As Finance Ministers gather in Washington for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank Annual Meetings, developing nations are facing a global economy that is making it ever more difficult to meet the needs of their population. While injecting trillions in their own economies, rich countries failed to increase aid during the pandemic. Economic inequality and poverty in poor countries are further exacerbated by the IMF’s insistence on new austerity measures to reduce debts and budget deficits.,
“The debate has catastrophically shifted from how we deal with the economic fallout of COVID-19 to how we reduce debt through brutal public spending cuts, and pay freezes. With the help of IMF, the world is sleepwalking into measures that will increase inequality further. We need to wake up and learn the lessons; preventing huge increases in inequality is completely practical, and common sense. Inequality is a policy choice, governments must stop putting the richest first, and ordinary people last”, says Matthew Martin, Director of DFI.
Oxfam and DFI analysis shows that based on IMF data, three quarters of all countries globally are planning further cuts to expenditures over the next five years, totalling $7,8 trillion dollars.
In 2021, lower income countries spent 27.5 percent of their budgets in repaying their debts – twice the amount that they have spent on their education, four times that of health and nearly 12 times that of social protection.
“For every dollar spent on health, developing countries are paying four dollars in debt repayments to rich creditors. Comprehensive debt relief and higher taxes on the rich are essential to allow them to reduce inequality dramatically”, said Martin.
Despite historical precedent, nearly all countries failed to increase taxation on the richest or pursue windfall profits during the COVID crisis. After the 1918 flu epidemic, the 1930s depression, and World War Two, many rich countries increased taxes on the richest and introduced taxes on corporate windfall profits. They used this revenue to build education, health and social protection systems. Taxation of the wealthiest and windfall profits can generate trillions of dollars in tax revenue.
“Government leaders in Washington face a choice: build equal economies where everyone pays their fair share or continue to drive up the gap between the rich and the rest, causing huge, unnecessary suffering”, said Bucher.
Notes to editors
- The 2022 Commitment to Reducing Inequality (CRI) Index is the first detailed analysis looking at governments’ policies and actions to fight inequality during the first two years of the pandemic. It reviews the spending, tax and labour policies and actions of 161 governments during 2020–2022. Its findings show clear lessons for governments now grappling with inflation and the cost-of-living crisis.
- Co-authors Matthew Martin, Director at Development Finance International, and Max Lawson, Global Policy Lead Inequality for Oxfam, are available for interviews.
- Dozens of civil society organizations have joined in a campaign to #EndAusterity. In a report they warned for a post-pandemic austerity shock. Oxfam senior policy advisor Nabil Abdo is available for interviews.
- In the run up to the World Bank Annual Meeting, Oxfam launched its report Unaccountable Accounting on October 3, highlighting the inaccuracy of World bank’s accounting of climate finance. Poor countries may not be getting the crucial climate funding they need to survive. Oxfam’s climate change policy lead, Nafkote Dabi is available for interviews.
Ruud Huurman, in the Netherlands | mobile/ whatsapp +31 651 775 316 | [email protected]
Annie Theriault in Lima/Washington DC | +51 936 307 990 | [email protected]