Tiny tax on banks could help poor: G20 finance ministers meeting crucial

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases article written on the 23 Apr 2010

Oxfam is calling on Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan to push for a small tax on banks to raise revenue to help millions of people, at the G20 finance ministers meeting in Washington today (23 April).

Oxfam Australia Executive Director Andrew Hewett said a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) – also known as the ‘Robin Hood Tax’ – is a tiny tax on the transactions of big banks that could deliver billions of dollars to help ordinary people and fight poverty around the world.

“This tax could help solve many of the world’s major problems, without costing ordinary citizens a penny,” Mr Hewett said.

He said a FTT of 0.05 per cent on all financial market transactions could raise US $400 billion ($432 billion) annually, which could be spent on domestic public services supporting people who have been badly affected by the recent global economic crisis, health and education, world poverty reduction and helping poor countries adapt to climate change.

The FTT would apply to trade on financial products: stocks, bonds, commodities and currency transactions.  It would also improve market stability by penalising wildly speculative transactions, set to be impacted the most.

He said the IMF had this week indicated that a FTT was a serious option on the table, although it was proposing an alternative model that Oxfam believes would not necessarily improve market stability or raise revenues on the same scale.

“By calling for major taxes on banks and hedge funds to help pay back society for the mess they caused, the IMF has taken a big step towards an FTT,” Mr Hewett said.  “But the FTT should not just be about re-couping losses from the banks; it should also raise money to help millions of people hit by the economic crisis here and overseas.

“As the developed country that has weathered the global financial crisis the best, we’re now in the spotlight and should use this opportunity to take a strong stance on a tiny tax that would both improve market stability and ensure the public contribution the financial services sector should make.”

He said the global economic crisis had pushed 50 million more people worldwide into extreme poverty.

“It’s simply not fair for poor people to pay the price of mistakes made by rich bankers, to die for lack of medicines or for their children to be forced out of school because of an economic crisis they did nothing to cause,” Mr Hewett said.  “Promises made at the G8 in Gleneagles in 2005 to increase aid by $50 billion are due.  Yet figures released recently show more than half the OECD countries cutting aid, not increasing it.  On current trends the Gleneagles promise will be missed by $30billion, a terrible breach of faith.

“The financial sector should be taxed to help pay for the impact of the crisis on the poorest, and to fight climate change.  Any tax agreed by the G20 must have this broad objective.”

Oxfam is part of a broad alliance of development organisations, unions and environmental groups supporting the ‘Robin Hood Tax’.

For more information please contact Laurelle Keough on 0409 960 100 or laurellek@oxfam.org.au