Panama Papers: Another political earthquake (especially for the West)?

With the mistrust towards elites quite high do you think that the Panama Papers will add even more to it? Do you expect any political consequences for the EU, the West and how should we react? Read few comments.

Miguel Otero-Iglesias, Senior Analyst, Elcano Royal Institute

Yes, it adds into the general feeling that the system is skewed in favour of the rich and the establishment. The widespread use of tax heavens is one of the biggest threats to our democratic systems. It is unjust and it undermines the welfare state because Governments (states) do not have enough resources to pay for the social services that their populations demand. The Panama Papers scandal adds to the feeling that the well-off have a degree of impunity that they do not deserve. This fuels populist voices such as Farage, Le Pen, and Trump on the right, and Grillo, Corbyn and Iglesias, on the left. This needs to change. If the elites to not start tackling tax avoidance and evasion and do not take concrete and effective measures to reduce inequality, these voices will only get louder and gather more support. Sometimes one needs to save capitalism from the capitalists.

Kurt Jefferson, Assistant Dean for Global Initiatives, Professor, and Director of the Churchill Institute for Global Engagement at Westminster College, Fulton

I believe the Panama Papers leak will spur continued skepticism of government leaders in various locales throughout the world. In liberal democracies it may bring calls for legislation to close loopholes in accounting and off-shore banking regulations. In authoritarian states it may have similar aftershocks.

The scope of the Panama Papers leaks demonstrates the broad social, political, and economic effects of legalized off shore banking. When the world’s greatest footballer (Lionel Messi), actors (such as Jackie Chan), and scores of democratic and non-democratic rulers are mentioned, even if not guilty, the off-shore business-government capital flight will continue to be scrutinized. The public outcry may also lead to more instability for states and leaders in areas where politics and society are tenuous such as the Middle East, post-Soviet space, and Latin America. It may add fuel to the chaotic American national election cycle that has the country worked up.

The west and EU need to respond to the leaktivism of the Panama Papers with frankness, authenticity, and honesty. If the governments will admit their knowledge in these affairs and scrutinize fairly, with the American-style legal assumption of innocence till proven guilty, the organizations and individuals involved, it could set a positive precedent for helping control corruption.

Erik Jones, Professor of European Studies and International Political Economy, Director of European and Eurasian Studies, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University

I think this scandal – like so many other, similar ones before it – will cement the idea that political leaders live by different standards.  That is not positive in a context within which so many different kinds of populist groups are mobilizing against governing elites.  Beyond that, though, I do not foresee much of an impact.  There will be a few high profile cases, like the Icelandic prime minister, but it is the general impression this creates that matters more than the individual examples.

Thomas Lancaster, Professor, Department of Political Science, Emory University

Yes, of course, the revelations in the Panama papers only add to the long simmering growth in mistrust of political and business elites in many countries, including Europe. We have already seen some of the consequences in Iceland with the resignation of the prime minister. More are likely to follow as the details come out that are mentioned in the very extensive papers (and thus take time to go through to fully understand). Long term, there is very likely to be tighter laws and regulations regarding off-shore investments.


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