THE Tobin or Robin Hood tax on financial transactions, which the Archbishop of Canterbury has called for (News, 4 November), gained support at the G20 summit in Cannes last weekend.
The final communiqué, published after the summit, which took place on Thursday and Friday of last week, said: “We acknowledge the initiatives in some of our countries to tax the financial sector for various purposes, including a financial transaction tax, inter alia to support development.” Some G20 countries, including France, Germany, and Brazil, have supported the tax, but it is opposed by the UK Chancellor, George Osborne.
Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, addressed the summit on Thursday of last week, having written a report, Innovation with Impact, which supported a Tobin tax. Mr Gates told The Guardian on the eve of the summit: “It is very plausible that certain kinds of FTTs [Financial Transaction Taxes] could work. I am lending some credibility to that. This money could be well spent and make a difference.”
Tearfund’s director of advocacy, Paul Cook, said: “In the past, the Robin Hood tax has been accused of being economically naïve. We hope this endorsement from one of the world’s richest men will cause the doubters to rethink.”
Christian Aid said in a statement after the G20 summit had ended that, while the crisis affecting the Eurozone took centre stage, “a series of important developments in the campaign for tax justice that emerged at the same time went largely unremarked.”
These included: the G20’s listing of “11 tax havens that have failed to deliver on tax transparency”, and the French President, Nicholas Sarkozy’s saying that the worst offenders “will be excluded from the international community”; each G20 member “agreeing to sign a multilateral convention that will allow exchange of tax information between them”; and the G20’s calling “for multinational companies to be more compliant and transparent in their dealings with poor countries”.
Christian Aid’s senior economic justice adviser, Dr David McNair, said: “Where once we had only rhetoric, we now have the first shoots of political will. That is a welcome new development. But, by itself, political will is not enough. Resources and follow-up processes must now be made available to consign tax-haven secrecy to history. . .
“We estimate that developing countries lose around $160 billion a year because of tax-dodging by multinationals and other companies trading internationally. That lost tax revenue could save lives.”
CAFOD’s lead economics analyst, Christina Weller, said that the G20 summit’s final communiqué was “short on substance, ideas, and commitments — saved, in part, only by the ambitious agenda of the French presidency which meant some critical issues at least got an airing on the G20 table.
“As a result, the G20 discussed two important reports on innovative financing — the World Bank and International Monetary Fund report on climate finance and the Gates report on innovative finance, but the only real commitment is to return to them again later.”