(Photo: Jonathan Torgovnik/ Getty Images/ Images of Empowerment)
This year, the United Nations Public Service Day marks 15 months since the beginning of the pandemic and one of the worst global socio-economic crises of recent times. As many countries are mobilising to find a way to “build back better”, we recall that the way forward is a new economy, a rights-based economy, which would ensure access to quality public services and the fulfilment of human rights — and tax justice is vital for this.
It is not news that the impact of the COVID-19 triggered crisis is disproportionate, affecting more those who live at the intersections of inequality. While the combined wealth of the world’s richest has increased by more than US$ 5 trillion over the past year (Forbes) — from US$ 8 trillion in March 2020 to US$ 13.1 trillion in March 2021 –, it is estimated that 120 million people have been pushed into extreme poverty (Global Economic Prospects).
Developing countries were also hit harder, as in any other crises. In Latin America, for example, a study by LATINDADD (2020), member of our regional network Red de Justicia Fiscal de América Latina y el Caribe, estimates that the crisis will set the fight against poverty back more than 15 years in the region. By the end of last year, 45 million Latin Americans were expected to be pushed into poverty, whereas the region’s billionaires increased their wealth by US$ 48.2 billion only during the first two months of the pandemic.
As the pandemic spread to all corners of the world, we testified cruelly underfunded and understaffed public health systems being overwhelmed; millions of people losing their jobs (114 million people got unemployed over 2020, according to ILO) without access to social security; women carrying a heavier (of the already unfair) burden of the care economy. Yet, the measures taken so far by most governments are insufficient and do not consider the need to increase tax revenue collection to tackle the crisis, adequately fund public services and the realisation of human rights, with a focus on the rights of women and girls
Without these fiscal justice measures, they risk aggravating inequality and the burden on those living in poverty if they pursue policies that bring us back to the pre-crisis context of tax injustice and austerity. We cannot tolerate any more bailouts for the rich, tax abuse by the multinational corporations and wealthy elites, further facilitation of illicit financial flows, regressive taxes, and austerity measures.
According to ILO, almost ⅔ of the countries were adopting austerity measures before the pandemic, which weakened the public healthcare system around the world, and made countries face the pandemic in a fragile situation. The way forward is not dismantling the public structure nor cutting public expenses, but the taxation of those — individuals and multinational corporations — who can contribute more.
As the Group of Seven (G7) does not seem keen to support the implementation of a global minimum corporate tax of 25% and taxing rights for developing countries, as the Global Alliance for Tax Justice and many civil society organisations have been pushing for, we also reiterate our longstanding call for a transparent, inclusive and representative global tax governance. It is all the more important to ensure all countries’ participation in the decision-making of the global tax rules, which would only be possible through an open and intergovernmental process at the United Nations.
At a time when more public resources are needed to strengthen the public services, we recall that taxation also plays a fundamental role in redistributing resources in ways that can prevent and redress gender, race, economic and other inequalities, and reduce the disparities in human rights.
As we celebrate this year’s Public Service Day, we reiterate our commitment to campaign for progressive, redistributive, representative and equitable tax systems, to provide society with well-resourced public services. We call governments to:
- Invest in quality, gender-responsive public services, the public care economy, and social protections that are vital to fulfilling the human rights of all women and ending gender inequality.
- Make multinationals and wealthy individuals pay their share of taxes.
- Tax those who profit more from and in the crisis.
- Call for an intergovernmental process at the UN, to negotiate the reform of international tax rules, for an equitable distribution of taxing rights globally.
Dereje Alemayehu – Executive Coordinator
Caroline Othim – Global Policy and Campaigns Coordinator – Africa
Grazielle David – Global Advocacy and Campaigns Coordinator
Lays Ushirobira – Global Communications Coordinator