• Addresses through video link panel on financial accountability, transparency on the sidelines of UN General Assembly
• Asks rich states for steps to return ‘stolen assets’ of developing nations
• Vows to cut poverty from 24.3pc to 19pc by 2023

UNITED NATIONS: Prime Minister Imran Khan presented a nine-point strategy before the international community on Thursday to stop the flight of “corruption dollars” from poor to rich countries, which he said was bleeding developing economies.

“One trillion dollars is taken out each year by these white-collar criminals. Twenty to forty billion dollars is in the form of bribes received by the corrupt,” he said.

“Seven trillion dollars in stolen assets is parked in safe tax haven destinations. Five to six hundred billion dollars is lost each year in tax avoidance by multinational companies.”

The prime minister presented these statistics before a high-level panel on Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity (FACTI), which met in New York on Thursday on the sidelines of the 75th UN General Assembly.

The interim report of the FACTI’s high-level panel on international financial accountability was also presented at the meeting. The event provided a forum to discuss priority actions on identified challenges to the United Nations’ 2030 agenda for sustainable development.

The meeting also discussed the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on developing economies, which has further underlined the need to end financial corruption.

The prime minister urged rich nations to take immediate steps to return the “stolen assets” of developing nations. He appreciated the initiative by Nigeria and Norway to establish the Panel on International Financial Accountability.

Noting that each year, billions of dollars illicitly flew out of developing countries, Mr Khan said his government came to power with a robust public mandate to get rid of corruption.

“We have taken several initiatives domestically. What is needed is strengthening international cooperation to bring perpetrators of financial crime to justice,” he said. “This bleeding of the poorer countries must stop. International community must adopt decisive actions.”

He then presented a nine-points strategy which, he said, would help end corruption: One, the stolen assets of developing countries, including the proceeds of corruption, bribery, and other crimes must be returned immediately.

Two, the authorities in haven destinations must impose criminal and financial penalties on their financial institutions which receive and utilise such money or assets.

Three, the enablers of corruption and bribery — such as accountants, lawyers and other intermediaries — must be closely regulated, monitored and held accountable.

Four, the “beneficial ownership” of foreign companies must be revealed immediately upon inquiry by interested and affected governments.

Five, multinational corporations must not be allowed to resort to “profit-shifting” to low tax jurisdictions to avoid taxation. A global minimum corporate tax could prevent this practice.

Six, revenues from digital transactions should be taxed where the revenues are generated, not elsewhere.

Seven, unequal investment treaties should be discarded or revised and a fair system for adjudication of investment disputes set up.

Eight, all official and non-official bodies set up to control and monitor illicit financial flows must include all interested countries.

Nine, the UN should set up a mechanism to coordinate and supervise the work of various official and non-official bodies dealing with illicit financial flows to ensure coherence, consistency and equity in their work.

“The need of developing countries to protect and preserve their resources has become even more vital because of the recession triggered by Covid-19 pandemic,” the prime minister said.

He warned that unless these steps were taken, the difference between the rich and poor will keep growing.

“The developing countries will get impoverished and what we see of the current migration crisis, this will be dwarfed by what will happen in the future, if this gulf keeps growing.”

The prime minister also spoke through video-link at another high-level event “Poverty At A Crossroad: Using Leadership and the Multidimensional Poverty Index to Build Back Better”, which was held on the sidelines of the UNGA session in New York, adds APP.

PM Khan said as around one billion people worldwide survived in poverty, lacking the income and capabilities to live with dignity, his government was committed to reducing poverty from 24.3 per cent to 19pc by 2023.

“My aim is to create an Islamic welfare state based on the principles of Riasat-e-Madina through inclusive equitable growth and economic modernisation, he said.

The prime minister said over the past 30 years, poverty had visibly declined. However, the Covid-19 pandemic had triggered the worst global recession in over a century. One hundred million people are likely to be pushed back into extreme poverty. A decade’s development could be reversed, he added.

“The Covid virus does not discriminate; but it is the poor and vulnerable who have suffered the most from it,” he remarked.

Mr Khan said that in Pakistan they had been able to control the virus through the strategy of smart lockdowns.

“My government has done its utmost to shield the poor and the vulnerable. Despite our financial difficulties, we implemented a $1.25 billion package to deliver emergency cash to over 15 million families, covering over a 100 million people,” he added.

The premier said his government was implementing a multi-sectoral poverty alleviation programme `Ehsaas. It was the largest poverty eradication programme in Pakistan’s history, he added.

Published in Dawn, September 25th, 2020