Friday, 1 February 2019

The War & Refugees Tax Programme

The people who oppose helping refugees are often supportive of waging wars in foreign lands. Some of them simply don’t connect their jingoistic enthusiasm with it being a major cause of the rise in refugee numbers, which they see as an unacceptable drain on their country’s resources. If they want to have fewer refugees seeking to escape dire conflicts around the world, they should focus on cutting the fuelling of armed conflicts. But how can this be done when there is an unholy alliance between profiteers whose fortune depends on selling arms and rebuilding bombed out areas, and demagogues who celebrate destruction abroad and xenophobia at home against the refugees generated by such wanton destruction?

One way forward is to link attempts to make financial gains or political capital out of fuelling foreign conflicts with compensatory arrangements to help people who suffer as a result of such attempts. This can be developed through a three-part War & Refugees Tax Programme.

First, companies that sell weapons, surveillance equipment, instruments of torture, etc make money from enabling governments and other groups to intimidate, injure and kill people. The fear, instability, and violence thus produced are key factors that drive people away from their homes to find refuge abroad. A compensatory tax on every item sold by such companies would generate a fund that can be used to help refugees find safe passage and settle away from war zones. To the extent the tax reduces such sales from any given country, that country can more rightly demand others that remain the main arms exporters to take greater responsibility for helping refugees. Where sales continue as before or even increase, the tax would raise funds to deal with the impact of those sales on wars and refugees.

Secondly, the country’s defence budget must be spent on genuinely defensive activities protecting it from real threats of attack. Any expenditure on military action to destabilise hostile regimes abroad or support geopolitical manoeuvres that are not directly necessary for the safety of our own citizens should henceforth be met from a specific tax levy for ‘Non-Defensive Military Activities’. Such a tax will cover actions from bombing raids against targets that pose no real threat to the lives of one’s own citizens, to training and supplying foreign armies to help them achieve ‘helpful’ goals. It will also be expected to cover the costs of injury and displacement caused by such activities, including support for civilians who are turned into refugees.

Thirdly, corporations that support military action – especially those whose top executives lobby and/or donate to politicians – in return for a higher chance to secure lucrative government contracts for security and reconstruction work in targeted countries, are to be additionally taxed to raise sufficient funds to help develop suitable health and housing facilities for people who have been badly affected by the military action in question. Such funds will then be used to minimise the need for people to move abroad to find sanctuary.

The outlined War & Refugees Tax Programme will help to deal with the challenges posed by growing numbers of refugees, and most importantly, the causes behind the growing numbers. Some will no doubt argue that even if one country adopts it, others may not, and the problem will persist. Actually, any country adopting it will be financially more able to deal with the problem. Moreover, it will be in a stronger position to promote transnational cooperation to bring in a worldwide programme. Right-wing nationalists will of course denounce it as an unacceptable interference with their right to mistreat foreign people, but their fervent opposition is a sure sign there is a vital and urgent need for precisely such a programme.

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