The COVID-19 pandemic has been severely impacting people in the Global South, especially the most vulnerable groups, and the inability of governments to provide their citizens with quality public services and social security has never been more evident.
In order to react to this unprecedented crisis, the tax justice regional networks that represent our movement in the Global South — Tax and Fiscal Justice Asia (TAFJA), Tax Justice Network Africa (TJNA) and Red de Justicia Fiscal de América Latina y el Caribe (RJFALC) — have a common demand for the governments: We urgently need a reform in our tax and economic systems to prioritise our people.
Unemployment, food deprivation and an increase in the informal sector are among a long list of concerns in the countries of the three regions. In Asia, “around 11 million people are likely to be pulled back into absolute poverty”, according to TAFJA, the Global Alliance for Tax Justice’s regional network member in Asia. “These impacts could have been mitigated, or at least, weathered today with much less torment and suffering, had our governments valued people’s interests over greed and private gain.”
While as an immediate action TAFJA calls on governments to mobilize adequate public resources for emergency assistance, with the highest priority given to those most in need, in the long-term its members propose some measures to alleviate the economic burdens of the poor and low-income and remind a real economy should be based on a people-first, people-centered fiscal program.
Tax Justice Network Africa (TJNA) highlights that the difficulties the African continent — and others in the Global South — have been going through are consequences of the Structural Adjustment Programmes. Developed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, these programmes consisted of loans to countries that experienced economic crises, emphasising privatisation and free market development.
According to our African regional network member TJNA, these programmes minimised the welfare state by reducing the involvement of the State in socio-economic programmes. “These policies focused on unviable capital-intensive industries often in commodity sectors, instead of promoting competitive labour-intensive industries”, TJNA said. As a result, “Africa’s low average annual growth of 3.3% in 2014-19 has in turn constrained public finances, leading to underfunded social sectors including health and education systems, weak governance, rapid increases in public debt, and large infrastructure deficits.”
Latin America and the Caribbean
Far from being close to a way out of the crisis, Latin American and Caribbean countries are accentuating the enormous inequalities present for decades in the region, which has four countries (Brazil, Peru, Chile and Mexico) in the Top 10 with most COVID-19 confirmed cases.
“The reality is that COVID-19 does not affect us all equally. The governments of Latin American and the Caribbean countries must take urgent measures to serve the entire population, but fundamentally and especially, those at the bottom of the pyramid, those who are suffering the most from the consequences of this pandemic”, RFJALC members have been saying since April.
All countries are facing unprecedented health and socio-economic crisis, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the neglect of Public Health services has catastrophic consequences for humanity, especially the vulnerable and impoverished. The unravelling crisis has made it clearer than ever. Tax and fiscal justice are a vital part of ensuring adequate essential public services for all. This is why many members of the Global Alliance for Tax Justice’s Coordination committee also published a much-needed post on the International Public Services Day: “Value and Virtue of Public Services Will Only Flourish With Tax Justice”, they warned.