Some taxing questions for Christine Lagarde
by Kamran Mofid on 04 Jun 2012 7 Comments

Given the current false attitudes and the fact that I am originally from the Middle East, I know well what it means and feels like to be at the receiving end of stereotypical comments. Thus, I felt I had to write this in defence of the Greek people, as well as the Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and others who currently are collectively under attack for being corrupt and tax dodgers and for bringing Europe to its knees. There are always good people and bad people in all nations, and thus, for me, stereotypical comments are deplorable.



So, dear Ms. Lagarde, recently you registered your utmost anger and frustration with the tax-dodgers in Greece. I say, good for you. Everybody should pay their taxes. Those who dodge are the scum of the earth.


Please allow me to remind you of the gist of your remarks from the interview you gave to the Guardian on Friday 25 May 2012. You blamed the Greeks collectively for causing their financial peril by dodging their tax bills. You stated that, “As far as Athens is concerned, I also think about all those people who are trying to escape tax all the time. All these people in Greece who are trying to escape tax”.


You then remarked that, you “had more sympathy for poor African children with little education than for jobless people complaining about austerity measures in Greece”.


Before I put my questions to you, I wish to note that, while no one would deny that tax-dodging in Greece is a very serious problem, nonetheless you failed to make a distinction between those who pay their dues, the less well-off wage earners; the working class, who stand in contradistinction to the super rich who find legal and illegal means, to avoid paying their taxes. Therefore, I am sure you will agree with me that any attempt – perceived or otherwise – to stereotype any people, civilisation, or culture, is deplorable and should be avoided at all costs.

There are also those who are angered by your failure to mention the catastrophic shortcomings of those economic fools in Europe as a whole who kept silent whilst the going was good and said nothing about the prevailing neo-liberalism, crony capitalism, debt-financed expansionism and more. They turned Greece into an ideal laboratory for the most brutal neo-liberal experiment, for which they, too, must be held accountable. To pretend otherwise and blame it all on the tax-dodgers alone is nothing but an affront to humanity and justice.

Now my “Taxing” questions to you are:

Are you also equally angered and frustrated with those who do not pay their taxes in Northern Europe and North America and elsewhere? Moreover, what do you think about some senior diplomats, mostly former government ministers, with unbelievable pensions and perks already under their belts, paying no income tax and more, when finding new jobs with UN agencies? Would you call them tax-dodgers too? Will you blame them too? Will you name and shame them too?


I was shocked and horrified to learn that the director of the IMF pays no tax what so ever on his or her salary and expenses. Is this true? If so, is this fair? For not paying their taxes they may hide themselves behind article 34 of the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations of 1961, which declares: “A diplomatic agent shall be exempt from all dues and taxes, personal or real, national, regional or municipal.”

The said article may make them a “legal” tax-dodger, but will this make the “dodging” morally, ethically and spiritually right or acceptable?


It is said that the current director of the IMF is paid a salary of $467,940 USD, with automatic increases every year according to inflation. On top of that the director receives an allowance of $83,760 USD, payable without “justification” plus additional expenses for entertainment.


Now, Ms. Lagarde, would you volunteer to set an example and ask the director of the IMF to make her salary and expenses taxable? Then, she may wish to send the generated tax to the children in Africa that she is so worried about?


The world desperately needs value-led, moral and spiritual leadership. You can set an example for that kind of leadership. How wonderful that might be: putting your example where your mouth is.



Excerpts from the article that enraged Kamran Mofid:


As Greece’s exit from the euro appeared imminent, the IMF chief spoke about her demands for radical economic reforms from countries in trouble…


On measures for Greece which will deny women access to a midwife, patients life-saving drugs, and care for the elderly:

-        “I think more of the little kids from a school in a little village in Niger who get teaching two hours a day, sharing one chair for three of them, and who are very keen to get an education. I have them in my mind all the time. Because I think they need even more help than the people in Athens.” … “Do you know what? As far as Athens is concerned, I also think about all those people who are trying to escape tax all the time. All these people in Greece who are trying to escape tax.”


What about those struggling to survive without jobs or public services”

-        “I think of them equally. And I think they should also help themselves collectively.” How? “By all paying their tax. Yeah.”


What about their children, who can't conceivably be held responsible?

-        “Well, hey, parents are responsible, right? So parents have to pay their tax.”


On squaring austerity with growth:

-        “What we say is it cannot be either or; it's not either austerity or growth, that's just a false debate. Nobody could argue against growth. And no one could argue against having to repay your debts. The question and the difficulty is how do you reconcile the two, and in which order do you take them? I would argue that you do it on a country by country case; it's not going to be a one size fits all.”


On World news


Dr Kamran Mofid is founder, Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative (GCGI); he blogs at 

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