Policy and Advocacy

Addressing Inequality and Cost of Living at Home and Abroad Must Be the Focus of Budget 2023

It seems strange to say, in these worrying times, that the subject of tax can be inspiring.

But it can - and should be - as Billy Bragg’s 1986 album Talking with the Taxman About Poetry showed - a reference that may be lost on many of the younger Oxfam activists.

In the closing discussion of the Irish Commission on Taxation and Welfare’s public meeting earlier this year, Professor Niamh Moloney (the Commission’s chairperson) and Gavin Kelly (chair of the UK’s Resolution Foundation) referenced the setting up of the Beveridge Commission in Britain, that seminal moment when a welfare state and national health service which became the envy of the world was created.

‘The thing about the Beveridge report,’ they said (I’m paraphrasing here) ‘is that they didn’t ask what it cost. They just realised this was what needed to be done – and they found a way to pay for it.’

A more refreshing, inspirational moment in policy-making is hard to imagine – ‘this is what we need to do, now let’s use our collective powers to do it’. - poetry, as Billy Bragg said.

Budget 2023 presents use with an opportunity to create a similar seminal moment.

Oxfam has led the world in calling for urgent measures to tackle the crisis of inequality. At the start of this year, before Russia invaded Ukraine, we showed that billionaire wealth globally had grown to the greatest levels since records began, that it accelerated alarmingly during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that it has approached levels not seen since the Gilded Age – much more Edith Wharton than Billy Bragg.

Extreme wealth in Ireland has increased in a similar fashion –Irish billionaires have seen their wealth increase by over 50% since the start of the pandemic. Surely, we’re not going back a century?

 

Wealth Tax

As a result, Oxfam Ireland called for a national conversation about a wealth tax in Ireland and we proposed a moderate tax schedule: 1.5% above net-wealth thresholds of €5 million and 2% above net-wealth thresholds of €50 million, in current prices. Oxfam Ireland proposes, as a nation, we should consider the model of wealth tax put forward in our submission to the Commission on Taxation and Welfare here.

Our view is that now is the right time to introduce these taxes in Ireland to build new, greener and more effective social contracts to face a global hunger crisis, spiralling levels of inequality, the cost-of-living crisis and an environmental emergency.  

This tax would be complementary to other capital taxes and could yield at least €5 billion per year at low rates - 1.5% and 2% - above net-wealth thresholds of €5 million and €50 million respectively.

As an example of what our wealth tax could fund every year, €5 billion would cover the entirety of the contributions proposed by Social Justice Ireland in Budget 2023 for Housing (€1,442.3m), Health, Disability and Carers (€1,436m), Pensions and Older People (€1,025.7m) and Children and Families, incl. Direct Provision (€749.7m) along with our proposed €233 million contribution to Official Development Aid (ODA) for Budget 2023 on a path to reach the target of 0.7% GNI over the course of the next seven years, while leaving a further EUR113 million that could be allocated to (additional) international climate finance.

Technically and politically, there has never been a better time to introduce wealth taxes, through leveraging modern information technology - and we would not be going it alone but as part of a growing international movement throughout Europe and America.

Windfall Tax

In addition to a wealth tax, Oxfam Ireland proposes a windfall tax on the excess profits of large companies in sectors of the economy that are benefiting from fortunate circumstances resulting from the pandemic and rising prices. We are witnessing record profits across multiple sectors, not just in the energy sector- shipping and logistics, arms producers, pharmaceuticals, IT and food producers and many others are benefitting from the multiple crises that we find ourselves in. These companies have also benefited from public policy measures such as quantitative easing during the COVID-pandemic that helped maintain and bolster profits. The IMF has recommended a broad-based windfall tax to help build social solidarity.

The recent remarks of the UN Secretary General highlighted that the largest global oil and gas companies made close to $100bn in combined profits in the first three months of 2022. In August Bord Gáis’s operating profits increased by 74% in the first half of this year to nearly €40 million over the same period in 2021. While our analysis from May of five of the best-known Irish energy companies showed they had a combined rise of 50% rise in profits or €280 million in total even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

But it is not just the energy sector that is making excess profits. Corporations and the billionaire dynasties who control so much of our food system are seeing their profits soar. Billionaires involved in the food and agribusiness sector globally have seen their collective wealth increase by $382bn (45%) over the past two years. There have been 62 food billionaires created in the last two years. In Ireland, five of the biggest Irish food companies have had a total profit rise of €174 million in just one year - in the last year of recorded profits. Similar levels of excess profits are being made in other sectors. As a result Spain has recently imposed a windfall tax on banks as well as utilities.

