Last September 1-2, 2014, 58 participants from social movements, people’s organizations, coalitions, unions and NGOs from different Asian regions formed the Asia Tax Justice Network. The pioneering move was inspired by a commitment to work and promote common advocacies and campaigns on tax and fiscal justice.
The East Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia subregions were represented by organizations from Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Burma, Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, China and Australia.
JSAPMDD led in organizing the assembly with co-convenors that included Economic Reforms (AER), Bantay Kita, EquityBD, Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF),Koalisi Anti-Utang (KAU), Prakarsa Indonesia, Praxis India, Public Services International (PSI) Asia/Pacific, Monitoring Sustainability of Globalization (MSN), Tax Justice Network Australia, Revenue Watch, Rural Reconstruction Nepal (RRN), South Asian Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE), LDC Watch.
Fiscal policies of governments mainly involve revenues and expenditures. JSAPMDD considers these two main instruments of fiscal policy important for obvious reasons – examining whether governments equitably source funds and whether governments’ public spending of these funds is in keeping with people’s needs. However, though significant work has gone into holding governments to account for their expenditures, there is still much ground to cover in taking governments to task and holding them accountable for the revenue-sourcing aspect of their fiscal policies, specifically taxation.
In many developing countries, transnational corporations (TNCs) enjoy more rights than citizens. This is certainly the case when it comes to taxes. Where development agenda hinge in large part on attracting foreign direct investments (FDIs), governments offer a range of substantial profit-based tax incentives to prospective investors and enter into treaties advantageous to corporations. These have been documented as resulting in huge profits for TNCs on one hand and massive foregone public revenues on the other.
Of late, there has been increasing interest in mobilizing development finance in light of the failure of aid, loans and other financial transfers from North to South to realize human development goals, including poverty reduction. The Millennium Development Goals are also coming to a close with millions still living on less than $1 a day and no clear answers in sight where to source funding for the post-2015 development agenda. One of the issues in focus is improving the capacity of developing countries for domestic resource mobilization by stemming the outflows of public financial resources.
Another form of pressure imposed by North governments and international financial institutions on developing countries to attract prospective investors is to enter into various trade agreements and tax treaties. Among the most substantive and prevalent today are agreements to avoid double taxation (or DTAs for short) and free trade agreements (FTAs). Today, there is a greater scale of “international investment rule making”, with states increasingly forging “megaregional agreements” and surrendering their say over economic and trade issues to arbitration (UNCTAD, 2014).