Scandal of land grabs and tax dodging continues at expense of the world’s poor – G8 leaders must act to end hunger

Massive land grab of Papua New Guinea's remaining forests results in violence against local people.
Massive land grab of Papua New Guinea’s remaining forests results in violence against local people.
Money flowing illicitly into tax havens could pay entire education budget of Kenya and Tanzania

During the two days of the G8 Summit, which starts today, $2.2 billion in illicit flows will have haemorrhaged from developing countries into tax havens (1) and land one and a half times the size of Manhattan sold off to foreign investors (2).

International agency Oxfam says the G8 must act to stop land grabs and close tax loop-holes if it is serious about tackling global hunger – and on the eve of the Summit, leaders have left themselves a lot to do.

Secretive land investments mean vulnerable communities are at risk of losing their homes and the farmlands they need to grow food, without compensation and often violently. The $2.2 billion flowing illicitly into tax havens could pay the entire education budgets of Kenya and Tanzania or help 2.5 million farmers in Indonesia provide food for themselves and their families.

Oxfam Ireland’s Executive Director Jim Clarken said: “G8 leaders have their work cut out to ensure this Summit tackles the scandals of land grabs and tax havens that are keeping poor people poor and hungry. The G8 must change the rules so that no corporation or rich individual can avoid paying their fair share of taxes, and so that no company can take land from poor families without facing repercussions.”

Of the estimated $18.5 trillion now hidden by wealthy individuals in tax havens, 40% is in those under the G8’s jurisdiction. This means the G8 is also responsible for 40% of the revenue ordinary people around the world are losing as a result – $66 billion in tax revenue is being lost right under the noses of the G8 countries in their tax havens.

Oxfam says that the G8 must make sure any new tax deal includes tax havens and developing countries, so that all countries can tax companies and individuals fairly to rescue struggling public budgets (3). The G8 must also support a public registry of companies and trusts that will stop tax evaders, corrupt officials and the beneficiaries of illicit funds from hiding their wealth in tax havens.

Already, G8 companies and investors have bought land in developing countries more than the size of the whole of Ireland since the year 2000 (4). This land could grow enough food for 96 million people (5). Oxfam wants the G8 to tackle land grabs by supporting the UN Voluntary Guidelines, which would protect poor communities’ land rights, and establish a Land Transparency Initiative (LTI), where investors would share details on all their land deals. The G8 can start this by regulating all companies it is linked to and ensuring that affected communities are involved and heard in the negotiations.

Clarken said: “In a world of austerity, and where inequality is getting worse and 1.2 billion people remain living in extreme poverty the G8 must take action to readdress the balance and ensure that everyone has enough to eat.”

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