We propose that the windfall tax would be levied on excess profits well above average company profits for the year’s 2017-2020, the accounting years before the pandemic began.  Regulators should be tasked with imposing fines or other relevant measures to prevent windfall taxes being passed on to consumers, as is the case with the Spanish and Italian model of windfall taxes.

We call for a more effective and comprehensive form of windfall tax than that under consideration by the Irish Government, according to Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohue, speaking in the Dáil in April. Minister Donohue said that a 10% tax on the taxable profits of all energy companies in Ireland could yield in the region of €60 million per annum. However, this estimate was based on taxable profit levels in 2020 - which are likely to be much lower than current levels.

Global Asset Registry

Oxfam Ireland fully endorses the Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation (ICRIT)’s public campaign in 2022 for a Global Asset Registry (GAR). A Global Asset Registry (GAR) has been endorsed by ICRIT’s commissioners in an open letter to G20 finance ministers and has been described as:

 “an international network of asset registries that listed all different forms of wealth: from assets including property, yachts, jets and jewellery; to bank accounts, cryptocurrency assets and safe deposit boxes; as well as trusts and other legal arrangements; and even intangible assets such as intellectual property and trademarks.”

This would give an opportunity for Irish-based corporations, Irish high net-wealth individuals and the Irish state to definitively and publicly disassociate themselves from and repudiate the wealth of oligarchs and illicit financial flows.  Budget 2023 needs to include a commitment to support the formation of the Global Asset Registry (GAR) as part of its oversight of this area.

  • Introduce a Wealth Tax and a Windfall Tax to fund measures to help address inequality and poverty in Ireland and globally.

  • Support the creation of a Global Asset Registry, a publicly accessible registry of wealth holdings around the world.

For more details of how Budget 2023 can contribute to addressing inequality, ending poverty and creating a more sustainable world please see our pre-budget submission

Posted In:

Budget 2023 needs to prioritise official development assistance

Budget 2023 is an opportunity for Ireland to build on the solidarity it has already shown with the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people struggling through the triple crises of Covid 19, Climate breakdown and Conflict. Upholding Ireland’s strong reputation and credibility as a leader on international development depends on its continued support for Official Development Assistance and advocacy for policies to improve the lives of people living in, or those vulnerable to, poverty, inequality and crisis.

While we are all familiar with the enormous challenges faced by Ireland in response to the triple challenges of Covid, Conflict and Climate, the situation in low-income countries is even more daunting. West Africa is currently facing its worst food crisis in a decade, with 27 million people going hungry. This number could rise to 38 million – an unprecedented level – unless urgent action is taken. In East Africa, one person is estimated to be dying of hunger every 48 seconds in drought-ravaged Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, as actions have remained too slow and too limited to prevent the hunger crisis from escalating. The rainfall deficit in the most recent rainy season in these three countries has been the most severe in at least 70 years.

In Yemen and Syria, protracted conflicts have shattered people’s livelihoods. In Yemen, more than 17 million people – over half of the population – don’t have enough food, and pockets of the country are experiencing famine-like conditions. In Syria, six out of 10 Syrians – 12.4 million people – are struggling to put food on the table. This means many families are resorting to extreme measures to cope: going into debt to buy food, taking children out of school to work, and reducing the number of meals they have each day. Marrying off young daughters so there is one less mouth to feed has become another shocking strategy families are using to survive.

The Programme for Government pledges to increase Ireland’s official aid budget to 0.7 percent of national income in line with international commitments by 2030.  In 2022, despite a monetary increase in the ODA budget of €176m on the 2021 allocation, Ireland’s spending on ODA remained at 0.32% of GNI. In 2021, fourteen OECD DAC countries spent more in percentage terms and eighteen OECD DAC countries spent more in monetary terms. According to Dóchas estimates, Ireland needs to increase its ODA budget in Budget 2023 by €233m, and by similar annual amounts every year to ensure Ireland reaches the target of 0.7% over the course of the next seven years.

