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Guatemala: coffee, malnutrition and tax

Guatemala ranks fifth highest country in the world for both the percentage of malnourished children it has, and the amount of coffee it sells.

These two facts might seem totally unrelated but they’re not. Chronic malnourishment is when the sustained and continuous lack of food leaves babies and children physically and mentally stunted. The effects are irreversible.

This shouldn’t happen anywhere; but in a country with economic means like Guatemala it is an utter scandal.

Christian Aid partner IECFI believe that better - and fairer – taxation along with cutting down on tax dodging could be a big part of the solution.

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Highlighting the problem

IECFI produce powerful, well researched reports which help to make people aware of the problem.

The reports are detailed enough to convince politicians, but clear enough in language for non-experts to read.

‘It can’t be that we ask the workers to pay taxes, while the biggest businessmen aren’t paying a penny. Is change possible? Totally.’
Jonathan Menkos, ICEFI



A report produced together with another Christian Aid Partner CESR 'Rights or Privileges', highlights how changing the way tax is collected in Guatemala could increase the amount of money available to spend on social programmes – including education.

Government spending on education is among the lowest in the region. And what money the government does spend is focused on primary education, leaving many children with no more than a basic level of education.


Jaqueline Perez Gonzalez, 12, her parents cannot afford to send her to secondary school.

Jacqueline Perez Gonzalez, 12, is in her final year of primary school. She has never had to repeat a year of school.

She seems bright and enthusiastic about her studies, but after this year her family won’t be able to send her to secondary school because it is too far away.

Her family struggle to eat all year round, and cannot afford the travel costs.

Suggesting solutions

On the issue of tax ICEFI is clear: it’s not just a matter of getting more resources, it’s a matter of resources being efficiently and effective spent.

Its reports include suggestions as to how collect more tax, while at the same time making the tax system fairer to the poor. But also information about how much provision of education or specific social programmes would cost.

Forming international networks

Tax is not just a national issue. Billions of pounds are lost every year in developing countries like Guatemala through unscrupulous businesses finding ways to pay less tax than they should.

ICEFI’s conference in August 2010 brought together organisations from all over the continent. Working together, they hope to transform the issue of tax in Latin America, and enable countries to pay for their own development.

Blog Guatemala needs tax justice


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