"We believe that debt transparency should apply to all debt instruments and countries, regardless of income levels... For certain, borrowing governments should be held responsible for contracting and accumulating burdensome and illegitimate debts. But transparency is just as wanting among lenders. In many instances, the weight of culpability and accountability rests primarily and heavily on lenders."
The message expressed by APMDD at the 13th UNCTAD Debt Management Conference held in Geneva last Dec. 5-7 drove home a key critique of lenders demanding debt transparency on the part of borrowers while conveniently excusing themselves from their own guidelines.
APMDD was represented by Mae Buenaventura of the Debt Justice Program in the panel that included Riccardo Boffo, Economist and Financial Analyst (OECD); Yuefen Li, Senior Adviser, South-South Co-operation and Development Finance (South Centre); and Sonja Gibbs, Managing Director and Head of Sustainable Finance, Institute of International Finance (IIF).
The Conference is held regularly as a biennial forum for sharing experiences and exchanging views between governments, international organizations, academia and civil society on debt-related developments in developing countries and on debt management issues in the broader macroeconomic context.
The most recent effort proceeds from the OECD Debt Transparency Initiative which principles drafted without public consultations by the IIF, a group for the financial industry and composed of the world's largest commercial and investment banks. International financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, the G20 and the OECD promote these guidelines, ignoring other sets of principles already in place. These include the UNCTAD Principles on Promoting Responsible Sovereign Lending and Borrowing which benefitted from broad participation and consultation with civil society, among them APMDD, media, academe and other stakeholders.
Read the full intervention here.
The Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD) today joined hundreds of organizations worldwide participating in a global week of action to demand debt cancellation amid multiple crises as international lenders led by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) meet in Washington DC for their annual meetings.
Public actions in the Philippines, Nepal, Pakistan, Indonesia and India denounced the failure of lenders to heed the growing demand to cancel the debt in the face of skyrocketing prices of food and fuel and intensifying climate emergency.
Hundreds of Filipino activists marched to the Philippine Senate to call for immediate debt cancellation and the repeal of the Automatic Appropriations Law. Several participants each wore a mock ball and chain around their neck, symbolizing the increasing gravity of the country’s debt burdens.
Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) President Rene Ofreneo slammed a decree by the late Ferdinand Marcos Sr. that remains in place, which automatically prioritizes debt payments. “This is a legacy of the Marcos dictatorship that is grossly unjust and must immediately be repealed. The Filipino people do not even know what they are paying for, when these debts were contracted in their name. It’s time for a debt audit to weed out loans that did not benefit us at all. Surely, this is common sense that should be plain to all, not least the current President.”
He cited the record-high national government debt of PhP13.02 trillion as of August. “That’s about PhP127,000 of debt for each Filipino, which will be paid out of public funds at a time when public support for public basic services is urgently needed by our people,” Ofreneo lamented the additional $2 billion added to the Philippines’ debt bill when the newly-installed administration of Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. sold its first global bond.
APMDD Coordinator Lidy Nacpil stated that the Philippines is one of many countries around the world caught in multiple crises of public health, economic recession and climate change. “Mounting debts mean mounting debt service, resulting in cuts to budgets for healthcare, and education, decent housing and other essentials. Burdensome debts are also stopping governments from decisively tackling the climate crisis,” said Lidy Nacpil, APMDD coordinator.
Nacpil cited Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Zambia, Lebanon and Ghana as the most recent examples. “Pakistan, in particular, which has recently experienced devastating floods because of the climate crisis, has seen 33 million people displaced. Yet the government is still expected to pay US$18 billion in debt payments to foreign lenders. This situation cannot continue.”
These are also countries that have been paying debt service and complying with structural adjustments and austerity conditionalities by lenders, despite the budget cuts these entailed in social spending. In Asia, unsustainable debt levels pile up with dire consequences for developmental needs such as in Sri Lanka which defaulted in May, and Pakistan where public funds continue to be siphoned into debt service.
Farooq Tariq, General Secretary of the Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee said, “As humanitarian organizations scrambled for emergency funds, a familiar face reared its head once more. The IMF, recently approved a bailout request with a plan to release $1.1 billion to the country. At first glance, this may seem like a vital step in Pakistan’s recovery, but to pile further debt on a country already in the grip of a financial crisis will only end in greater disaster and injustice.”
Echoing the global call, protesters stressed that “we will not be held hostage by the lenders and global rule-makers who are leading us down a path towards greater inequality, impoverishment, deprivation and ecocide.” As public institutions, the IMF and the World Bank remain influential peddlers of loans among Global South countries and still fail to account for their responsibility in creating the vulnerabilities to pandemics, economic recessions and climate change.
