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Business Comment

David Prosser: Where should bank tax money go?

Outlook Good luck to Oxfam as it attempts to give the flagging campaign for a "Robin Hood tax" on bank's profits a shot in the arm. I say flagging because, while the arguments for additional taxes on the banking sector have had some success in recent times – with a range of levies now planned around the world – those such as Oxfam who hoped the proceeds would be channelled towards the developing world have been disappointed.

Cash-strapped governments the world over have preferred to use the money to bolster their own dwindling coffers.

The Oxfam report released yesterday is an authoritative effort to reverse that trend. The charity's argument is all the more powerful for not being based on an appeal to governments' better nature: instead, Oxfam points out that developing nations have been among the biggest and most enduring victims of a global financial crisis that was never of their making.

Its study of the finances of 56 developing countries suggests that for at least half of them, revenues this year will be lower than in 2008. Their already gaping budget deficits have widened accordingly and are being addressed either by expensive borrowing or through spending cuts that do real damage to public health or education systems. Moreover, Oxfam says the International Monetary Fund is making life even tougher for many of these countries, only extending its help on the most inflexible of terms.

Will the charity's appeal for a tax that could raise $400bn a year – more than enough to enable to developed world to meet the "millennium development goals" to which it has signed up – fall on deaf ears? In all likelihood, yes, but Oxfam's case is compelling.