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Tax injustice in Guatemala


Isabel, 4, is recovering from acute malnutrition in specialist a clinic run by Christian Aid partner Bethania.

After 10 days in Guatemala, it is clear to me that the government here doesn’t have the resources they need to keep the inhabitants safe and well.

I meet children who are starving. I see communities whose belongings are washed away by storms because the rivers and their banks aren’t maintained.

We drive through rivers where bridges have collapsed and are not rebuilt. I talk to children who won’t be able to go to secondary school because they can’t afford to travel so far.

The Guatemalan government doesn’t really have much money to spend. It should have more money coming in from tax than it does.

Tax breaks for companies, tax dodging and secrecy laws mean that it’s hard to make the most of what they’ve got.

It’s also a tax regime that favours the rich. Most of the money comes from VAT, one of the easiest taxes to collect – and one that's hardest on the poor.

Even the farmer who cannot produce enough food to feed her family all year has to pay tax on the few products she has to buy: oil, salt, clothes.

To cut poverty, surely Guatemala needs to spend the money it does have wisely. It also needs to change its own national tax system.

But there’s no doubt that if we can help change tax standards and practices internationally, it will help governments like Guatemala's increase their income.

This year Guatemala is being hit worse than ever with storms and flooding. But even so the government warned it didn’t even have the budget to keep the National Disasters Committee open until the end of the year. These are the people who send out warnings ahead of time to communities and coordinate relief efforts.

After being in Guatemala I don’t need any more convincing of the need for a fairer global tax system, and the massive benefits it could have.

Take action!

Act now! Email our FTSE Four companies - Vodafone, Unilever, TUI Travel and hotel group IHG - and ask them to help trace the tax!

Guardian  Guatemala must change its tax regime to stop children dying 

Partner focus Guatemala: coffee, malnutrition and tax

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 About the author

Hannah Richards

Hannah Richards is Christian Aid's communications and information officer for Latin America and the Caribbean