Today I am a mother of too many who works on a laptop in the dining room and takes the dog for walks in the rain. But once upon a time, in a land far away I went on an adventure. I lived in Africa and, together with my husband, drove from Kenya to Malawi. We stayed overnight at the foot of Kilimanjaro and stopped on the highway to allow a herd of elephants to pass. The sun rose over the Savannah as we put the miles behind us. And as the sun reached its peak we stopped again in a forest of baobab trees – to bribe a policeman.
And so the fairy tale ends with corruption. With a man who supplemented his income by stopping travellers and telling them they were travelling too fast and saying it could all go away for a ‘cup of tea.’ Expensive tea.
It’s what we think corruption looks like. That or dodgy men in a pub doing a deal in whispers. Or maybe its politicians, we’re trained now to think they’re up to something, especially ones from certain countries.
But corruption isn’t always so obvious. In fact, it surrounds us without us ever knowing it. It’s in the shops and banks that we use; it’s in the companies that are ‘investing’ in the developing world, it’s in our cupboard and wardrobes. It’s in tax havens and avoidance schemes. We’ve read about it, briefly boycotted Amazon (until we desperately need that thing, by tomorrow) and we’ve felt let down by Gary Barlow.
We know, because the Bible says it’s true, that darkness cannot overcome light
But it’s much bigger than Gary Barlow. In 2008, developing countries lost USD160 billion
through corporate tax dodging. Put into context, that is significantly more than the USD120 billion in aid those countries received in the same year. It doesn’t take an accountant to work out that that doesn’t add up.
We’re talking about companies who move into, say, Zambia and set up a copper mine. But they register the company in the Cayman Islands or Switzerland or somewhere else they don’t have to pay any tax. So although they make billions of dollars in Zambia, and some people will get employment (but they often ship skilled workers in), the millions of dollars that the Zambian government should receive in corporation tax will never arrive.
It means this is about more than money. It’s about lives. If the Zambian government doesn’t receive taxes it can’t pay teachers, employ midwives or supply vaccinations to its children. It is predicted that illegal tax evasion will have been responsible for the death of 5.6 million children between 2000 and 2015. With 18 months of that time frame left, most of those children are already dead.
These are horrifying statistics, but there is hope in the horror. You see the light, so nearly
extinguished by the darkness, is that these countries that seem so hopeless, so desperate, actually have the ability to provide for themselves. It turns out there is good news in the bad news. We just need to change the way the world economy is run.
And with that, the darkness comes back – it seems an impossible task. But we know, because the Bible says it’s true, that darkness cannot overcome light. Micah Challenge has brought together a coalition of organisations to shine a light on a global taxation system that allows the world’s richest people to get richer at the expense of the most of the needy.
They are partnering to call on the world’s leaders to combat bribery and tax avoidance. And they’re calling upon you and me to help. The EXPOSED campaign plans to take a million signatures, from all around the world, to the G20 when it meets in Brisbane this November to expose and call an end to the scandal of corruption.
We might be afraid of the dark, but if, instead of cowering in the shadows we choose to switch on the light, the darkness will flee.
You can shine a light by signing the petition at www.exposedcampaign.com
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