A clip from the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos featuring a journalist who boldly calls for a high rate of taxation on the rich has been making the rounds on social media.
The World Economic Forum is an international organisation built for global partnerships between public and private sectors in political and business fields. The organisation’s site says, “We believe that progress happens by bringing together people from all walks of life who have the drive and the influence to make positive change.” So the journalist in question, Rutger Bergman, had the perfect platform to voice his opinion on taxation.
Who is Rutger Bergman?
Bergman is a Dutch journalist and historian, who used his time on a panel discussion at the WEF to call for an effective taxation policy and criticise rich, elite people who would rather engage in philanthropy than pay higher taxes. His monologue went viral on Twitter with close to 50,000 retweets and over 95,000 favourites when NowThis posted a video of it.
What did Bergman say?
In conversation with Vox, Bregman says that his book published in 2017, Utopia for Realists, that discusses the need for a basic income, the problem with long working hours, and the widespread income disparity was his “ticket to Davos”. But, once he participated in the event, he became frustrated at the lack of dialogue on taxation.
As a panelist discussing “The Cost of Inequality,” he said, “I hear people talking the language of participation and justice and equality and transparency, but then, almost no one raises the real issue of tax avoidance, right? And of the rich just not paying their fair share.” He even added that he feels like he’s at a conference for firefighters but is not allowed to talk about water.
Referring to only one other panel that discussed tax avoidance that had a mere 15 participants, Bergman said, “Something needs to change here. Just stop talking about philanthropy, and start talking about taxes.”
How did people react?
While Bergman’s panelists and some young audience members agreed with him, former Yahoo CFO Ken Goldman disagreed and called the panel “one-sided”. Goldman mentioned the low unemployment rate in USA and asked for a discussion on how inequality can be tackled over time beyond taxes. To this, Executive Director of Oxfam International Winnie Byanyima said that increasing jobs was not enough of a solution because the quality of jobs and employees’ satisfaction mattered.
How is such a reform relevant to India
According to a survey on unemployment conducted by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), India’s 6.1% unemployment rate was at a 45-year high in 2017-18. While there is an issue with job creation in the country, we must also take into account the quality of life employees have in India.
Beyond this, we must also be cognisant of the stark levels of income disparity in the country. Business Today reported that in 2017, the richest 1% in India possessed 58% of the country’s total wealth. However, in 2018, this figure increased and the 1% now control 73% of the wealth while the poorest sections only benefited from a 1% increase in their wealth.
Oxfam India CEO Nisha Agrawal said, “”The billionaire boom is not a sign of a thriving economy but a symptom of a failing economic system. Those working hard, growing food for the country, building infrastructure, working in factories are struggling to fund their child’s education, buy medicines for family members and manage two meals a day. The growing divide undermines democracy and promotes corruption and cronyism,” echoing Bergman’s thoughts on a widening gap between the rich and poor.
Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius.
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