SpaceX boss Elon Musk, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and other billionaires came into the crosshairs of Mexico’s progressive President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Tuesday as he pushed for a tax on the world’s richest people.
Addressing the UN Security Council in New York, Mr Lopez Obrador launched a “world plan for fraternity and well-being” — a global tax on the wealthy to flow directly to the poorest and neediest people on the planet.
He laid out plans for a 4 per cent income tax on the world’s 1,000 richest people, a similar levy on the world’s 1,000 biggest corporations and a 0.2 per cent tax on the world’s top 20 economies.
The World Bank or another financial institution would redistribute the estimated $1 billion in revenue directly to the world’s poorest, he said in an impassioned 20-minute speech against vulture capitalism, tax avoidance and corruption.
“The objective is to guarantee the right to a decent life for 750 million people who are eking out a living on less than $2 a day,” the Mexican populist said in New York.
“I’m certain that everybody, rich and poor, donors and beneficiaries, will have a quieter conscience and will live with greater moral strength.”
Mexico will in the coming days unveil the plan to the 193-nation UN General Assembly, including programmes for which pensioners, disabled children, struggling farmers and unemployed young adults will receive payouts, said Mr Lopez Obrador.
He spoke amid the fallout from a political scandal in which Mexico’s top anti-money laundering official, Santiago Nieto Castillo — an ally of Mr Lopez Obrador — resigned on Monday after a private plane carrying influential guests to his wedding in Guatemala was found to be carrying $35,000 in cash.
Rising levels of inequality and the hoarding of Covid-19 vaccines have become key issues on the global agenda and members of the G20 club of rich nations have taken steps to tackle corporate tax dodgers.
While many members of the 15-nation council spoke about inequality, tax evaders and helping the poor, no major power immediately endorsed Mr Lopez Obrador’s radical redistribution plan.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres instead proposed a “new social contract within all societies”, in which governments cut military spending and use the money to improve hospitals and create social “safety nets”.
“People in the richest countries are getting third doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, while only 5 per cent of Africans are fully vaccinated,” said Mr Guterres.
“Even before the pandemic, the world’s billionaires held more wealth than 60 per cent of the global population — and that gap has widened enormously.”