Inflicting Death While Avoiding Taxes

by BINOY KAMPMARK

For some time it has been a gathering that seemed to be more floral than substantive, a matter of chit chat, sometimes serious, over issues of the day.  General guidelines are proposed.  Bland suggestions are made. Declarations are always filled with well meaning suggestions, the well aimed bromide to assuage.

In recent years, the leaders of the G-8 have acted as some de facto consortium of much noise signifying nothing.  As Tom Barry observed in an article for Foreign Policy in Focus as far back as July 2002, the G-8 “had shown little leadership in addressing the deepening crisis of global governance.”

As forecast prior to the talks in Northern Ireland, the conflict in Syria dominated discussion and vacillation. The status quo has been affirmed – the United States, Britain and France wanting to push the Assad regime out, with Russia insisting that the move needed to be tempered with strict guidelines.

The result, naturally unsatisfying for everyone other than the political mechanists, is that the G-8 have agreed that something has to be done regarding Syria, though what exactly should be done remains unclear and at best inchoate.  The casualty rate is soon to peak at 100 thousand dead, but the G-8 leaders left the press corps with a vaguely imprecise list of options.

A seven point plan was the resulting offspring of the talks.  British Prime Minister David Cameron, in observing that there were “very different views around the G-8 table” could tell his constituents that “fundamental differences” had been overcome through “frank discussion”.

The points themselves reveal nothing significant.  The “bloodshed and loss of life” had to be stopped.  A peace conference should be held in Geneva as soon as possible, leading to a “transitional governing body” to take the reins of power.  Humanitarian aid had to be increased.  The disastrous “lessons of Iraq” – namely, the dismantling of institutions – had to be kept in mind. The use of chemical weapons had to be condemned and investigated.  Syria had to be cleansed of “terrorists and extremists”.  Any succeeding government would have to be non-sectarian.

In the end, the Russian President is probably bound to be the most content. Having been busy tipping the balance against Bashar al-Assad’s enemies, he is the one with more cards than most.  When the balance was swinging away from the Syrian regime, the Russians beefed up Syria’s surface-to-air capabilities.  While his politics might seem rank, Putin’s position has been clear from the start.  Everyone knows the horse he is backing and the oats he is giving it.  Nor is he too keen on seeing a Sunni-mad regime come to power.  Watch, he seems to be saying, what you wish for.

In contrast, the Western powers such as France, the United States and Britain keep company with such peculiar customers as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, who see their own version of regime change in the Middle East with heavily tinted glasses.  The result is promised change with no change.

The other feature on the agenda, and again, another well aimed bromide, was the global bogeyman of tax evasion.  As Robert W. Wood of Forbes Magazine (Jun 19) explains, “The G-8 nations agree: tax evasion is bad and hurts everyone.  More inter-nation corporation is needed. But exactly what is legitimate and what isn’t aren’t so clear.”  Global tax evasion, in terms of figures, vary, but one estimate from the Tax Justice Network puts it at around $3 trillion a year.

Cameron was pushing for the execution of the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Assistance in Tax Matters.  Vital to this, as Wood points out, is the information sharing aspect of the document, enabling several jurisdictions to share information about bank accounts.  None of this actually clears up the business as to what is legitimate tax “minimisation” and what constitutes actual evasion. The tax accounting wizards at Apple and Google know only too well that appearance is everything and that money has a habit of walking when needed.

Leaders such as Canada’s Stephen Harper have shown lukewarm enthusiasm, when he has bothered to, about such international reform.  MPs from the NDP see Harper as heading the pack against such change.  “Why Stephen Harper should choose to protect those who use international tax havens to evade paying their taxes is inexplicable and is unacceptable,” suggested NDP Foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar (iPolitics, Jun 11).

The resulting Lough Erne declaration from the G-8 summit was standard process without more, a stand favouring transparency over clandestine and unreachable tax havens.  “Countries should change rules that let companies shift their profits across borders to avoid taxes, an multinationals should report to tax authorities what tax they pay and where.”  As Dennis Howlett of Canadians for Tax Fairness surmised, “The commitments are hedged a bit and the roadmap for action is vague.”  That said, he was content that the declaration “definitely moves us forward in efforts to curb tax evasion facilitated by tax havens.”

Such matters – death and taxes – are truly staples and plagues of human existence. But the G-8 discussions have shown that, whether it be the issue of debt relief (Gleneagles, Scotland in 2005); or the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Kananaskis, Canada), actions tend to lag behind undertakings.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

 

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington
Geoffrey McDonald
Obama’s Overtime Tweak: What is the Fair Price of a Missed Life?
Brian Cloughley
Hypocrisy, Obama-Style
Robert Fantina
Israeli Missteps Take a Toll
Pete Dolack
Speculators Circling Puerto Rico Latest Mode of Colonialism
Ron Jacobs
Spying on Black Writers: the FB Eye Blues
Paul Buhle
The Leftwing Seventies?
Binoy Kampmark
The TPP Trade Deal: of Sovereignty and Secrecy
David Swanson
Vietnam, Fifty Years After Defeating the US
Robert Hunziker
Human-Made Evolution
Shamus Cooke
Why Obama’s “Safe Zone” in Syria Will Inflame the War Zone
David Rosen
Hillary Clinton: Learn From Your Sisters
Sam Husseini
How #AllLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter Can Devalue Life
Shepherd Bliss
Why I Support Bernie Sanders for President
Louis Proyect
Manufacturing Denial
Howard Lisnoff
The Wrong Argument
Tracey Harris
Living Tiny: a Richer and More Sustainable Future
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
A Day of Tears: Report from the “sHell No!” Action in Portland
Tom Clifford
Guns of August: the Gulf War Revisited
Renee Lovelace
I Dream of Ghana
Colin Todhunter
GMOs: Where Does Science Begin and Lobbying End?
Ben Debney
Modern Newspeak Dictionary, pt. II
Christopher Brauchli
Guns Don’t Kill People, Immigrants Do and Other Congressional Words of Wisdom
S. Mubashir Noor
India’s UNSC Endgame
Ellen Taylor
The Voyage of the Golden Rule
Norman Ball
Ten Questions for Lee Drutman: Author of “The Business of America is Lobbying”
Franklin Lamb
Return to Ma’loula, Syria
Masturah Alatas
Six Critics in Search of an Author
Mark Hand
Cinéma Engagé: Filmmaker Chronicles Texas Fracking Wars
Mary Lou Singleton
Gender, Patriarchy, and All That Jazz
Patrick Hiller
The Icebreaker and #ShellNo: How Activists Determine the Course
Charles Larson
Tango Bends Its Gender: Carolina De Robertis’s “The Gods of Tango”