Civil society network asserts call for a UN Tax Convention, lambasts G20 for sticking to “fundamentally undemocratic Tax Deal of the Rich”
“The G20 Summit in Bali is blocking any progress towards the negotiation of a UN Tax Convention that would address the issue of corporate tax abuses and illicit financial flows”, pronounced Lidy Nacpil, coordinator of the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development, after the G20 released its Outcome Document November 16.
“The G20 continues to refuse to listen to civil society movements that are demanding global norms and standards on tax cooperation that respects all countries' sovereignty, strengthen countries' capacities to raise revenues to deliver public services, climate action, sustainable development and human rights commitments, and pave the way for an inclusive UN Tax Body,” Nacpil continued. “It is holding on to the fundamentally undemocratic Tax Deal of the Rich.”
The G20 has been pushing for the OECD Inclusive Framework on BEPS, a so-called "Two-Pillar Solution" which has been heavily criticized as a "Tax Deal of the Rich."
On November 15, the first day of the G20 Summit, APMDD delivered a strong message to G20 leaders, calling on them to refrain from blocking any progress towards the negotiation of a UN Tax Convention that would effectively address corporate tax abuses and establish norms and standards on tax cooperation that respects all countries' taxing rights via actions in front of their embassies in Metro Manila as the G20 Summit opened in Bali, Indonesia, 15 November 2022.
Open letters were delivered and discussed with embassy representatives. The first stop was the Embassy of Indonesia which holds the Presidency of the G20 until December 2022, followed by the Embassy of Brazil and finally the Consular Office of the Embassy of India. See the Open Letter to the government of Indonesia here.
APMDD called attention to the arrogation of international tax system rulemaking by the world’s largest economies through the OECD/G20 Base Erosion and Profit-Shifting (BEPS) framework, an effort which APMDD denounces as fundamentally undemocratic, illegitimate, and biased towards the interests of countries, corporations, and wealthy individuals already benefiting from status quo tax rules.
Instead of the G20-G7-OECD Tax Deal, the Asia-wide civil society network calls for the immediate adoption of a UN Tax Convention and an intergovernmental tax mechanism under UN auspices, proposals which have been advanced again most recently by finance ministers in Africa, as well as by the G77 and China. Reiterating the call of African finance ministers, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that a “legitimate global system of laws” that is “consistent with the principles set out in the United Nations Charter” is needed to stop illicit financial flows (IFFs) and end tax abuses, especially in developing countries.
APMDD coordinator Lidy Nacpil said that “a UN Tax Convention is needed because multinational corporations exploit the different national tax systems on a global scale, and we need global governance in order to reign in and address the tax abuse of multinational corporations.”
While the OECD and G20 present their BEPS framework as an inclusive project, APMDD has long pointed out that the project’s two pillars will deprive Global South countries of their ability to mobilize domestic resources for their sustainable development while benefiting Global North countries and corporations. According to APMDD, the BEPS framework amounts to a Tax Deal of the Rich.
Pillar One hands the right of taxation on the excess and non-routine profits of large multinational corporations (MNCs) to countries where these corporations are headquartered, rather than where their assets are located. This will rob developing countries of their just share of tax revenue, while solely benefitting the Global North countries where MNCs are based. Furthermore, this will exacerbate IFFs by MNCs that can simply declare a larger share of their profits as non-routine.
Pillar Two of the framework aims to advance a global minimum corporate tax rate of 15%, a drop from the 25% average corporate tax rate of developing countries. This represents a massive cut in tax revenue for Global South countries at a time when funds are much needed to finance critical public services, people's recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and to address the risks, vulnerabilities, damage and losses brought about by the climate crisis. Furthermore, this will likely precipitate a race to the bottom amongst developing countries as pressure mounts for them to cut taxes in line with the BEPS framework.
The OECD/G20 BEPS framework is largely a project of the world’s largest economies and is unrepresentative of the international tax reform demands of developing countries and peoples’ movements around the world. A UN Tax Convention, negotiated with universal and equal participation of all UN member states and with civil society participation can pave the way forward towards global tax rules that will enable all countries, but especially those in the Global South to strengthen domestic resource mobilization and other capacities to meet sustainable development goals, human rights obligations, and to fast track peoples’ recovery. The so-called "Two-Pillar Solution" peddled by the BEPS framework will not fix the fundamental flaws of the current international tax system and will only serve to exacerbate inequalities within and between countries.
According to Vidya Dinker, head of the Indian Social Forum and chair of APMDD’s Women and Gender Working Group, “the G20 should act on demands to reform the international tax architecture by supporting calls to start negotiations for a United Nations Tax Convention that would include the establishment of the UN Tax Body, with a voice and mandate from all countries. A new tax system is very much needed.” Dinker, who added that “the G20 must not block the process of adopting a UN Tax Convention,” is an activist leader in India who has helped steer civil society efforts to advocate a comprehensive tax justice agenda in political dialogues with G20.
