Wednesday, 10 November 2010

G20: Take Action on Financial Transaction Taxes

A global alliance of 183 organisations from 42 countries has just released the following open letter to the G20 Heads of State and Government meeting to their fifth summit later this week in Seoul:

International Civil Society Statement to the G-20 Leaders Summit in Seoul

We, the undersigned 183 civil society organisations from 42 countries collectively representing over 200 million people, urge G20 leaders to make concrete progress towards the introduction of an internationally coordinated financial transactions tax (FTT) at the upcoming summit in Seoul.

Our organizations have long advocated that such taxes are a practical way to generate revenues needed to fill domestic and international financing gaps, discourage the type of short-term financial speculation that has little social value but poses high risks to the economy and serve as a desperately-needed and sustainable source of financing for health and development. In recent months, the case for an FTT has been strengthened with new inputs from sometimes unexpected sources. Several developments have contributed to building a solid foundation for going beyond discussion of options to implementation:

IMF research commissioned by the G-20 recognizes technical feasibility of FTTs
At the 2009 Summit in Pittsburgh, the G20 charged the International Monetary Fund (IMF) with preparing a report on various financial sector taxation options. While the IMF report delivered in June 2010 favoured an alternative approach (devoting only 3 of its 74 pages to FTTs), it did confirm the administrative feasibility of this option. A follow-up IMF technical paper has pointed out that most G20 countries have already implemented some form of transaction tax, and offered useful information on how to design the taxes to make them most effective. The paper also confirmed that such taxes can generate substantial revenues.

A report by the ‘Leading Group on Innovative Financing’ endorses one form of FTT
In July 2010, a group of international finance experts confirmed the feasibility of taxing financial transactions, with a view to financing international commitments for health and development made to developing countries. The experts had been commissioned to produce a feasibility study for a group of 12 governments -- Germany, UK, Japan, France, Belgium, Korea, Norway, Senegal, Brazil, Spain, Austria and Chile. These countries are part of the Leading Group on Innovative Financing for Development, comprised of 60 nations (including 75% of G20 member states). In their report, the experts point to foreign exchange transactions between banks as the easiest option for collecting a solidarity tax. They calculated that an extremely small tax of only 0.005% on such transactions would generate $33bn per year.

European Union and UN High-level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing consider FTT
Meanwhile, the European Commission is considering the possibility of introducing an FTT at European level, following the support shown by the European Parliament earlier this year. A European Commission report notes that, depending on the rate and coverage, an FTT could potentially generate more than $1 trillion per year. The FTT is also being addressed by a workstream of the High Level Advisory Group of the UN Secretary General on Climate Change Financing (AGF). The Group, made up of heads of state, high-level officials from ministries and central banks, and other finance experts, is expected to release a report on climate finance options this week.

The need for FTTs has grown more urgent

FTTs are one of the few available options that could generate the enormous financial resources required to pay for the continuing costs of the global financial and economic crisis, including reducing the unacceptably high rate of job loss, and to achieve key development, health, education and climate change objectives in developing countries. Several hundred billion dollars worth of untapped revenue could potentially be harnessed. This new financing is required in addition to official development assistance in order to meet the Millennium Development Goals. Alternative financial sector taxes as proposed by the IMF would fall far short of the volume required. At the same time, the potential benefit of FTTs to enhance market stability is of equal interest as the world has become more aware of the dangers posed by automated high-frequency trading that increasingly predominates in financial markets. Even extremely low transactions tax rates would reduce the incentive for such speculative activities.

At the recent UN Summit on Millennium Development Goals, French President Nicolas Sarkozy made a very welcome vow to press for an international agreement on FTTs during his term as G-20 chair in 2011. There is, however, no reason to delay. We call for G-20 action on this critical issue to begin in Seoul.

The complete list of signatories can be accessed >>> here.

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