Grand Conference: Tax Havens at the Centre of the Inequalities Crisis

11 August 2016

Grand Conferences of the WSF Summary

Tax Havens at the Centre of the Inequalities Crisis

Wednesday, August 10, 2016, UQAM

 Tax havens play a big role when it comes to inequalities and their complexity is undeniable. In the context of the Grand Conference on tax havens, the speakers addressed the subject through many different angles, reminding us that 1% of the richest owns more assets than 50% of the poorest populations. The conference began with a presentation of the Association for the Taxation of financial Transactions and Citizen’s Action (ATTAC) and with a short video showing an act of civil disobedience: the requisition of chairs that was done in a bank, a non-violent initiative that was, for certain people, their first implication in a civic act.

The philosopher and essayist Alain Deneault insisted on our right to know about tax havens in order to avoid them and for corporations not to be able to get away with such tax havens the government’s measures do not suit theirs. The theoretical nature of the law stops the possibility for citizens to prevail, while corporations have the financial means in order to assert their rights. Three enlightening aspects stand out when it comes to the issue of tax havens. First off, tax havens are the work of states and banks. And then, the lack of transparency of government authorities towards tax havens was was addressed. Finally, the idea that if the state puts an end to the state of nature, tax havens contribute to the return of the state of nature where an oligarch ideology, from which only a minority can take advantage of, will emerge. Teresa Marshall of Global Alliance for Tax Justice highlights the neglect of the government’s role when it comes to defending the common good to answer corporations’ interests and to multinationals’ threat to leave the country. She says: “The government is no longer responding to the citizens interests but to the threat of corporations leaving”. Moreover, the multinational and its activities act as a myriad where the structure is dynamic and fluid, allowing the multinational to take advantage of the neoliberal rules.  Ricardo Fuentes of OXFAM outlined the acceleration of the predictions linked to the concentration of wealth in the hands of the 62 individuals that own the most assets. If tax havens hold hierarchical positions in the economic system, the solutions and the call to action call upon all levels within the population. As market and capitalism rules are established, there is more work to be done in Northern countries than in Southern countries in order to put in an end to tax havens.

Finally, the solutions to put an end to tax havens needs to inevitably done through education, civil liability in front of an unequal system that reduces the individual to a simple consumer. To consolidate a call to action to redistribue wealth justly and to require transparency from those responsible of taking decisions is a must. At the national level, networks between governments’ agendas need to be up to date. The Grand Conference ended with a question period and an open discussion.

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