Inequality

  • The widening gap between the world’s richest and poorest people is tearing societies apart. Too many still toil in extreme poverty. In contrast, wealth is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, who can use it to capture disproportionate power to shape the future. The widening gap between the richest and poorest is damaging economies and pushing more people into poverty. There are practical ways to close the gap.

As he meets with Apple CEO, Varadkar must push for fairer tax arrangements for multinationals

First meeting since EU referred Ireland to European Court of Justice

As the Taoiseach meets with Apple CEO, Tim Cook today, Oxfam Ireland is urging him to stress that the days of special deals for companies like Apple are over.
 
During his trip, the Taoiseach will meet with senior executives from several tech firms including Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Google. This will be the first meeting between the Taoiseach and Apple since the European Commission announced it was referring Ireland to the European Court of Justice for failing to collect €13 billion of state aid from the company.
 
Oxfam Ireland, CEO Jim Clarken said; “These meetings are an ideal opportunity for the Taoiseach to make an unambiguous commitment to reforming the tax arrangements for multinationals operating in Ireland.
 
Ireland’s needs to stop blocking EU plans to ensure all multinationals in the EU show greater transparency when detailing where they make their profits and pay their taxes.  As long as tax dodging continues to drain state coffers, there will be less money to spend on important public services.
 
Most Irish people understand that negotiating special tax deals like the one that allowed Apple to avoid paying €13 billion has greatly damaged Ireland’s international standing and reputataion.
 
Greater tax transparency would make it easier to verify whether companies’ tax bills reflect their real economic activity and to hold them to account if not. Fairer tax arrangements are good for Ireland, good for the EU and good for developing countries. The Taoiseach now has the opportunity to show leadership by insisting on arrangements which ensure big corporations pay a fair share of their big profits in taxation.”
 
This week Oxfam realised a video highlighting the impact on poorer countries.  Less than half of the amount of tax which companies dodge in poor countries per year would be enough to pay for essential healthcare to prevent the needless deaths of eight million mothers, babies and children. 
 
ENDS
 
Daniel English
Oxfam Ireland
086 3544954 
 

One jar of paracetamol for 24,000 people - it just doesn't add up

I recently returned from a trip to Malawi, my second visit to the country with Oxfam Ireland. Like citizens everywhere, Malawians have a right to good healthcare. Sadly, this isn’t the case. An unfair tax system means that the nation’s medical facilities are overburdened – and even though Malawi has some of the best health policies in the world, ill-managed public funds means they can’t be put into practice.
 
(Top-Left) Maria Gilasiano with her baby daughter outside Phimbi Health Centre. Photo: Mathias Kafunda. (Top-Right)  Liness Pensulo and her baby daughter. Photo: Mathias Kafunda. (Bottom-Left) Disability Committee member Peter Simoni. Photo: Mathias Kafunda. (Bottom-Right) Clockwise from left: James Afuwa, Medical Assistant for Phimbi Health Centre; Niamh Ní Ruairc of Oxfam Ireland; Bettie Chumbu, DCT Project Officer; Alex Chiphathi , Monitor of Phimbi Radio Listening Club; Asima Stambuli, Ward Councillor for Utale Ward, and Zione Mayaya, DCT Project Coordinator. Photo: Mathias Kafunda 
 
During my trip I visited Phimbi Health Centre in Phimbi, Balaka South. It was originally built to serve a population of 10,000 but now facilitates at least 24,000. When I visited, there was just one container of paracetamol in the drugs cabinet. I was also shown the maternity ward’s four beds – that’s four beds for 200 births every month. And while the staff do their best, they too are struggling due to a lack of resources. A shortage of manpower doesn’t help – the centre should have 60 staff members but poor funding has seen that number cut to 30.
 
Over a small sink in the maternity ward a sign which reads ‘Sambani mmanja pano’ translates as ‘Wash your hands’. But there is no water, no drinkable water, at least. A borehole outside the centre was dug between two septic tanks. As you can imagine, that water isn’t safe to drink. Although the health centre doesn’t use the water, people living in the local community do – leaving them exposed to a whole host of diseases. Those who want clean water have to travel 2km to collect it. That means that women, despite being exhausted and still suffering the pain of childbirth, have to make a 4km-round trip on foot just to clean themselves.
 
Another lifeline pulled from the centre due to a lack of resources is an ambulance. Its vehicle was taken by the district hospital – which too was hit by underfunding – and was never replaced. These days, if the health centre can’t deal with a patient’s condition, the ambulance must be called from the District Hospital of Balaka, a two-and-a-half hour drive away. This has led to women giving birth – sometimes unaided – in the back of an ambulance as they are transferred to hospital.
 
