GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - Speaker of the National Assembly Professor Peter Katjavivi has concurred with sentiments lamenting the fact illicit financial flows including tax evasion continue to deprive Africa of tax revenue needed to fund poverty reducing activities.
He said such illicit financial flows make it hard for developing countries to fund infrastructure projects such as schools, clinics, sanitation and to provide water.
Katjavivi made the observations when speaking in a discussion of the Standing Committee on United Nations Affairs that looked at the possibility of setting up a UN intergovernmental tax body that would help resolve outstanding issues of corporate tax evasion, at the 139th Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) General Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.
The United National Affair Committee is part of the various committees of the IPU that expounds on issues of interest and as such it recommends action.
The Namibian Speaker, who contested to be member of the UN committee with the support of the African geopolitical group and subsequently won the race, noted that curbing tax evasion and avoidance required strong international consensus and concerted efforts by both developed and developing countries.
“Tax evasion cannot be supported by any country. However, we need to draw the line between tax evasion and having a credible tax body established within the context of the United Nations, thereby ensuring participation on an equal footing,” he cautioned.
With reference to the blacklisting of several countries as tax havens by the European Union, including Namibia, Katjavivi noted that it was unjust, hence the urgent call for a tax body within the UN.
“What we object to is when a block of countries impose their will on other countries. This would suggest to us that it is becoming urgent that action is taken to address the issues relating to a tax body within the UN forum,” he said.
Katjavivi, who pledged to use his influence as a member of the IPU committee on United Nations Affairs to lobby for the creation of a unified tax policing body, further noted that such a body would eventually involve regional parliamentary bodies such as the Pan African and European Parliaments, thereby promoting inclusivity. “This body would involve the Pan African Parliament and the European Parliament. Having been elected as a member of the Standing Committee on United Nations Affairs, I will make it a point to address these issues from the perspective of developing countries and make sure that the developed world does not marginalize us in this respect,” he assured.
Katjavivi’s appeal follows that of several other developing countries over the years that have fallen on deaf ears. Developing countries feel a tax body would address many of the challenges associated with illicit financial flows such as tax evasion and avoidance, corruption and smuggling, among many others.
Namibia is among countries that have been blacklisted by the European Union as tax havens after it missed the deadline to comply with the latter’s convention last year. Namibia is also the only African country on the list and has repeatedly criticized the blacklisting as unfair. Other countries blacklisted include American Samoa, Guam, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago and the US Virgin Islands.
*George Sanzila works as a Chief Information Officer in the Division: Research, Information, Publications and Editorial Services at the National Assembly