APMDD’s public actions at the Embassy of Indonesia, the Embassy of Brazil, and the consular office of the Embassy of India were in solidarity with efforts by other peoples’ movements and civil society networks in Asia and beyond towards building up the call for the immediate adoption of a UN Tax Convention, and sending a strong message to G20 countries as they meet in Bali under the Presidency of Indonesia.
In 2023 India takes over G20 Presidency and in 2024, Brazil will be at G20's helm. Several G20 countries have historically been known to block efforts of developing countries to push for reforms in the international tax architecture that would make it more responsive to developing countries' interests and more effective in curbing corporate tax abuses and illicit financial flows.
21-25 Nov: Join the Global Days of Action for Tax Justice in the Extractives 2022
The Global Alliance for Tax Justice (GATJ) and its regional networks Tax and Fiscal Justice Asia (TAFJA), Tax Justice Network Africa (TJNA), and Red de Justicia Fiscal de América Latina y Caribe (RJFALC) will host the Global Days of Action for Tax Justice in the Extractive Industry from 21 to 25 November, 2022. The 4th edition of the campaign builds on the demands that the GATJ members have been pushing for since 2019, and calls more specifically for excess profits taxes on oil, mining and gas companies.
The continuing impacts of the global pandemic and the climate crisis have spawned a glaring gap between a tiny set of winners and the majority of the world’s population. In 2022, net profits of the 40 largest mining corporations grew by 127% from the previous year, surpassing their pre-pandemic revenues by more than double. However, few people benefited from the boom: research shows that there was a 130% rise in dividend payments and rewards for top executives, whereas many lost their homes, incomes and livelihoods.
Reports by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) expose that mining corporations systematically shift profits and wealth through corporate manoeuvring and shell companies registered in low-tax jurisdictions. On top of these illicit financial flows, they reveal the extent of regulatory capture by mining interests, involving patronage and corruption in processes of securing mining licences.
Social movements, particularly in climate, labour and gender justice, have been raising proposals for the extractive sector to operate responsibly with communities and the environment. Building connections with these demands, this campaign brings the perspectives of tax justice and the broader economic justice movement, calling for a rights-based economy that puts people and the planet at the centre of discussions and decision-making.
“The global crises make closing tax loopholes and raising more public revenues more urgent and imperative. However, the extractive sector continues to be given free rein to extract resources and profits with neither limits nor regard for social and economic costs or for irreversible environmental impacts,” said Dereje Alemayehu, Executive Coordinator of GATJ. “In addition to the profit shifting and illicit financial flows rampant in this sector, facilitated by the broken global tax governance and lack of regulatory and transparency mechanisms, the extra profits being generated by those benefiting from the crises remains untaxed. It is high time to take urgent and rigorous measures in the extractives sector to raise more revenue: stopping the perverse flow of resources from low-income to rich-OECD countries; scrapping tax giveaways, curbing loopholes and tax abuse, as well as immediately introducing tax on extra profits. An inclusive and equitable recovery will only be possible through tax justice.”
Global tax justice calls
The global tax justice movement calls on governments and multilateral institutions to:
Stop illicit financial flows and tax abuses in the extractives sector;
Tax the superprofits of extractives corporations by instituting windfall profit taxes;
Curb tax incentives granted to the extractives industry;
Make extractives companies pay their share in taxes and immediate costs of rehabilitation and rebuilding;
Use taxes for peoples' needs, especially for the needs of communities affected by social and environmental damage; and
Protect and uphold the rights of workers and women affected by mining, including their rights to defend their communities.
18 NOV | 11 am Pretoria
Online event: Resource Backed Loans and Collateralization of Mineral Resources
Organisers: Afrodad and Tax Justice Network Africa
The webinar seeks to pinpoint Africa’s over reliance on mineral resources as the primary commodity export. This overdependence on mineral resources could be a result of IMF’s fiscal consolidation country advice on debt management and how resource-rich countries that are in debt distress are forced to resort to RBLs as a way of financing their debt. Through this online discussion, we seek to analyse whether resource backed loans and collateralisation of mineral resources are a sustainable financing option for African countries and showcase how the current multilateral and international financial system contributes to a vicious cycle of dependence on RBLs.
21 NOV | 2 pm Central European time
Launch event: Tax extractives excess profits NOW!
Organisers: Global Alliance for Tax Justice, Tax and Fiscal Justice Asia, Tax Justice Network Africa, Red de Justicia Fiscal de América Latina y el Caribe
The Global Alliance for Tax Justice (GATJ) and its regional networks kick off the Global Days of Action for Tax Justice in the Extractive Industry 2022 with an online round table, in which panellists from Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe and North America will discuss the main issues each region has been facing with the extractives, as well as what could be achieved through tax justice and, more specifically, excess profits taxes in the sector.