May 04, 2015 21:13 UTC

As It Is

Tax Havens; Corruption in Thailand

Multimedia

Play or download an MP3 of this story

Hello, and welcome once again to “As It Is,” our daily show for people learning everyday American English.
 
I’m Christopher Cruise in Washington.
 
Today on the program, we report on demands by some that countries end tax policies that permit companies to move their profits to countries with lower taxes.
 
“I think a lot of people both here in the UK and around the world are fed up with tax dodging. They’re fed up with a system where the rich and powerful play by a different set of rules to everybody else.”
 
Then, we go back to 1948, and one of the first confrontations of the Cold War, between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Thais Protest Political Corruption
 
But first, we look at economic and political corruption in Thailand.
 
Many Thais joined protests in Bangkok last year. They urged Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to deal with growing corruption in the country.  
 
Mario Ritter reports a businessman noted the rising cost of doing business, including giving bribes to Thai officials.
 
How much economic activity is lost to corruption can be difficult to estimate. The University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce studied the issue. The university found that over two percent of national production -- or about 11 billion dollars -- will likely be lost to corruption this year. It found that many business people who were questioned said they are paying more to Thai officials and politicians to win government contracts.                                                          
 
Political economist Pasuk Pongpaichit says there is evidence officials are making progress in controlling lower level corruption. But, she says, the slowing world economy means growing competition for profitable deals with the government.
 
“The globalization, the international pressure for Thailand to become more transparent, is being felt and various government departments are responding to it. It doesn’t mean that things are going to happen very quickly.”
 
Observers say the Thai government is already being watched for spending more than 11 billion dollars on water management after the floods two years ago. Add that to 67 billion dollars for railroad and other building projects.                                                      
Bandid Nijathaworn is a former central bank official and president of the Thai Institute of Directors. He says corruption in Thailand appears to be more of a problem now than 10 years ago.
 
“You see corruption appearing as headlines in many countries. So it has become a global issue both in national organization and individual country’s governments trying to tackle it.”
 
Observers say the fight against corruption needs to go beyond law enforcement, and include non-government and private industry groups.

Protesting "Tax Havens"
 
Earlier this year, demonstrators protested outside the British Treasury to call on the world’s richest countries to end so-called tax havens. These tax haven policies allow companies to move their profits to countries with lower taxes. An investigation found that this practice costs Africa alone $38 billion a year in lost taxes. Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan led the investigation.
 
Once again, Mario Ritter.
 
The demonstrators at the Treasury called on Chancellor George Osborne to discuss the practice with finance ministers from other wealthy countries.
 
Melanie Ward is a spokeswoman for the “Enough For Everyone If” campaign.
 
“I think a lot of people both here in the UK and around the world are fed up with tax dodging. They’re fed up with a system where the rich and powerful play by a different set of rules to everybody else.”
 
Ronen Palan is a professor at City University London. Professor Palan says tax havens and low-tax countries like Ireland are popular because companies and wealthy individuals can save money.
 
“These countries offer very low taxation, either to [corporations] or to individuals. And, specifically, they target non-residents.”
 
But critics of tax havens say big companies transfer profits out of the very countries on which they and their wealth depend.
 
“Africa exported about $1 trillion of capital in the last 30 years, whereas inward investment in terms of FDI [foreign direct investment] or aid is about $300 billion. So Africa is losing capital. Africa, or sub-Saharan Africa, is actually funding development elsewhere.” 
 
The charity ActionAid says the brewing company SABMiller uses a complex system of tax havens. It says this system moves profits out of the company’s operations in developing countries like Ghana.
 
SABMiller denies any tax abuses. It says in 2010 it paid about $250 million in corporate taxes in India and sub-Saharan Africa.
 
ActionAid also accuses Associated British Foods of using its subsidiary companies to reduce its taxes in Zambia by millions of dollars. Associated British Foods says the accusations are “incomplete at best and factually wrong in places.”
 
Mark Littlewood is director-general of the Institute for Economic Affairs in London. He argues that tax havens help the global economy by increasing investment.
 
“This idea that sort of Western companies that are tax efficient are exploiting these places rather than bringing inward investment to them, I think, is a rather neo-imperialist old-style way of looking at the world. We want more of that inward investment -- that creates jobs and creates growth in some of the poorest countries in the world.”

