I am blogging about Christian Aid and Church Action on Poverty’s campaign for tax justice this week. Like the Olympic Torch relay, the Tax Justice Tour is travelling to communities across Britain and Ireland seeking to raise awareness about the injustice of tax dodging. For all of this week the Big Red Bus is in Scotland.
Christian Aid estimates that around $160 billion a year are lost to developing countries’ governments because of tax dodging by wealthy individuals and institutions. This sum is greater than the global international aid budget. It means that poor countries do not benefit from the tax revenues they are entitled to, and these unethical practices are harming education, healthcare and infrastructure; keeping the poorest in the world poor while the rich avoid paying their fair dues.
Access to clean drinking water remains a major problem in Bangladesh. Yet the money Bangladesh lost between 2005 and 2007 as a result of trade mispricing with the EU and US – an estimated £184m – could have been spent on establishing safe drinking water for much of the population.
In Bangladesh, water is simply not on tap. A quarter of the population lives without sustainable access to improved water. Millions of women and children spend hours travelling just to quench their families’ thirst. As a result, children lose out on education because, rather than filling their brains, they are filling up buckets.
Minu Basar crossed a wide and sometimes dangerous river travelling up to 10km to buy fresh water at vast expense for her family. ‘I used to feel so scared going to fetch the water because it was often windy and it was frightening because of the waves.’
Christian Aid partner Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies has worked in villages across southwestern Bangladesh such as Minu’s to establish Pani Parishad, or village water councils, which provide community-based approaches to delivering sustainable water solutions.
Minu did not know she had the power or the voice to change things until she joined the village Pani Parishad. Through the Pani Parishad, Minu has learned how to safely gather and store rainwater and how to inspire others to do the same.
Taxes aren’t burdens, things to be “relieved” or “sheltered” from: they certainly aren’t there to be dodged. Taxes are an investment in the society you are part of and benefit from. It is time to call time on tax dodging!