Thu | Jan 20, 2022

UN chief urges wealth tax of those who profited during COVID

Published:Monday | April 12, 2021 | 4:48 PM
A nurse injects a patient with a dose of AstraZeneca vaccine in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Friday, March 19, 2021. (AP Photo/ Diomande Ble Blonde)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Secretary-General Antonio Guterres declared Monday that the world’s failure to unite on tackling COVID-19 created wide inequalities, and he called for urgent action including a wealth tax to help finance the global recovery from the coronavirus.

The UN chief said the latest reports indicate that “there has been a $5 trillion surge in the wealth of the world’s richest in the past year” of the pandemic.

He urged governments “to consider a solidarity or wealth tax on those who have profited during the pandemic, to reduce extreme inequalities.”

Guterres’ call followed an appeal in October by UN World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley to the more than 2,000 billionaires in the world, with a combined net worth of $8 trillion, to open their bank accounts.

He warned in November that 2021 would be worse than 2020, and without billions of dollars “we are going to have famines of biblical proportions in 2021.”

Guterres told the UN Economic and Social Council’s Forum on Financing for Development that since the pandemic began “no element of our multilateral response has gone as it should.”

He pointed to more than 3 million deaths, increasing coronavirus infections, the worst recession in 90 years, some 120 million people falling back into extreme poverty, and the equivalent of 255 million full-time jobs lost.

“Advancing an equitable global response and recovery from the pandemic is putting multilateralism to the test,” he said. “So far, it is a test we have failed.”

“The vaccination effort is just one example,” Guterres said, stressing that just 10 countries account for around 75% of global vaccinations and many countries haven’t even started vaccinating their health care workers and most vulnerable citizens.

“Some estimates put the global cost of unequal access and vaccine hoarding at more than $9 trillion,” he said.

The lack of global solidarity also means that while some countries have mobilised trillions of dollars for COVID-19 relief for their citizens, “many developing countries face insurmountable debt burdens” and face an impossible choice of servicing debt or saving lives," the secretary-general said.

Guterres called for urgent action to make vaccines available to everyone, everywhere; to not only help developing countries but middle-income countries in distress.

He said debt payments should be suspended beyond the end of the year into 2022 and the international community needs to tackle the roots of the global debt crisis.

He said there also must be investment “in education, decent and green jobs, social protection and health systems.”

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