The Berlin Blockade
 
Finally, 65 years ago this week, Soviet occupation forces in East Germany established a land and water blockade around West Berlin. Only air traffic was permitted.
 
The Berlin blockade was seen as the final step by the Soviet Union in an effort to force the United States, France and England to make economic concessions concerning East Berlin. Instead, on June 26th, the United States Air Force began to fly supplies into West Berlin's Tempelhof airfield.
 
Using cargo aircraft as an aerial bridge, the United States flew eighty tons of food, medical supplies and coal to the isolated city every day.  In mid-July, larger cargo aircraft began flying in 1,500 tons of supplies on a daily basis.
 
Altogether, American, French and British aircraft -- flying in all kinds of weather -- delivered enough supplies to feed Berliners for the 321 days of the Berlin Blockade. 
 
The Soviet Union, realizing its plan had failed, lifted the Berlin blockade on May 12th, 1949.
 
And that’s “As It Is” for today. We hope you enjoyed the program, and we hope it helped you learn everyday American English.
 
Our thanks to VOA Learning English Economics Correspondent Mario Ritter for his reports today.
 
From all of us at VOA, thanks for listening.
 
I’m Christopher Cruise, and that’s “As It Is” on The Voice of America.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Learn with The News

  • Video Hot Computers Could Be Used to Heat Homes

    When computer servers operate a complex program, they can get very hot. Cooling the servers can be costly. So researchers asked what would happen if the heat created by the servers could be captured and used? A Dutch company is looking to do just that. More

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) meets with Eric Chu, head of Taiwan's Nationalist Party.

    Audio Taiwan, China Look to Expand Ties Before Elections

    Also in the news, over 7,200 people are confirmed dead in Nepal; Australian police defend cooperation with Indonesia in the case of 2 drug traffickers; Baltimore mayor ends a nighttime curfew; Texas police kill 2 gunmen at an event held by a group called the American Freedom Defense Initiative. More

  • Body Cameras

    Video Body Cameras Seen as Good and Bad for US Police Officers

    The Houston Police Department has experimented with body cameras for the past two years. The department deploys about 100 of the cameras on its officers each day. There are many questions about the cost of such camera systems and the limits on what the technology can do. And who controls the images? More

  • Audio Congress Debates US Export-Import Bank

    A policy dispute is taking shape in Washington over a government agency that helps exporters. On one side is the American business community. On the other side are conservative Republican Party lawmakers. Unless Congress acts, the Export-Import Bank could stop adding new clients. More

  • Audio African Powers Argue After Attacks on Immigrants in S. Africa

    Nigeria and South Africa are no strangers to diplomatic disputes. Recently, the Nigerian government told its top diplomats in the South African capital to return home after a series of attacks on foreigners in South Africa. The South African government has sharply criticized the Nigerian action. More

Featured Stories

  • Audio 3-D Printed Device Helps Children with Rare Breathing Disorder

    University of Michigan researchers have develop what they are calling a 4-D medical device to help children with a rare condition. The device is designed for very young children and changes as their bodies grow. More

  • World Trade Center Reopening

    Audio The 25 Most Popular Cities to Visit in America

    Big cities and small historic towns top the list of most popular places to visit in America, according to the travel site TripAdvisor. Millions of users voted New York City, Chicago, and Charleston, South Carolina as the top three cities to visit in the U.S. Here's a look at all 25 cities! More

  • Video S.O.S. – In Other Words, Help!

    Language, as we know, is always changing. New words are often created, officially and unofficially, without anyone knowing about them. Read on to learn a word that many Americans do not know. Here is a clue: S.O.S. is one. More

  • Everyday Grammar - Double Negatives

    Audio Everyday Grammar: Double Negatives - Can't Get None?

    In this week’s episode of Everyday Grammar, we’re going to talk about two common types of double negatives. A double negative is when you use two negative words in the same clause of a sentence. Sometimes two negatives make a statement positive; sometimes two negatives form a stronger negative. More

  • Kate Chopin

    Video Athenaise by Kate Chopin

    Our story today is called "Athenaise" by Kate Chopin. Women in the United States long wanted to be independent. This classic American Story tells about a young married woman in the Bayou of Louisiana who questions her role as a wife. Can she have her personal liberty and stay married to Mr. Cazeau? More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner blog
Confessions of an English Learner blog

 

 

 

Tell us About Our Programs