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Advocates Say Corporate Tax Havens Rob Developing Countries Of Revenue As World Social Forum Begins

Advocates at the World Social Forum in Dakar, Senegal, “launched a campaign Tuesday to end financial secrecy in tax havens by multinationals they say deprive developing countries of enormous sums of money,” Agence France-Presse reports (Boutreaux, 2/8).

The 11th annual World Social Forum kicked off on Sunday, Free Speech Radio News reports. The gathering started as a counter to the World Economic Forum and aims to “create a place for activists, NGOs and grassroots groups to gather and develop alternatives to neo-liberal policies. This year, many are focusing on issues related to African countries including food shortages and agricultural policies” (2/8).  

“Very few people are aware that developing countries lose more money through tax dodging than they receive in aid. It is really important to make the link between tax and development,” said Mariana Paoli of Christian Aid, which “joined Oxfam, the Tax Justice Network Africa and others in calling on the G20 group of leading economies to end financial secrecy in tax havens,” AFP writes. Each year, tax losses in developing countries total about $170 million, according to the groups. That figure amounts to “more than the total budget for development assistance, while the economic crisis leads to significant budget cuts and millions of children still lack access to education,” the groups said at the six-day forum.  

“‘Governments are subsidising multinationals by allowing them to avoid paying taxes’ and leaders of poor countries ‘are amassing a fortune through corruption,'” said Eva Joly, a former anti-corruption judge, who leads the European Parliament’s development committee. 

The campaign calls on “citizens of the whole world to send a message to the G20 and Nicolas Sarkozy [chair of the G20] in particular, so they can carry this to the November summit,” AFP reports (2/8).

Meanwhile on Monday, former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva spoke at the forum and encouraged Latin America and Africa to “defy the flow of global commerce by trading and forming closer ties,” the Christian Science Monitor writes.

“In the 29 African countries I visited as president, I’ve been struck by the vitality with which Africa is taking control of its destiny,” he said. “I have the conviction in my heart that in the world that is coming into being, Africa has more relevance than ever to developing nations,” Lula added, noting, “Those who give us lessons on how to manage our own economies were not able to avoid the crisis that overtook their own countries and from there, all of humanity.”

He also spoke about agriculture. “There is no sovereignty without food sovereignty,” he said before calling for a “‘green revolution’ in Africa modeled off Brazil’s own gains in farming.” Bolivian President Evo Morales also addressed agriculture and “spoke of land grabs and the privatization of water. His speech – pitched to Africa’s rural people – urged the continent’s farmers and villagers to nationalize the soil and mines that should have made their nations wealthy,” the publication reports (Hinshaw, 2/8).

“Visits to Senegal this week by Bolivian President Evo Morales and … da Silva highlight what analysts say is Latin America’s growing geopolitical interest in Africa,” VOA News notes, reporting on the significance of their appearances at the forum.

“Their arrival comes at a time when analysts say Latin America is increasing ties with the continent to the east. The two landmasses share cash crops, and a history of 15th through 19th century colonial exploitation followed by 20th-century military rule,” the news service writes. “But in the 21st century, da Silva says, they share new opportunities due to tremendous economic growth. … For Morales, Africa is a place where Latin Americans can find like-minded people who have been oppressed by many of the same global forces.” The piece includes analysis from Anne Frauhauf, an Africa analyst with the Eurasia Group (Hinshaw, 2/8).

Also on Monday, “Oxfam and the NGO Enda denounced landgrabbing by ‘foreign groups, Europeans, Asians’ as well as ‘wealthy Africans'” at a discussion at the forum, AFP/Business Recorder reports.

“A rush to buy up land in cash-starved Africa and other developing countries amid a growing global food crisis was one of the main focuses among dozens of workshops and debates held on the second day of the Forum,” the news service notes. “At the opening of the Forum, Tunisia’s Taoufik Ben Abdallah, coordinator of the African Social Forum said: ‘Africa is not a battleground for powerful countries … It is a rich continent, provided it be allowed to determine its policies, development strategies'” (2/8).