Campaigns

Stories from Zambia - why tax funds are desperately needed

Caroline Jones's picture
Caroline Jones Campaign Officer

This month I visited Chingola in Zambia’s northern Copperbelt region, to see for myself the real impact of tax dodging in a country where 2 in 3 people live below the poverty line, and 45% of children are malnourished.

Photograph of Francis Lukwesa (18) and his cousin Abril Kachiza (15) in front of the land they farm in Zambia
Francis Lukwesa (18) and his cousin Abril Kachiza (15) in front of the land they farm
Photo: ActionAid/Caroline Jones

Poverty forces young people out of school and into work 

In a small village called Mushishima, I met Francis, an eighteen year old who spends 12 hours of every day farming the land beside their modest home. Francis used to love maths at school, and dreamt of one day running his own grocery shop. However the 10 Kwacha fee per month was too much for his parents to provide, and he was pulled out of school in grade 7. 

The work Francis does in the fields doesn’t even cover the cost of maize he needs to feed himself. He thinks he’ll probably end up working for one of the mines soon – the mines accused of polluting their water and making the community ill - just to survive. I asked Francis’s aunty, Enala, what her hopes were for the future of her children. Her crushing reply was, “There is no hope.”

It's a tragedy that millions of children are missing out on an education because governments have to charge fees. But there is hope for the future. The global movement for tax justice is building, with 21 countries now signed up across the ActionAid federation.

Multinationals' tax income could make a real difference

While the future of Francis and his family is painfully uncertain, the need for all multinationals to pay their fair share of taxes to provide accountable, sustainable income is clearer to me than ever. With greater tax revenues, Zambia could make universal education a reality, and young people like Francis could fulfil their ambitions and contribute to the development of their country.

Saying our goodbyes, Enala said simply, “I am you, and you are me”.

I’ll carry these words with me, along with the buried hopes of Francis and millions of others like him, to remind me why we must continue to fight for tax justice, side by side with people trapped in poverty - in the UK, Zambia, and across the world.

Support the campaign for Tax Justice

Your campaigning opened the door for a meeting with Barclays

Eva Watkinson's picture
Eva Watkinson Campaigns Engagement Manager

All the campaigning to make Barclays stop promoting tax havens to companies investing in Africa is starting to pay off. This week your actions opened the door to a meeting with Barclays where we put your points across. 

Barclays Stunt - Lusaka

Campaigners in Zambia marched to Barclays head office to demand the bank clean up its act, and activists in Nigeria have been helping to spread the word about the campaign. Here in the UK campaigners paid local branches a visit over Christmas, asking the bank if they’d be naughty or nice this year, and thousands of us bombarded Barclays customer complaints form with messages like Jim’s below.

‘I want you to stop promoting the use of tax havens, which is seriously harming the economies of poor countries. This is unethical and is very harmful to your own reputation’ Jim, ActionAid campaigner

Despite the fact that Barclays is yet to respond to your customer complaints (Barclays’ boss did send an email after campaigners first contacted them. You can read our response here), all the pressure has meant we got a meeting with some of Barclays’s top execs last week.

At the meeting we put our case across about why promoting tax havens to countries investing in Africa drains vital resources from the continent and re-iterated your call for them to change. They promised to respond to your complaints, and the meeting was a great first step in getting Barclays to change their ways. 

We’ve only managed to make this progress because so make people have taken action and got involved with the campaign. Without the public pressure of thousands of campaigners we wouldn’t have got a foot in the door.

So, what’s next? We’ve let them know we expect action and we’re not letting up. Now it’s crucial that we keep up the pressure in the run up to Barclays’ shareholder AGM in April.

Right now you can help by asking your friends and family to take action at http://www.cleanupbarclays.co.uk

Well done and happy campaigning!

Ha Joon Chang talk - bringing production back into development

Anna Thomas's picture
Anna Thomas Head of Policy Research

ActionAid’s approach to development is all about empowering people in developing countries to claim their rights. To do this, we focus on areas such as the right to food and the right to education. But are we missing something – is this model of development like seeing Hamlet with the Prince of Denmark absent? Cambridge economist Ha Joon Chang thinks so.

Ha Joon Chang speaking at ActionAid UK
Ha Joon Chang speaking at ActionAid UK
Photo: Claire Donner/ActionAid

Today he addressed a meeting at ActionAid with the proposition that there is a need to move beyond a focus on poverty reduction, to look again at production. Until the 1980s, there was consensus among development theorists, from right to left, that development is about transforming a country’s productive capabilities, so that it becomes able to produce higher-value goods as well as commodities, therefore generating more wealth. Over the last three decades, however, with the focus on poverty reduction and meeting basic needs, the importance of this has been lost.

Chang sees three reasons for this:

  1. The rise of neoliberalism, the currently dominant economic paradigm, which has much to say about market exchange but little about production of the goods to be exchanged. Chicago economist Coase called this (scathingly) ‘the economics of lone individuals exchanging nuts and berries on the edge of the forest.’ However, countries have in reality always developed based on some intervention in the market.
  2. The humanist reaction against the collectivist biases of earlier development models. They were all about savings, investment, surplus labour and aggregates, and the individual person hardly featured, or worse, was repressed. However, development of people’s abilities occurs mainly within businesses, ‘on the job’, not at school or in individual situations.
  3. The post industrialist model where countries can skip straight to an economic focus on services, without ever developing a strong manufacturing sector. However, this idea is somewhat illusory. States lauded for their service sectors, like Switzerland and Singapore, in fact have very strong productive sectors too.

Instead, he believes, countries need to focus on their productive sectors – taking parts of the ‘old’ ways from the 50s and 60s, but adding more recent thinking incorporation of technical innovation and knowledge about enterprise development.