In addition to quantity, the quality of aid is key. Ireland has been recognised internationally as a donor that provides effective aid. The policy of providing untied aid and compliance with the Busan aid principles and principles of Good Humanitarian Donorship must be maintained. Ireland’s aid should continue to be used for its intended purpose to save lives, alleviate poverty and reduce vulnerability. Irish Aid’s effective aid approach can be bolstered by committing to implement the recommendations of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee review of Irish Aid, in full.

Ireland must also advocate for the protection and integrity of aid in multilateral instruments, particularly as part of Ireland’s contribution to the EU’s development budget, as the total Irish contribution to EU ODA in 2020 amounted to over €230 million, around a quarter of Ireland’s ODA. Particular attention should be paid to potential contributions to EU ‘migration control’ projects that negatively impact human rights and run counter to Irish Aid’s aims and Policy Coherence for Development as set out in the Lisbon Treaty. Also, as Ireland ramps up funding for climate finance to ensure that nations most impacted by climate breakdown have adequate resources to implement necessary adaption and mitigation measures, we need to ensure that such funding is reaching those most in need on the ground, especially female farmers working on small farms.

  • Increase Ireland’s ODA budget in Budget 2023 by €233m, so it can play its part in responding to these urgent global needs and setting it on a path to reach the target of 0.7% of GNI spent on ODA over the course of the next seven years. 
  • Maintain the integrity of ODA: Maintain Ireland’s commitment to development effectiveness by implementing the recommendations of the OECD DAC review of Ireland’s ODA programme, in full. This should include developing a clear policy on private sector engagement and a policy coherence mechanism, as well as enhancing civil societies’ role in the delivery of Ireland’s ODA.
  • Advocate for the protection and integrity of aid in multilateral instruments especially related to ‘migration control’ and climate finance.

For more details of how Budget 2023 can contribute to addressing inequality, ending poverty and creating a more sustainable world please see our pre-budget submission

Posted In:

Ban Fossil Fuel Ads to Avert Extreme Climate Change

28 million people across Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan are facing crisis levels of hunger. This situation is partly as a result of a climate crisis that they are the least responsible for causing.

Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, representing 2.5% of the world’s population, account for just 0.1% of global carbon emissions[1]. It is estimated that Ireland produces nearly 54 times higher emissions than Somalia alone[2], despite having a third of its population.

Seeing the climate emergency unfold before our eyes is deeply worrying. Especially when fossil fuel companies continue to pump out greenwashing advertisements that suggest they are taking the climate crisis seriously.

But there is still have hope. In the latest IPCC report, scientists were clear that a path still exists to meet the 1.5C goal and avert some of the worst climate catastrophes[3]. But we have to act now, together.

If there ever was a moment to ban fossil fuel advertising and sponsorships across Europe, that moment is here and now. Can you sign the petition to cut ties with the fossil fuel industry and ban fossil fuel advertising completely?

As tobacco companies did, fossil fuel companies are pumping money into advertising and sponsorship in a last-ditch attempt to stay afloat, deliberately ignoring all the scientific evidence showing that they are a threat to our health and the health of the planet. If it wasn’t clear already, it is now: our reliance on fossil fuels is choking our planet.

We need to act fast. Already, billions of people are being affected disproportionately by extreme weather driven by climate change and it’s the poorest and most vulnerable communities that are bearing the brunt of the impact particularly in the Global South[4].

Just like the tobacco industry, fossil fuel industries make profit on the back of people’s suffering. We must take action quickly, before things get even worse. Can you take 2 minutes to sign the petition to ban fossil fuel advertisement and sponsorship?

We are in the middle of a climate crisis, this is not breaking news, and it’s no revelation to say that the fossil fuels industry is responsible.

It’s time to ban the deadly fossil fuel propaganda that’s driving us deeper into the climate emergency. Sign the petition and together, we can power a #FossilFreeRevolution!

Thanks for standing with us.

  1. https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/greenhouse-gas-emissions-by-country
  2. https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/somalia-shows-horrifying-realities-of-climate-change-but-who-is-looking-1.4859434
  3. Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability Europe heat wave brings concern for older adults, homeless
  4. Climate change is devastating the Global South
Posted In:

Budget 2023 can advance gender justice through supporting care work

The COVID-19 crisis has shown that care work, often unpaid, is the “hidden engine” that keeps the wheels of our economies, businesses and societies turning.  It is driven primarily by women and girls who often have little or no time to earn a decent living, to get involved in their communities or have a say in how their societies are run- Eurostat data shows that the share of women in Ireland outside the labour market due to caring responsibilities remains almost double the EU average.