I met one woman who found herself in that situation. Maria Gilasiano gave birth in the back of an ambulance as it made its way to the district hospital. She was being transferred due to complications during labour and ended up delivering her baby herself during the journey. Also in the ambulance at the time was Peter Simoni, a member of the local Disability Committee. Amid the chaos of the birth, Maria and Peter’s bloods got mixed – and while it was not a danger to life, it shows that a lack of resources can pose serious hygiene risks. 
 
Of course, these are risks that Peter knows all too well. There is no wheelchair ramp at the health centre so when he visits, he is forced to crawl on his hands and knees to get into the building – and the toilets, thereby exposing him to potentially dangerous bacteria and germs.
 
Those living in the community also face drugs shortages. Liness Pensulo, another woman I spoke to, couldn’t get malaria tablets for her young son as they weren’t available at the health centre at the time. Instead, she had to travel to a private chemist where she had to pay significantly more. Worse still, she didn’t get proper instructions on how to administer the drugs to her child. The potential consequences of incorrect dosages can be fatal. 
 
Every day, across the world, lives are put at risk due to unfair tax systems. In Malawi, Oxfam Ireland is working with our partner Development Communications Trust (DCT) to help marginalised communities get access to the healthcare they deserve.
 
Niamh Ní Ruairc is Programme Quality Officer with Oxfam Ireland
 

A third of tax dodged in poor countries enough to prevent 8m deaths a year, new Oxfam study reveals

Just a third of the $100bn [approx. €86bn/£78bn] tax that companies dodge in poor countries annually is enough to cover the bill for essential healthcare that could prevent the needless deaths of eight million mothers, babies and children, Oxfam revealed today as it launched a hard-hitting film illustrating the human cost of tax avoidance on the world’s poorest.

Experts estimate that $30bn [approx. €25.8bn/£23bn] is needed each year to pay for basic healthcare such as vaccinations, midwives and diarrhoea treatment that could prevent an average of 7.8m children and 210,000 women dying in 74 countries with large numbers of people living in poverty.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland’s Chief Executive, said: “Tax dodgers may not be literally stealing medicines from the pockets of the poorest but they are depriving poor countries of billions that could be invested in healthcare.

“Oxfam works in some of the poorest countries in the world and sees the impacts of tax dodging every day. For instance, we work in Tanzania which has an annual health budget of just €17 per person. Every medicine that is not bought for the lack of government funds due to tax dodging affects thousands of men, women and children across the world.

“While corporate tax avoidance strips developing countries of vital funds needed for hospitals, millions of the world’s poorest people are missing out on basic medical treatment that could save their lives and help them escape hardship. There can be no excuse for delaying tough action against tax dodging.

“As the EU tax transparency process is at a standstill, the Irish and UK governments should lead the way in helping to ensure companies pay their fair share of taxes everywhere they do business.

“Ireland should agree legislation with its EU partners to ensure that multinationals publically report on a country by country basis where they make their profits and pay their taxes.

“Making this information public will give both policy makers and the public the opportunity to understand how a country’s corporate tax system is actually operating, and provide them with the information to review and change it.

Oxfam is urging the UK Chancellor Phillip Hammond to use next month’s Budget to commit to implementing tougher tax laws for British multinationals, including those that operate in developing countries, by the end of 2019. As movement towards an EU tax transparency deal has stalled, it is calling on him to push ahead and build on the leadership some UK companies have already shown.

More than a year since the Government passed legislation to enable the introduction of comprehensive public country by country reporting for UK-based companies and nearly two years since the last Conservative government agreed the case had been made for the change, it is still no closer to being a reality.

Poor countries are twice as dependent as rich countries on corporate tax revenue as a proportion of the money they have available to buy medicines, pay nurses and pipe clean water to people’s homes. There is evidence to show that when poor countries increase their tax revenue – in particular from corporate and income tax – they spend more on healthcare, leading to healthier populations.

Greater tax transparency would make it easier to verify whether companies’ tax bills are in line with their real economic activity in every country where they do business – and to hold them to account if not.

However, until these public reporting requirements are mandatory for all large businesses, widespread tax avoidance will continue to deprive governments rich and poor of revenue needed to provide essential services and tackle poverty.

ENDS

For more information or interviews please contact Phillip Graham on 00 44 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org

 View and/or link through to the film here.

 

Increase in overseas develop aid welcome but Ireland must do more to meet target – Oxfam Ireland

Commitment on equality and gender proofing and consultation on reforming tax policy also welcomed 

10 October 2017

The announcement in today’s budget an increase of €13 million to Ireland’s Overseas Development Aid (ODA) budget is a positive step but a clear plan is still needed on how Ireland intends to meet the 0.7% target in ODA spending, Oxfam Ireland said today.

Oxfam Ireland also welcomed the progress made in terms of equality and gender proofing as well as the decision to roll-out a public consultation on reforming Ireland’s corporate tax regime.

