I’m sure this has been on the minds of everyone in the community in one form or another throughout 2017, and as the year comes to an end, the publication of The Paradise Papers, another Panama Papers-style data leak regarding the prevalence of offshore tax havens, has got me thinking. I find myself wondering just how I can function within an increasingly global community while many of my friends are scrambling for jobs, and stores are being closed. Meanwhile, on the global stage, all efforts point to cutting cost and maximizing profit, which in many cases amounts to outsourcing, downsizing, and can often lead to the kind of corruption underlined in The Paradise and Panama Papers.
It’s overwhelming, to say the least. Where do I fit in, in relation to global-scale corruption and tax evasion? What can I do in the face of what can seem like an inevitable tide of shady backdoor deals between foreign nationals financed through shell corporations? Do these revelations even have an impact on us?
The first thing we can do, I suppose, is acknowledge that there is a thriving market for offshore tax havens, which in turn points to the existence of an equally pervasive corporate mindset that is globally corrupt. This corruption isn’t local. We’re not talking about a shady businessman skimming 10 per cent off the top, and sneaking out the back door after-hours. We’re talking about multi-million, even billion-dollar companies hiding millions of dollars of profits, loans, acquisitions, and debt. Tax-payers (“regular people”) are left with cleanup duty when things go south, and economies take a hit.
Despite some public outrage (and let’s face it, the outrage could be considerably more committed), it’s not far-fetched to assume that we’ll be hearing about this kind of corruption well into the next decade. It’s unreasonable to expect us all to be sufficiently outraged for corporations to notice, and even if they did, would they care enough to alter their behaviour?
I get it, people are tired. You’re tired. There are, after all, only so many things we can be angry about every week. Having understood the pervasiveness of tax havens and the doors they open in terms of illegal laundering options (it was reported by the ICIJ — the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists — that sanctioned Syria was able to purchase weapons from G20 powers through offshore shell companies just last year), what can you do?
Start locally. Nobody’s saying you have money to throw around, but when it comes to whom you support, and where your money goes, shop local. That money is oftentimes going to families that are living essentially hand-to-mouth. Buy locally-sourced products, evade big corporate purchases when you can find independent alternatives. If you can hand $20 over, and be sure that you’re looking at the end-user of that $20, then you’re taking a step forward. If your money is going into your own community, then you’re taking a step forward. Yes, shopping at DIYs might be more expensive, but that’s because these people have to make the money to live, on top of competing with Walmart.
Corruption sucks, but corruption is alive and thriving in the Western world as much as anywhere else. Want to change it? Take baby steps, and the rest will fall in line.