Care work continues to provide a foundation for our society and economy as we manage the aftermath of the pandemic, the economic and social consequences of the invasion of Ukraine and the impact of spiralling inflation. Care work (paid and unpaid) in Ireland and around the world is highly gendered and undervalued in terms of pay and recognition. Many workers in the care sector are still paid poverty wages.  Irish women spend 38 million hours a week on unpaid care work, contributing at least €24 billion to the economy every year – the equivalent of 12.3 percent of the entire annual Irish economy. Globally, women do more than three-quarters of all unpaid care work. Women and girls are putting in 12.5 billion hours of unpaid care work every day, which amounts to a contribution to the global economy of at least $10.8 trillion a year – more than three times the size of the global tech industry. 

Care work highlights the important role of low-wage workers in terms of the provision of essential goods and services. Most importantly, the COVID 19 pandemic has emphasised the hugely important role women play in our economy, despite the unequal rewards and recognition they receive. A study of essential workers by the ERSI has found that the majority (almost 70 percent) of essential employees in Ireland are female. This trend is replicated worldwide, with more than 70 percent of healthcare workers worldwide being female. 

Provision of care services (e.g. childcare, or care for the elderly or people with special needs) by the Irish State is relatively low, forcing households to provide these services themselves, or pay for them – if they can afford it. Oxfam Ireland supports the National Women’s Council’s proposal in their pre-budget submission that:

“The most effective and efficient way to tackle persistent gender inequalities in care is sustained investment in public services and social infrastructure, including a public early years and school age childcare system and universal adult social care. Investment in care has been shown to act as a better post-pandemic economic stimulus than investment in traditional economic recovery approaches, such as construction. Producing significantly less emissions than construction, care jobs are also green jobs so investment in care also helps us meet our climate goals.”

Using the report of the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality, with its strong emphasis on care, as a framework to guide Budget 2023 investment, the Irish Government should:

  • Ensure significant extra investments in public services and social infrastructure to enhance care services and resource a ‘Commission on Care’ as outlined in the Programme for Government. For example, investment must be increased in early years education to bring overall expenditure in line with the UNICEF recommendation of one percent of GDP.
  • Ensure care workers employed or funded by State programmes are properly compensated to at least a living-wage level.
  • Hold a referendum on Art. 41.2 of the Constitution on the role of women in the home, as recommended by Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality. New language in the constitution should refer explicitly to gender equality and non-discrimination and recognise the value of care work in Irish society.
  • Deliver integrated changes in social and employment policies that support carers, facilitate the combination of care and employment, while at the same time encourage and support greater male participation in care. 
  • Prioritise gender budgeting: Gender budgeting must be prioritised by the Government to assess the possible impact of fiscal and spending decisions on women and girls and enable the collection and allocation of national and international funds in ways that promote gender equality.
  • Develop and properly resource the Equality Budgeting process beyond the current pilot stage to include all dimensions of inequality, including poverty, socioeconomic inequality and disability.

For more details of how Budget 2023 can contribute to addressing inequality, ending poverty and creating a more sustainable world please see our pre-budget submission HERE

Posted In:

Irish Refugee Protection programme

More resources for the Irish Refugee Protection Programme in Budget 2023 can help transforms Lives and help Ireland keep its promises to resettle Syrian and Eritrean refugees

Oxfam Ireland have asked the government to give more resources to the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (within the Department of Children Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth) in Budget 2023. Ireland has made pledges with the UNHCR to resettle 2,900 refugees between 2020 and 2023 and the Irish Refugee Protection Programme needs resources and personnel to help make this happen.

What is refugee resettlement?

The selection and transfer of refugees from one country (in this case Jordan, Lebanon, Ethiopia) where they have sought international protection to a third state (in this case, Ireland) which has agreed to admit them as refugees with permanent residence status. A resettled refugee has rights similar or equal to an Irish national.

How does it work?

Resettlement begins with the UNHCR (the UN refugee agency). UNHCR identifies, interviews and submits refugee cases to countries for consideration. Then, Irish agencies and departments work with UN resettlement services to process cases, do health assessments etc. An Gárda Síochána conduct security checks on each refugee to be resettled to Ireland. Officials from the Irish Refugee Protection Programme along with Gardaí travel to the host country and deliver presentations on life in Ireland. Selected refugees have already been granted refugee status having had their cases assessed by UNHCR in Lebanon/ Jordan / Ethiopia.

