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The photo on top is my spouse Muriel on the left and my sister Taeko on the right taken in South Africa. Picture on the right is me, Tad Mitsui and my cat, George.
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THE PANAMA PAPERS
Re: the story about illicit money hiding their identities in dummy companies and offshore accounts. They even used the names of charities. (Lethbridge Herald, April 11, page A5) It sounds familiar to me as I have done both. In my case, it was in Switzerland. The Swiss banking system has been known for anonymous numbered accounts. The question is: Why is it necessary for some people to feel they have to do such athing?
In my case, we used those mechanisms for altruistic reasons with the blessing of donor governments. I worked in Switzerland for six years in an organization that gave financial support to South African student and church organizations that were fighting the racist policy. We used Swiss bank accounts. It was a convenient way to erase the identity of their funds because those Western governments were not ready to sever the diplomatic ties with the Republic of South Africa.
I was also involved in a scheme to set up a dummy company in Liechtenstein. It became necessary to take such a measure because South African government was making it increasingly difficult for overseas entities to transfer funds to the organizations they considered subversive, such as the National Union of South African Students and the South African Council of Churches. It wasn’t meant to be tax evasion. The experience gave me some ideas as to how to hide and move money. I don’t feel guilty about what we did. For it is quite amazing how much has been achieved with such a small amount. When a majority of people know who are on their side with a token donation from overseas, the size of money is almost irrelevant,.
However, some thing is not quite right when people feel their money has to be hidden. It’s got to be an utopian world if finance has to be completely transparent. Sometimes money has to be hidden, because greed makes wealth a reason for guilt not of happiness. A Japanese saying has it: “Greedy person doesn’t want to stick out even his tongue.” In my own experience, we had to do it because an unjust system didn’t tolerate good money. It is reprehensible either way. I hope that someday nobody feel they have to hide what they legitimately earned, and that people will openly receive it for what they do, with pride.
“Take care of homeless veterans rather than Syrian refugees”, you say. It sounds like an excuse for inaction to me. Of course we have to spend more tax money to help those men and women who sacrificed a lot for us. So I ask you, “Name one veteran you helped to get on welfare. At least, did you write to your M.P. about this?” Then I will hear you.
“Charity begins at home.” Of course it has to. More than 50% of public finance is spent on health care in Canada, and Social Assistance on top of it. Many of us rightly demand more. That’s why Canada is on the list of top five happiest countries in the world. I love Canada.
Let’s do a reality check. How much do we spend to help people overseas? In 1968, Prime Minister Lester Pearson aimed at 1% of the GDP. Never achieved. Afterward, for a few decades, 0.7% was the goal. Even that turned out to be too idealistic. We now spend less than 5%. That’s 5 cents of a dollar.