Panama Papers aftermath calls for political proactivity


By Michelle Xu, Opinion Editor

Move over Edward Snowden, a new set of leaked documents is making history and it’s yuge. These so-called Panama Papers are featuring in almost every news source right now, from the New York Times front page to your Facebook What’s Trending box. Involving 11.5 million documents and over 214,000 companies and high profile individuals, its scope has a conspiratorial feeling that makes the Illuminati seem plausible.

The crime that all 214,000 accused have committed? Tax evasion at the lighter end of the scale, and massive movey laundering and government corruption at the worst. With the help of Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian law firm and corporate service provider where these leaked documents originated from, global companies and leaders have been able funnel money by means of offshore or shell company fronts.

So, while his country was suffering from recession the past few years, Putin discretely rewarded indeterminably large sums of money to his inner circle through offshore deals. After Ukranian president Petro Poroshenko promised in his election that he’d clean up government corruption, he set up a secret offshore company three months after being elected. While his many parts of his country suffered in poverty, the family of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif raised seven million pounds offshore. Other notable accused officials have included Icelandian Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, FIFA president Gianni Infantino and Jackie Chan.

How did the web of corruption get so large though? Even though loopholes seem to be plenty abound in tax laws, the scope of this scandal is ridiculous. How has money laundering become so acceptable?

Well, part of it is that it’s easy to hide. Beyond the fact that powerful political leaders have many more resources to keep secrets with, the media and the people just seem not to care as much. Compared to the horrible but admittedly eye-catching incidents caused by ISIS and the sometimes ridiculous proceedings of US politics, anything to do with taxes seems dull. Face it: corruption is old and Donald Trump’s latest tweet is new.

We, the citizens, media, governments of the world, simply didn’t pay enough attention and so things slid. We wouldn’t even know about any of the current proceedings if a leak hadn’t come to us first. We tend to take a retroactive method to addressing problems — addressing issues only when they’ve blown up in our face.

This is a mentality we need to change. Not just about goverment corruption, but many other issues. Global warming, for one, is treated commonly as a dead horse topic that’s been beaten too many times for the media to cover it excitingly, but the issue needs to be addressed proactively; I’d rather not see the day that the timer ticks out on our Earth and we can’t fix it anymore. Similarly, our government deals with our economy only after speculative bubbles burst and financial crises erupt — can’t we take a little initiative?

This is especially important for our generation, who will have to inherit the issues that are currently being ignored. It’s one of the reasons why political involvement and awareness is so important for even us teens. For most of these issues, if we don’t act now, we’ll have to act later. We might as well start tackling and raising awareness on those oft ignored long-term issues now, so we don’t have to deal with our own Papers or -Gate scandals in our future.

Michelle Xu can be reached at [email protected]