Countries need to move beyond dependence on commodities like food crops or minerals, to transform their economies to encompass sectors which generate more wealth. Not only will this result in poverty reduction, he believes, but also provide the only material foundation without which people’s rights cannot to be realised.

What are your thoughts?

Photo: @ActionAid

Tags: Big ideas

A Disappointing Result for the Lobbying Bill

Florence de Vesvrotte's picture
Florence de Vesvrotte Government Relations Advisor

Last night the House of Lords voted again on the Lobbying Bill. And the results were very disappointing.

The Lobbying Bill, now passed into law, threatens our freedom of speech by placing a number of restrictions on our ability to campaign in the run up to an election. The House of Lords had previously introduced a number of amendments which would lessen the impact of this law, such as excluding staff costs from the spending restrictions and removing some constituency based regulations. But last week the House of Commons rejected these changes, sending the legislation back to the Lords, who narrowly lost a vote to stand by these amendments.

Lord Harries, who led the battle for amendments in the House of Lords, commented:

“I am deeply disappointed that the Government did not accept the amendments put forward on behalf of the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement.

In trying to ward off a hypothetical abuse of the electoral system they are inflicting unnecessary and unenforceable regulation on campaigning groups, who now play such a key role in keeping our democracy alive.

The fact that the vote on background staff costs was tied indicates how unconvinced members of the House of Lords were by the Governments arguments, and this should be born in mind by the government as they reflect on the future of this poor legislation.”

There were some very minor victories as a result of your campaigning such as excluding Welsh translation and disability access from the restricted costs, and lessening the regulatory period ahead of the 2015 election from 1 year to 7.5 months. And we know that the fact that the votes were on the knife edge is a direct result of our campaigning: a majority of peers were supportive of our arguments but Government’s pressure has proven too strong.

What’s next?

The law is still potentially devastating. A lot of matters of how the law will be put in to practice will be worked out by the Electoral Commission, who have said they want to hear from NGOs on this issue. So we’ll be sure to make sure that our concerns are heard as these discussions progress.

It’s not the result that any of us wanted but we want to thank you so much for all of your support as we fought for important changes.

We will continue to explore the impact that this will have for our campaigning together and we’ll let you know as and when we know more.

Send your complaint to Barclays

Claire Donner's picture
Claire Donner Digital Campaigner

Despite Barclays’ talk of cleaning up its reputation, it’s continuing to promote the use of tax havens in some of the world’s poorest countries. Thanks to your work we've clearly caught the attention of Barclays boss, Antony Jenkins. Over 12,000 of us have contacted him in the last few months to tell him to clean up Barclays' act on tax havens in Africa. He's responding to us but he’s still avoiding the real issues. He's just hoping, now, that we go away. We need your help to show that we can’t be brushed off so easily.

We know that Barclays play close attention to their online complaints form, so it's a great way for us to show that we're unhappy with the way they're behaving.

Submit your complaint

Submit your complaint

Please take 5 minutes to fill in Barclays' online complaints form, you don't need to be a customer to complete it and the message can be as short as you like:

  1. Open up the online form and complete your details. Note: the postcode box doesn't allow spaces
  2. For the drop down boxes please select 'I would like to complain' and 'Savings'. We know that 'savings' isn't a perfect description of your complaint, but they don't have a box for their promotion of tax havens in Africa!
  3. In the text box explain that you would like to see Barclays stop promoting the use of tax havens in Africa because it's unethical and is harming developing countries
  4. You will need to provide your contact details at the bottom of the form, this is so that Barclays can get back to you with their response

 

And that's it.

Please get in touch with us as soon as you hear back from Barclays. So far they've done their best to avoid answering this important request so it's really important that we keep up the pressure.

You can read more about the Clean Up Barclays campaign here, and if you have any questions or concerns, please get in touch at campaign@actionaid.org.

Thanks so much for campaigning with us!

It’s ping-pong time - Lobbying Bill goes back to the Lords

Florence de Vesvrotte's picture
Florence de Vesvrotte Government Relations Advisor

Last week we celebrated a small but important victory, as the House of Lords voted overwhelmingly to add important amendments to the Lobbying Bill, which threatens our ability to campaign together in the run up to elections. This was important progress, and was thanks to ActionAid supporters among other coalition supporters who wrote to Peers and signed a petition with over 167,000 people. But we knew that the fight wasn’t over.

Lobbying Bill Ads
The newspaper ads to Peers and MPs
Photo: ActionAid

This week, we’re sad to report that as the Bill returned to the House of Commons, our key wins of removing restrictions on staff costs and constituency regulation, were overturned.

The amendments had support in the House of Commons from Labour, other opposition parties and even some Liberal Democrats and Conservative MPs who rebelled against their party line. And we know that pressure from ActionAid campaigners helped this to happen. But sadly it wasn’t enough.

It is really amazing to see how the majority of our elected MPs would decide to turn a deaf ear to the 150+ charities and 167,000 members of the public that oppose the bill, by opposing these amendments. We know this is a deeply flawed piece of legislation which will fundamentally damage the nature of our democracy.

There were a few concessions from the Government though that have been approved by the House of Commons such as shortening the timeframe in which these restrictions will apply from 12 months to 7.5 months before the 2015 general election, but the Bill still poses a real threat to our ability to campaign together to tackle global poverty.

As amendments have been rejected by the House of Commons, the Bill will return to the House of Lords next week for further debate. And once again we need your support to make sure that Peers stick to their guns and continue to support their amendments.

Please write to a member of the House of Lords as soon as possible, as they will expect to hear from you and we know your letters and emails are having an impact!

A huge thanks to all of you for your support so far.