On June 23 we mark World Public Services Day to call attention to millions of peoples in Asia living in conditions of impoverishment and deprivation. Many of them are without even the most essential services such as water and health that are required to have decent and humane lives.
Many Asian governments have resorted to privatizing social services, citing financial incapacity to continue providing these. They have also persisted in depending on borrowings and foreign investments to support the development of infrastructure in sectors as basic as primary and maternal health, education and literacy, community development, disaster preparedness and climate resilience. For instance, public expenditures for health have consistently remained below the 5% of GDP international standard resulting, among others, in a regression of the Maternal Mortality Ratio from 162 to 221 for the Philippines and from 228 to 359 for Indonesia.
Yet we find that governments are giving away the very revenues critical to providing these social services. Asia has been found to have the biggest share of policy changes, including tax policies, to accommodate far-reaching investment incentives. In such a context, it is not surprising that the region has been losing trillions of dollars in foregone revenues due largely to tax dodging practices of corporations.
Meanwhile, we are being taxed with grim regularity as waged workers. As ordinary consumers we are also unfailingly taxed through indirect or consumption taxes on a wide range of goods and services, thus unfairly increasing the economic burdens of lower income groups and the informal sector where women are especially concentrated.
Developing country governments bend to the pressure of international financial institutions to increase indirect taxes such as VAT, despite acknowledging their unjust impacts, instead of compelling MNCs and rich individuals to pay their obligations. Instead of mobilizing the necessary finances for basic social services and development needs, they persist in a path of privatization and debt dependence. They violate a core principle of their authority to tax, that these revenues must be diligently raised and carefully used for the needs and interests of their people.
We believe that providing essential social services is a state obligation of the highest priority because it is critical to the enjoyment of many other human rights that states have committed to protect and fulfil. In fact, the state’s right to tax goes hand in hand with the state’s obligations to protect and uphold the rights of its citizens, promote equity and justice, provide for essential services and, be transparent and democratic in formulation and implementation of budget, spending and policies. Tax policies and systems should be aimed at raising resources for people’s basic and development needs, not as instrumental for ensuring more profits for corporations and the wealthy.
Today, we claim the resources that are rightfully ours to support urgent needs for food, health, water, energy, climate adaptation and other social services vital to our well-being and the enjoyment of our basic rights. We demand tax justice as a key requisite to our survival, a life of dignity and a humane and sustainable future.
Our money, our needs, our rights! Public revenues in public services! Scrap tax incentives for corporations and the rich! No to tax dodging by corporations and wealthy elites! Tax justice now!
Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development (a part of the Jubilee South network)
The Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD), its member organizations, its colleagues in the Jubilee South network, and its partners in the international community stand together with the people of Nepal as they struggle to survive in the aftermath of the April 25 and May 12 earthquakes and deal with unimaginable devastation, suffering and loss.
Once again, it has taken a disaster of massive proportions to highlight and remind the world of the intense vulnerabilities that people living in impoverishment and deprivation bear. Nearly 8,000 have died because of the first earthquake alone, and many more are missing, injured, starving and homeless.
One of the Least Developed Countries, Nepal ranks close to the bottom of the UN’s Human Development Index, 145th out of 187 countries. The slight improvement from 2014 means that the little gains made have but all been wiped out by the quake. Nepal is one of many countries in Asia where over a billion people are known to be living barely above the extreme poverty line between US$1.25 to US$2.50 a day. Already under several layers of socio-economic deprivations, they are at great risk of regressing into deeper impoverishment than before in the face of catastrophe and crises.
The fight of Occupy Wall Street is the struggle of all movements in the world. Finance capital, that created the crisis in 2008, has increased its power instead of being disciplined. At present, world GDP is 64 trillion US dollars while the derivatives market reached the incredible figure of 1,500 trillion US dollars in 2011. The speculative economy is 250 times larger than the real economy of the world. Now banks and Transnational corporations (TNCs) are moving to speculate on the impacts of the climate and environmental crises that the capitalist system has created. Prices of food are beginning to climb again because of climate change and speculation in a world where 1 billion people already suffer from hunger. The banks and TNCs like Cargill, Wal-Mart, Monsanto are seeing this situation as a new opportunity to make profits through food derivatives, natural resource grabbing, GMOs, agro-fuels, free trade agreements, structural adjustments, austerity plans and other mechanisms to increase the privileges of the 1% at the expenses of the 99% of the world and at tremendous cost to our Mother Earth.
The system of debt continues to devastate the lives of people around the world. People in the South face the daily impacts and consequences of the financial indebtedness of their countries, which far from having been "relieved" is growing in step with the crisis and the pursuit of extraordinary profits by the most concentrated forms of capital. They continue also to bear the burden of the unpaid historical, social, ecological, and climate debts which are increasing as well to the rhythm of false solutions to the global crisis.
The whole nation of Pakistan continues to reel from devastating impacts of the unprecedented disaster that hit the country over a month ago.
The responses thus far from the international community are far from adequate and, in the case of the IMF, World Bank and ADB, even deplorable. These institutions have chosen to offer more loans rather than cancel the debts they claim from Pakistan. Together, loans from these institutions and other multilateral financial institutions constitute more than 50% of Pakistan's total outstanding external debts. As of 2009 outstanding credits from the IMF are US$5.1B, outstanding loans from the World Bank amount to US$11.5B and from the ADB it is US$9B. Bilateral loans comprise more than 30%. The major bilateral lenders are Japan (US$6.67B), France (US$B2.17B), Germany (US$1.82B), USA (US$1.51), and China (US$1.88B). Total external debt of Pakistan as of 2009 is US$50.7B. (for more information see Annexes)