By Himanshi Matta, Media Coordinator, Oxfam India
Oxfam has received a range of reactions on its new film, 'The Heist No One Is Talking About'. "It is a shocking film!'', ''It is Haunting!'', ''It sends chills down your spine!'', ''It is very disturbing to see the masked men pulling the plug on patients!"
So is the daunting reality. Children are dying waiting for medical help, ordinary people are being pushed into poverty due to health expenditure and mothers are losing their lives giving birth to their babies.
The film shows what we all are ignoring; Inequality.
The world is facing an inequality crisis, with eight men owning the same wealth as the bottom 3.6 billion people. In India, the richest 1 per cent own more than half of the country's wealth. This gap is growing, as the multinationals and the super-rich of the world are making millions by dodging taxes and forcing the world's poorest to pay their share.
Every year, developing countries lose $100 billion due to tax avoidance by companies – vital funds that are needed to buy medicines, pay nurses and run hospitals.
The film made for Oxfam by Don't Panic depicts this tax robbery. The masked men are seen switching off ventilators, unplugging life support machines and pulling out tubes, before robbing vital medical equipment in an ambulance.
They symbolise the tax dodgers who are stealing medicines from the pockets of the poorest, depriving poor countries of billions that could be invested in healthcare. The latest Paradise Paper report reveals that – despite successive leaks exposing tax dodgers – not enough change has happened, the super-rich continue to minimise their tax bills. The leak is reminder that those who have the power to stop this heist are not doing enough. We are far from ending tax havens and bringing black money home.
World over, leaders and governments have failed its citizens by making feeble attempts to stop tax cheats. The global tax laws are full of loopholes, which multinationals and the super-rich are able to use to artificially minimise their tax bills.
India needs to do much more in this regard. Globally India has the highest deaths of women during childbirth and highest number of under-five child deaths. Our spending on public health is abysmal and our health system is a state of crisis.
However, there is evidence to show that when poor countries like India collect more tax revenue - in particular from companies and income tax - they spend more on healthcare, leading to healthier populations.
If corporate tax dodging is checked, India can generate an additional amount of INR 2,629 billion annually, which is equivalent to 2.34 percent of GDP. At present, India spends 1.15 per cent of its GDP on health. An additional amount of 1.35 percent of the GDP spent on health will help achieve free healthcare for all.
Political leaders must put the interests of the public over corporates and the super-rich. They must work together to shut down tax havens by establishing a global tax haven blacklist, end tax secrecy so that its clear if corporations and the super-rich pay their fair share of tax, and kick-start a new round of tax reforms that rebuild the tax system in the interests of the majority and not the few.
This is about more than just basic fairness; it is about the rights of millions. We call on everyone to demand the government to lead the way in taking action against inequality, and ensuring an equal world for all.