatic basis for States to arrest, detain and deport migrants. The consequence of such is criminalizing migrants for their irregular status without due regard to the cause of their "undocumentedness." We echo the calls of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants for access to justice, strong procedural safeguards, attention to the special needs of vulnerable migrants, denunciation of detention as a punitive measure, and the authoritative declaration that detention of migrants should be the last resort. Freedom is the rule, detention is the exception.
MFA calls on the global community to recognize and protect the rights of migrants in irregular situations. Resolution 3499 of the UN General Assembly (1975) affirms that no human being is illegal. Regardless of their immigration status or nationality, all migrants have inalienable human rights that States are required to respect and uphold in the exercise of their sovereignty over all who reside within their geographical jurisdiction.
As we sustain our fight for the rights of undocumented migrant workers, we also commend the positive steps taken by stakeholders in abiding with international human rights treaties. The initiative of the UN Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families in drafting the general comment on the rights of migrant workers in irregular situation is noteworthy. The general comment provides the normative framework for the protection of the rights of migrant workers in an irregular situation and members of their families.
A growing number of people are migrating internationally, following increasingly complex and sometimes clandestine migration routes. Many migrants fall outside of the traditional classifications of "economic migrant," "refugee," and "asylum seeker" – definitions used to categorically determine what (if any) assistance or protection can be provided to them. Of particular concern to MFA are those referred to as "stranded migrants" – migrants who become "stuck" in the course of their migration, either in transit or receiving countries.
The ongoing conflict in Syria and some parts of West Asia and the aftermath of the natural disasters in Japan and Thailand in 2011 are examples where migrants are caught in the turmoil, affecting their legal status and personal safety, security, and wellbeing.
MFA recognizes these challenges faced by stranded migrants and calls on for a coordinated migrant-centered approach, combined with sensitivity to the need for alternative repatriation and strong reintegration program to ensure that fewer migrants become stranded in dangerous life threatening situations.
Freedom of Association and Right to Organize
MFA expresses grave concerns over the alarming actions of governments in curtailing migrant workers' freedom of association and right to organize. This is evidenced by the recent detention and deportation of Chinese migrant workers in Singapore. Chinese migrant workers staged a strike over grievances that include wage discrimination based on nationality. The strike was deemed illegal by the Singapore government and the migrant leaders were detained while other workers involved in the strike were deported.
MFA denounces this draconian act of Singapore towards migrant workers. The harsh actions of the Singapore government and the deportation of the workers overlook the bases for the complaints against wage discrimination based on nationality. MFA calls for a full and independent inquiry into the dispute.
MFA calls on all states to properly implement ILO C100 (equal remuneration) and C98 (Right to Organizing and Collective Bargaining), and ratify ILO Convention 87 (Migration for Employment Convention) and C143 (Migrant Workers, supplementary provisions).
Human rights and dignity for ALL migrant workers!