Social Watch at the TSF: Inequality is an obstacle in the fight against poverty

Photo: Agência Jovem de Notícias.

“Inequality is the reason why, contradicting all the theories and models, world poverty is not diminishing or is doing so only very slowly even in countries where the economy is growing quickly,” according to Roberto Bissio, the coordinator of Social Watch, speaking at the presentation of the Portuguese edition of the latest annual report by this international network of civil society organizations.

This edition of the Social Watch Report 2012 was presented at the World Thematic Social Forum, held in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre from 24 to 29 January, and was attended by some of the report’s main authors and other experts including Bissio, Alejandro Chanona (from the National Autonomous University of Mexico), Barbara Adams (Global Policy Forum, United States), Gigi Francisco (Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era-Dawn), and Wolfgang Obenland (GPFE/ Social Watch, Germany).

At another event at the Forum, a panel considering “fiscal fairness as an instrument to reduce inequality”, Bissio said that in all the central countries the trend is for an increasing concentration of wealth in few hands and for a worsening of inequity, a phenomenon that is strongly conditioned by tax systems and by the structure of public expenditure.

The Social Watch coordinator gave the example of the United States tax system, in which the richest contributors receive privileged treatment.

At this panel, which was organized by the Brazilian Syndicate of Fiscal Auditors (Sindifisco) and the Brazilian Fiscal Fairness Institute, Bissio pointed out that this greater concentration of wealth (a trend that has been recognized by multilateral financial organizations) has gone hand in hand with the creation and spread of tax havens, which are hiding places the very rich use to evade taxes.

According to Bissio, around 60% of the money that circulates in these tax havens comes from big transnational enterprises (some of which have extensive social responsibility programmes), and that they engage in these illicit operations to reduce the amount of taxes they pay.

Brazil is one of the few countries where inequality indicators are falling, although it should be borne in mind that this is in a context of extreme poverty.

At the meeting with Latin American civil society organizations at the Forum, the President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, said that inequality should be a main subject at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, which will be held in Rio de Janeiro next June.

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