Speakers express above statement in a discussion of a side event on tax justice issue in titled ‘Bangladesh Experiences: Promoting Tax Justice and Regional Collaboration and Networking’ under the theme of Market, Economy & Fiscal Justice on People’s SAARC, a huge civil society gathering of South Asia on the eve of upcoming SAARC Summit, organized by Campaign for Good Governance (SUPRO), a national platform of grassroots organizations in Bangladesh on 23 November 2014, at Women Development Training Association (WDTA) Sava Hall, Jawalakhel, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Representatives of CSOs, NGOs and activists from Nepal, Bangladesh and India were presented and shared their experiences and pay their solidarity on the issue discussed. Abdul Awal, Executive Board Member of SUPRO presented keynote paper where SM Harun Or Rashid Lal, National Council Member of SUPRO presided over the discussion meeting. Chairperson of SUPRO , Mustafizur Rahman Khan and three National Council Members of SUPRO (Shamima Akter, Monju Rani Pramanik and Lalit C Chakma) were present there. Sujita Shakya, a activist from Nepal, Member of CPN (UML), International Dept. & CCM and Sudha Reddy, Director of EFSA, from India were as Panelist.
The keynote paper stated that the current taxation system in Bangladesh is mostly dependent on indirect tax, which is unfair for poor and low-income group of population. The VAT is regressive to Poor; because VAT takes away a big portion of income of poor people than that of a well off segment of society. Low performance of direct income tax restricts redistribution of wealth and asset transfer to the poor. On the other hand the high performance of VAT has equal affects on all sphere of the society and it creates a burden on the poor and ultimately causes income inequality between poor and rich. The poor becomes poorer. VAT regressively impact on poor livelihood because they have to spend most of their income for essential goods than the rich.
In South Asian countries, about two-third of tax revenue born from indirect taxes, mostly from VAT, Bangladesh is not an exception. Despite bringing changes in taxation policy and systems during last years, the contribution of indirect tax in total revenue collection is very high. As a result the ultimate tax burden is upon poor, marginalized and excluded group, because out of 160 million people in Bangladesh only 1.2 million people are direct taxpayer though NBR estimated that 10 million people should be under income tax-net. The Tax gap in Bangladesh is highest rather than that of the Asian countries. In Bangladesh only 1% people pay the income tax while in India it is more than 3%.
SUPRO started campaigning on tax justice since 2010. As network of grassroots organizations it has focused on brining positive change of livelihood of the poor and marginalized people aiming to establish their rights by ensuring tax justice. Therefore the Taxation system should be poor friendly, not to be an extra burden on their life. The campaign aims to build broader alliance of citizen groups so that it can be the part of people’s movement. The campaign strategy initiated actions on three corresponding process of knowledge building, capacity building of grassroots campaign and engagement with National Board of Revenue of Government with a series of campaigns for knowledge building, grassroots mobilization, research, advocacy, networking and alliance building national, regional and global level.
Situation in Bangladesh and other South Asian countries are more or less same in nature regarding tax justice issues. The comparison of tax as percentage of revenue in south Asian countries gives us clear indication that south Asian countries have been losing huge amount of money as revenue income every year, where rich and wealthy people and corporate are getting advantages, increasing burden to the poor and growing inequality between rich and poor. Civil society in South Asia has great concern about the MNCs who are engaged in illegal capital flight, which has been clearly watched by research organizations and CSOs. We need to raise voice against tax avoidance and tax evasion of Multinational companies in South Asian countries.
Tax Justice campaigners in South Asia needs to share experiences of tax justice campaign in different countries of the region in order to create a broader alliance in south Asian perspective, so that south Asian civil society organizations can work together to raise collective voices in the regional structure like SAARC and vibrant citizens processes and social movement to see a region free poverty and INEQUALTY.
Sujita Shakya, in her speech, urged on fighting against the tax evasion and avoidance in all South Asian countries especially by MNCs and foreign investors to reduce poverty and inequality. She also focused on fair and just tax system. She told that Bangladesh is ahead to campaigning on the issue than that of Nepal. She also urged to work together in SA for greater interest and for the betterment of livelihood of the people of this region.
Sudha Reddy told that Bangladesh is doing fantastic rather than India but it needs to be sustained. She also emphasized on political unwillingness towards a pro-poor policy and system. She also urged on mutual responsibility both from duty bearer and from citizen too for a good governance system.
In open discussion, Proshanti Padowal, a student from Kathmandu University, raised an issue lack of proper monitoring of education budget spent is happened which should not to be.
Bhuwangiri, a activist from Nepal, spoke about reduction of VAT in essential goods. He thought VAT should reduced at Zero level.
Shishir Lamichhane, a law student of Trivuban University and free-lancer human rights worker, in his opinion he expect the tax system should be progressive and poor friendly.
In the open discussion Jobaida Parvin, Advocate from Bangladesh, Kamal Hossain, Environment Activist from Bangladesh gave their opinion on the issue discussed.
Mustafizur Rahman, focused on Bangladesh experiences specially focused on SUPRO campaign on Tax Justice.
In the concluding speech SM Harun Or Rashid Lal thanks all the participants attended the event from different country of South Asia.