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive, said: “Last year, Ireland’s expenditure on its overseas development programme represented just 0.33% of GDP, less than half of the agreed UN target of 0.7%.

“We welcome the announcement in today’s budget of an increase in ODA and we are encouraged by both the Taoiseach’s and Minister Coveney’s stated commitment to reaching the UN target.

We now look forward to Ireland producing a tangible roadmap and timetable detailing how this will be achieved.

Successive opinion polls have shown that the Irish public fully supports meeting the 0.7% target. In addition, achieving our commitment on aid gives Ireland influence in international discussions and shows we keep our promises.”

Oxfam recognised the government's progress in the area of tax reform. “We welcome the announcement of a public consultation process to review Ireland’s tax code and hope this can build on and enhance the findings from the recent report undertaken by Seamus Coffey into addressing corporate tax avoidance which must be addressed for the benefit of both this country and the world’s poorest nations," said Mr Clarken.

“When companies don’t pay their fair share of taxes, it’s the poorest who are hit the hardest, missing out on essential services like healthcare and education. It's important that this process is broad enough to take account of all options.”

On the commitments regarding gender and equality proofing, Mr Clarken continued: "Gender equality should be central to the policy making process and we welcome the steps taken to ensure budgetary choices will reduce inequality and discrimination within our society.”

 

ENDS

Daniel English

Desk: +353 (0) 1 635 0422

Mobile: +353 (0) 86 3544954

Following the announcement of Budget 2018 and this reaction, the Department of Foreign Affairs issued the following: “Mr Coveney corrected a figure presented by Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe in his budget speech. The €13 million figure that he announced is the Irish Aid increase but the ODA figure is actually increasing by €26 million.”

Oxfam shows 'We Care' in Zimbabwe

For families in many parts of the world household tasks such as laundry, cooking, cleaning, collecting water and caring for dependents take a huge amount of time and energy. Limited access to time-saving equipment, public infrastructure and services exacerbates this situation.

For women, domestic and care work is often heavy, inefficient and unequally distributed. Women globally spend, on average, more than twice as long as men on unpaid work – that can mean as much as five hours per day on household tasks like laundry and cooking, and on caring for children and family. It can mean less time spent learning new skills, earning money or taking an active role in the community. This limits women’s choices and undermines efforts to achieve gender equality and overcome poverty. Oxfam’s We Care initiative aims to change this.

Why Oxfam cares about care

Care has long been considered the responsibility of women. As a result, providing care falls disproportionately on their shoulders – limiting women’s time to learn, to earn or to take part in political and social activities of their choice. This is an issue in every country; however, the effects of unequal care are more extreme in poor communities. Tasks such as laundry and cooking can take most of the day when there is limited access to water and fuel, let alone washing machines or stoves. Drivers of poverty, such as lack of services and exposure to disasters, increase the demand for care work – preventing women’s empowerment and trapping families in poverty.

Ulita Mutambo said: “We started the ‘We Care’ programme in 2014, that’s when things changed for the better. At first my husband did not help me at all. I would do all the work on my own, carrying firewood from the mountains, fetching water from the borehole which is far from here. Things got better when he accepted to join the programme and started helping me. Now the work is lighter. 

“The chores that have to be done are laundry, fetching water, cooking, bathing the children, as well as working in the fields. When I had just got married I would do all the work, my husband would only help now and then. Now we help each other. While I do the washing, cooking or sweeping, my husband goes to fetch water. After that we go together to collect firewood. Getting help is good because now I get time to rest. Before we joined the programme I would never have time to rest.

“Now that I have free time, I can help my children with their homework. Before the We Care programme, I never had time to help my children with school work, so I am happy. I am also able to spend time with my children, getting closer to them. The programme has changed life a lot within this family. We now live together in harmony as a family.”

(Top) Ulita Mutambo (26) stands with her husband Muchineripi Sibanda (36), her son Blessing, 9, and Sandra, 6, outside their home in Ture Village, Zvishevane region, Zimbabwe. (Bottom left) Ulita with her daughter Sandra. (Bottom right) Ulita with her young nephew outside her home. Photos: Aurelie Marrier d'Unienville/Oxfam

(Top) Ulita and her husband Muchineripi walk to collect water from an Oxfam-built water pump just over 1km from their home. (Bottom left) Ulita and Muchineripi take a break from farming together in their corn field close to where they live. (Bottom right) Muchineripi helps Ulita with the laundry in a nearby river . Photos: Aurelie Marrier d'Unienville/Oxfam

(Top-Left) Ulita’s husband Muchineripi helps her hang up laundry outside their home. (Top right) Muchineripi with Sandra outside their home. (Bottom left) Ulita with her daughter Sandra. (Bottom right) Sandra relaxes in a wheelbarrow. Photos: Aurelie Marrier d'Unienville/Oxfam

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