7 September 2016
Whether you're young or old, African or European, tax dodging by multinational companies affects us all in many ways. I'm 26 years old and pay my tax, so it angers me when I hear reports of companies like Amazon and Starbucks not paying their fair share.
The more I've learnt about tax dodging in the UK, the more I wanted to find out what damage was being done in developing countries. The IMF estimates that they lose around $200billion a year to tax avoidance. To find out more, I asked Oyin and Fraser, two ActionAid campaigners from Nigeria and Malawi about their experiences.
I support tax justice because our lives matter
Oyinkansola Sadiq-Mabeko is 23-years-old and has been campaigning for ActionAid in Nigeria for 4 years.
For Oyin, access to quality healthcare is extremely important. She's passionate about making sure a fair amount of tax is paid so that hospitals and clinics can be properly funded.
Oyin told me: "Often, when I stand up at events to address a group about tax justice I receive blank stares from young people like me. Tax is complicated. Would you discuss it with your friends in the same casual way as fashion, music or other things that young people are interested in?
"Perhaps not, but it's vital we all talk about it more to make sure everyone understands why tax is important."
I do not agree with our government giving money to multinational corporations just to create an environment which is favourable for them.
Oyin continued: "The circumstances that the poor in Nigeria find themselves in are a lot worse than you can imagine. It’s the poor who pay the price when they go to clinics that have no drugs.
"Here is an account from a dialysis patient who needed access to treatment in a clinic. He received a message that read: ‘Gud evening, we can’t dialize you tomorrow because we don’t have a blood line. When it is available I will get back to you. Pls dialyse somewhere else. Thanks.’
"Because the patient could afford the initial treatment, he accepted a referral to a private hospital where he paid 20,000 Nigerian Naira (£47.55). However, he couldn’t afford to keep the treatment up so ended up back at the state clinic."
Oyin continued: "Do not labour under the impression that our government doesn't know about how bad healthcare is in Nigeria. I agree with them that our economy is on a downward spiral and that we don't have enough saved in our coffers to pay for functioning hospitals.
"I do not agree with our government giving money to multinational corporations just to create an environment which is favourable for them.
I support tax justice because being sick should not mean death. I support tax justice because our lives matter.
"When I say ‘giving money’ to multinational companies, I mean what is called a 'tax holiday'. Between 2009 and 2012 our government lost $3.3 billion to tax holidays granted to multinationals. For every kobo (Nigerian currency) that is given away, there is a farmer out there who will not be able to access a simple drug like paracetamol.
"Our government needs to understand what this tax revenue could mean for poor people in Nigeria. But they won’t do this without us engaging them and telling them what we, the people, want.
"I support tax justice because being sick should not mean death. I support tax justice because our lives matter."
Forget 'tax holidays', we want decent schools
Fraser Nyale is 26. He has been campaigning with ActionAid in Malawi for almost a year. He's passionate about what a fair tax system could do to improve education in Malawi.
Fraser told me: "I don’t usually blog, but looking at the way Malawi is struggling economically, I felt compelled to raise my voice and speak out about what Malawi can do to raise more income domestically.
"Imagine that a country is a physical body - tax is the blood that travels around the whole country financing its spending. When multinationals don't pay their taxes, it's like the blood supply has been cut off.
This is tantamount to denying many young people their right to education.
"If we look at the recent saga of the University of Malawi fee hikes, it’s shocking to see that our public universities are so under-resourced that they don’t offer a conducive environment for students to learn.
"There is no warm bathing water, and toilets often don’t have toilet paper. That’s not to mention how bad the food, library and general facilities are!"
Fraser continued: "This is tantamount to denying many young people their right to education. Yet we readily give multinational corporations prolonged tax holidays whilst allowing young people, the foundation of Malawi, to languish with poor education. I am scared about the kind of nation we are building.
Imagine that a country is a physical body - tax is the blood that travels around the whole country financing its spending. When multinationals don't pay their taxes, it's like the blood supply has been cut off.
"Corporate tax incentives are offered by governments to attract investment into their country, but the incentives should not be structured so that in the long run our public services are milked dry.
"This extra income could be channelled into good roads in our cities, proper access to drugs in hospitals and much more.
"We should start by reviewing these incentive policies and offering a transparent process for how they are granted. This would ensure that multinational companies pay their fair share of tax."
Inspired? Campaign with us to make tax fair
Hearing Oyin and Fraser's stories in their own words made me realise that plenty of under-30s, like me, are outraged by tax avoidance. Thousands, if not millions, of people are feeling the impact of tax dodging by multinationals, which is why we need to continue the fight to make tax fair. And I hope Oyin and Fraser have also shown through their passion and commitment that it doesn't matter how young or old you are: your voice matters.
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