December 06, 2005

War On The Obscenely Rich

On an otherwise quiet news day (aka more of the same crap), Duncan Campbell in The Guardian takes a good look at Where they hide the cash:
Five trillion dollars has been corruptly removed from the world's poorest countries and lodged permanently in the world's richest countries. That is the "conservative estimate" not of a leftwing anti-globalisation activist but of a leading American businessman and enthusiast for capitalism who has just completed a major study of how multinational corporations, wealthy individuals and unscrupulous governments are using the world's banking systems in ways that spread poverty.

When aid or debt relief are discussed, attention often focuses on corrupt leaders and governments in Africa and other parts of the developing world. But they are amateurs compared with the rich companies and individuals who use the world's tax havens and banking systems to hide sums of money that could address almost all of the continent's financial needs.

The United Nations has now recognised the seriousness of the situation and today the first meeting of a new committee of experts on international tax matters will be held in Geneva. What will emerge from it remains to be seen, but at least one of the world's great hidden scandals will have a brief airing.
The devil is in the detail, of course:
Six out of 10 US corporations pay no tax, and the recent Enron scandal demonstrated how cynically major household names in the US exploit the system. Enron used around 800 different "Caribbean financial dumps" to hide its debts. Baker argues that the west could break the back of poverty worldwide if there was political will to tackle the abuse of the tax and banking systems. Instead, western countries have been all too willing to turn a blind eye to the original sources of money.
Start holding the rich accountable to the same laws and ethical standards as the rest of us? Sounds good to me...!

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