Former Labour leader Gordon Brown cites a figure of $33 billion (£23 billion) urgently needed before the end of 2021 for vaccines, virus-testing, and PPE this year, and maybe the same in 2022.
That’s just 0.08% of the yearly total revenues of the G7 rich countries who met in Cornwall on 11-13 June.
“Instead”, as Brown says, “they offered up about $7 billion worth of vaccines”, some 870 million doses in place of the 11 billion needed this year.
They could donate more doses now through the Covax scheme, and help to build new facilities to produce and roll out vaccines, but they don’t.
US president Joe Biden’s talk of lifting patent protection on the vaccines has faded after opposition of governments like Britain’s. The straightforward call for Big Pharma to be requisitioned and turned to emergency vaccine production and roll-out never got on the table.
From 2001 yearly World Social Forums attempted a start at building international coordination and campaigns of labour and social movements. They have petered out, becoming more and more talking shops dominated by NGOs.
The International Trade Union Confederation, on paper, has about as wide a reach as the world trade union movement has ever had (200 million workers in 163 countries). But mostly it is an office in Brussels, distant from trade union action, not a global working-class alternative to the global top-capitalist coordination in the G7.
Solidarity does not have the means to change that short-term. We can and do support workers’ and democratic struggles across the world, as in the protests for Myanmar, Hong Kong, and Uyghur rights we have supported over the last months.
From such protests, strands of connection and common ideas can be developed, laying the basis for the global alternatives we need.
Before the G7 meeting proper, on 5 June G7 finance ministers had announced plans to press for a 15% global minimum corporate tax rate, and a proviso for countries where multinationals generate revenue to have taxing rights (within that 15%) “on at least 20% of profit exceeding a 10% margin for the largest and most profitable firms”.
Both the G7 governments, and capitalist firms not big enough to able to use the huge global tax dodges of Amazon, Google, etc., want to winkle a bit more revenue out of the tax havens.
The new plans fall way short of the scheme long advocated by tax reformers: require corporations to present global accounts, and tax them on global operations with the tax allocated country-by-country according to the scale of operations in each country (see here; and here.
15% is low, less than income tax for even low-paid workers. It’s only marginally more than the current rate for deliberately low-tax countries like Ireland. If the plans fly (and they may not: they have to go through long consultations first) then the effect may be to reduce tax rates towards 15% rather than to raise them. Depending on the line of business, and how they present their figures, corporations can pull in huge profits while still reporting a rate less than 10% of sales.
Probably the plans will do little more than the US tax authorities’ efforts to squeeze rich individuals. A few days after the G7 announcement, the US investigative website Pro Publica reported that between 2014 and 2018, 25 leading billionaires in the USA have manoeuvred to pay just 3.4% tax on their growth in wealth. The Biden administration responded by moves to track down and prosecute those who had “leaked” the information.
The socialist way out is to build solidarity and organisation towards taking the big concentrations of wealth into public hands, and running them under public ownership and democratic control.