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Extract of the statement by Dr. Guillaume Long, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility of Ecuador to the 34th Session of the Human Rights Council. 13 March 2017, Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland.

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2017 began with alarming news: eight of the richest people on the planet have in their hands as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population, according to data provided by OXFAM. This growing gap between rich and poor is caused, in part, by an intricate network of tax havens to which the elites resort to avoid paying taxes.From Ecuador we have announced our commitment within the G77 to promote spaces for dialogue that will allow us to advance towards the creation of an intergovernmental tax body in the United Nations to end this perverse tax race to the bottom between states that undermines the guarantee of human rights.

 

We need to move forward together for a global agenda on tax justice. As many previous presidents of this council have said, tax revenue is the most predictable, stable and important source of income which states count on to ensure the protection of human rights.This is why, on February 19th, through a referendum, the Ecuadorean people decided that no public official, no politician elected through popular mandate should be allowed to have assets or money in tax havens. We have approved the Ethical Pact which seeks to ensure that those of us in public office are ethical and consistent. We believe the Ecuadorean people have given an historic example in the struggle for finance for development and against tax evasion, corruption and money laundering.

 

We have the responsibility to rethink the current financial system from the perspective of human rights. We cannot allow tax evasion, and the tools used to facilitate it, to continue propping up an unfair economic system, designed to enrich a small minority at the cost of the large majority. It is time to end these practices.Corporations and wealthy individuals who evade and avoid their tax obligations participate in denying the human rights of others, with every school that is not built, every medication that is not bought for lack of necessary resources on behalf of the State. 

Tax Rich More

Left to right: Rubanda East MP Henry Musasizi, Ms Jane Nalunga, the country director, SEATINI Uganda and executive director Elliot Orizaarwa Tumwijukye during the breakfast meeting in Kampala.

Wealthy Ugandans must pay more taxes, a group of civil society organizations (CSOs) advocating for fair and equitable taxation have said. As at 2009 for example, the top 0.5 per cent of taxpayers in United Kingdom paid 17 per cent of total income tax. In Germany, the top 0.1 per cent paid 8 per cent, and in United States of America, the top 1 per cent paid about 40 per cent of federal income taxes.

According to the Southern and Eastern Africa Trade, Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI-Uganda), Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group and OXFAM, there is evidence that taxing rich individuals more can lead to significant boosts in revenue.

Speaking yesterday in a meeting where the CSOs presented alternative tax proposals to the parliamentary committee on finance, SEATINI-Uganda country director Jane Nalunga said the wealthy should contribute more in terms of taxes than it is currently the case.

She said: “We need development but the question is where the money will come from. I think we must mobilise it domestically and we should begin by having the rich pay more and the poor pay less taxes.” She continued: “We must be fair and equitable and not having those who can pay more pays less.”

In his submission, committee chairperson Henry Musasizi Ariganyira, who is also the Member of Parliament for Rubanda, said currently, the process to change the tax law with view of accommodating some of the CSOs proposals is underway. He also noted that property tax is not enforced as it should be, saying most property moguls in the country are out of the tax man radar.

Mr Lawrence Bategeka, the MP for Hoima Municipality, and also the vice chairperson of the committee, on national economy said in an interview yesterday that taxing the rich is a good proposal that will be difficult to enforce unless a parameter and a data base of who is rich has been instituted. However, for the beginning he said: “Most of these rich people invest in properties so their properties should be directly taxed irrespective of how they acquired it.”