Why is Oxfam Ireland asking the Irish government to increase resources for refugee resettlement in Budget 2023?

As an organisation working globally on humanitarian and crisis situations, Oxfam Ireland has highlighted the importance of Ireland upholding its commitment to receive and protect refugees and displaced people from all countries and regions seeking protection without discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity or nationality. Ireland should ensure that it meets its pledges to resettle Syrian and Eritrean refugees. These resettlement pledges are a vital lifeline to people left languishing in impossible conditions in camps and must be met.

Refugee resettlement to Ireland has been very successful and changed the lives of people who had been stuck in traumatising situations. The Irish Refugee Council called it “a shining example of the moral leadership Ireland can show in transforming the lives of those in desperate need of international protection”. The report ‘Voice Of Syrians-Resettled Refugees in Ireland' published by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth concluded that “Syrian refugees have much to offer to Ireland, are committed to the future of their families in Ireland and look forward to the supports which can increase their independence and capacity to contribute to wider society.” While there is room for improvement (for example in provision of English language supports) this is a programme that works well and transforms lives.

What about housing and Ukrainian refugees?

The lack of housing (especially suitable and affordable housing) is a problem for many people in Ireland including vulnerable groups and refugees. The government needs to implement a cross-departmental plan to address this, in conjunction and consultation with civil society organisations with relevant expertise and lived experience.

Tragically, conflict and persecution are not going away and the government needs to plan for long term accommodation needs instead of reacting in crisis mode. Increasing the resources of the IRPP is a step towards this.

Ireland is a rich country. It’s important to remember that over 80% of the refugees in the world are hosted by low and middle income countries. In Lebanon (from where Ireland have pledged to resettle Syrian refugees), 9 out of 10 Syrian refugees live in extreme poverty and half of the refugee population is food insecure. In Ethiopia, eruptions of conflict and insecurity have disrupted Eritrean refugees’ access to food, water and medicine.

Oxfam Ireland welcomed the Irish government’s support to people fleeing Ukraine and its commitment to finding solutions to ensure Ireland meets its international protection responsibilities, accommodation challenges notwithstanding. We cannot break promises made to African and Middle Eastern refugees because we are accommodating European refugees. The Irish public recognise the Equal Right to Refuge as the Irish Times’ poll last week found that a clear majority of Irish people, 66 per cent, disagree with the government’s policy of treating refugees from Ukraine differently to any other refugees.

What pledges has the Irish government made?

In December 2019, the Irish government committed to a new phase of the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP), to increase annual resettlement quota by 50 each year over 4 years: 650 in 2020, 700 in 2021, 750 in 2022 and 800 in 2023. Ireland has pledged with the UNHCR to resettle 2,900 refugees between 2020 and 2023. The arrivals for the first two years to largely comprise Syrian refugees resident in Jordan and Lebanon, along with a pilot group of 150 Eritrean refugees resident in Ethiopia.

In 2020 and 2021, the number of resettlement departures to Ireland dipped to 195 and 92 respectively, due to the covid-19 associated challenges. The IRPP have been making trips to Lebanon and working to meet pledges but will need appropriate resources and personnel to do so.

Oxfam Ireland Budget ask:

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) projects that more than 2 million refugees will be in need of resettlement in 2023. This is a 36% increase from 2022, due in part to the humanitarian impacts of the ongoing covid pandemic and the new mass displacement situations of the past year. Safe return home is not a viable option for many refugees as conflicts continue. Resettlement is a vital protection tool. Of the estimated 1.4 million refugees in need of resettlement in 2021 – including children and adolescents, survivors of torture and violence, and older people – 57,500 were given homes in new countries. Only 4 % of the total requiring resettlement. Ireland can play a role in resettling refugees.

The resources allocated to the IRPP within the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth must reflect this increase as well as the increase in resettlement need globally and the pledges that Ireland has made.

Increase resources and personnel to the IRPP to ensure that Ireland meet its resettlement pledges.

 

For more details of how Budget 2023 can contribute to addressing inequality, ending poverty and creating a more sustainable world please see our pre-budget submission.

Posted In:

Pages