Hundreds of economists call for tax on currency speculation

Some 350 prominent economists from all over the world have written to the leaders of the G20 calling on them to implement the so-called "Robin Hood tax" on the banks "as a matter of urgency".

Two Nobel prizewinners, including the outspoken critic of the financial system Joseph Stiglitz, and scores of professors at universities from Harvard to Kyoto, are calling on G20 governments to back a financial transactions tax on speculative dealings in foreign currencies, shares and other securities of 0.05 per cent – say £500 on a £1m transaction.

The letter argues: "This tax is an idea that has come of age. The financial crisis has shown us the dangers of unregulated finance, and the link between the financial sector and society has been broken. It is time to fix this link and for the financial sector to give something back to society.

"This money is urgently needed. The crises of poverty and of climate change require an historic transfer of billions of dollars from the rich world to the poor world, and this tax would offer a clear way to help fund this."

Professor Sir Tony Atkinson from Cambridge, and Professor Sudhir Anand at Oxford are among senior academics from the UK and 34 other nations supporting the Robin Hood tax. Other British academics backing the plan come from Oxbridge, Sheffield, Warwick, London, Stirling, Essex, Manchester and de Montfort, and economic thinkers from 35 nations are represented in the list of signatories.

Professor Jeff Sachs of Columbia University, also an adviser to UN Secretary general Ban Ki-moon, said: "The transaction tax is technically feasible and morally essential to repair the mess made by the banks.

"I have long advocated such a tax, as a clear way to raise billions of dollars to fight climate change and to achieve the millennium development goals. The transaction tax is the only option on the table at the G20 that will deliver the scale of resources needed."

The Robin Hood tax is also being backed by high-profile showbusiness personalities such as Bill Nighy, who plays a squirmingly embarrassed banker in an online video promoting the tax. Bankers at Goldman Sachs were accused last week of spamming the campaign's web site to engineer an online poll to go against the tax.

The letter goes on to say: "Given the automation of payments, this tax is technically feasible. It is morally right. We call on you to implement it as a matter of urgency."

Confusingly, international plans for a tax or levy on banks are well underway – but this is not the Robin Hood tax. A plan for a levy on the banks will almost certainly be proposed by the IMF at its spring meeting in April, and offered to world leaders for approval.

The G20 leaders requested the Fund to come up with options for a bank levy, designed purely as an insurance fund to deal rescue stricken banks and prevent another meltdown. The IMF's Deputy managing director, John Lipsky, recently told The Independent that the new scheme would not provide a long-term flow of funds to the world's poor or for climate change mitigation, and would be more like the deposit insurance schemes that operate already in the UK and US. Nor are international moves to tax bankers' pay or to impose levies on transactions purely to dampen speculation – the motivation behind the original proposal for a Tobin tax by the American economist James Tobin in 1972 – likely to be agreed by the G20 or the IMF.

For now, at least, neither the G20 leaders nor the IMF seems ready to don the green tunic of Robin Hood.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
John Terry puts Chelsea ahead
football
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David performs in his play ‘Fish in the Dark'
theatreFish in the Dark has already generated a record $14.5m in advance ticket sales
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Howard Mollison, as played by Michael Gambon
tvReview: Too often The Casual Vacancy resembled a jumble of deleted scenes from Hot Fuzz
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
news
Arts and Entertainment
Jemima West in Channel 4's Indian Summers (Joss Barratt/Channel 4)
tvReview: More questions and plot twists keep viewers guessing
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: HR Benefits Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager / Financial Services

£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 1999, a highly r...

Jemma Gent: Year End Accountant

£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...

Jemma Gent: Management Accountant

£230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003