Thursday, February 03, 2011

GUEST POST The campaign for a Robin Hood Tax

Ian Sullivan is a global digital campaigner with Oxfam and sometimes blogs for them here.

Last year saw the rise of a massive new campaign in the UK, the Robin Hood Tax Campaign. It’s beginnings were the perfect storm for a campaign. Public anger about the financial crisis was still firmly fixed on the banks, there was a celebrity kick start to the campaign with this video from Bill Nighy and a coalition of NGO’s and unions got together behind a simple and effective message.

That message is that a tiny tax on the banks can raise money to support good causes at home and abroad. And the best bit, this tax only has to be at 0.05 per cent on financial transactions to raise billions worldwide. Very quickly the campaign had over 100,000 supporters.

For the last few months Robin Hood has left Sherwood Forest and has been meeting with our good friends Robin from Germany, Robin des Bois from France, our Spanish friend Robin and a whole bunch of merry (wo!) men from all around the world – mostly called Robin. Together, we were hatching plans for an exciting and global campaign to fight for a tax on the banks in 2011.

So, now seems an apt time to take a look at where some of the key governments stand. Our merry men on the inside tell us that the French, German and UK governments remain serious about securing some form of further tax on the financial sector in 2011.

The French President Sarkozy is coming out strongly in support of Financial Transaction Tax (FTT). In a speech to the nation just before Christmas, he was clear that he supported a tax on transactions to raise valuable finance for development and climate change. He recently reiterated this when he attended DAVOS, clearly linking the tax to financing development and climate change as the most important development priority for the French G8 and G20 presidencies, which is a serious breakthrough.

Over in Germany, our intelligence tells us that the finance ministry is giving significant thought to how an FTT would be applied and at what rate, and they have included the revenue in next year’s budget. These are good signs that they’re getting serious. Just before Christmas, the German finance minister said in an interview with Spiegel magazine that the German Government are open to some of the revenues being used for development if the French press for this.

Both Germany and France are keen to move ahead with a coalition of the willing on this issue. France in particular is trying to get as much support from developing countries as possible to put the pressure on rich nations to implement this tax and use the money for helping poor people. They would love the UK to join too, but if that fails are ready to go ahead without them.

Meanwhile, the British Government is under huge public pressure at home regarding banks, with 76% of Conservative voters supporting the use of further taxes to curb bonuses. The UK Government has repeatedly said it is willing to look at a further tax on the financial sector, but on activities (profits and remuneration, or the FAT tax), and are to date against a tax on transactions. This would still raise funds that could be used for good causes but it wouldn’t raise as significant amounts as an FTT.

With 2011’s bonus season in full swing, the UK Government is under huge pressure to take stronger action on the banks. This intense pressure will continue until end of February as all the major banks announce bumper profits and bonuses in the face of job losses and tax rises for ordinary people. Now is the time that the quarter of a million people who support the Robin Hood Tax Campaign want to see words become action.

A concerted campaign is building globally to press for a tax on the banks in 2011. This is by no means a done deal, and will require significant pressure and co-ordinated campaigning in 2011 to see it become a reality.

1 comment:

Cake said...

I`m in agreement with the Robin Hood Tax proposal, but after the events of 2005, including the inter-Agency feuding that characterised Make Poverty History, I can`t help feeling it`s singularly inappropriate for Oxfam to develop ethical pretensions.