'Robin Hood' campaigners continue to fight for levy

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The Independent Online

Where now for the "Robin Hood" tax? The IMF is not a fan of the campaign for a transactions levy to alleviate poverty in the third world. However, this is an organisation whose structural adjustment programmes, designed to get poorer countries' economies on track, have been criticised for creating more poverty than they alleviated by the sort of people advocating the tax.

Yesterday, campaigners said they would continue to fight for the levy, and claimed at least some victories from the IMF's report. "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 a Robin Hood Tax," said Mark Lawson, a spokesman for the campaign.

"[But] the IMF tax should not just be about saving money in case banks mess up again, it must also deliver hundreds of billions of pounds to help millions of people hit by the economic crisis here in the UK and in Africa and to fight climate change," he said.

Neither the IMF nor the UK's main three political parties have suggested taxes that would raise nearly enough to deal with these problems, said Mr Lawson. "There is no doubt banks can afford to pay up. The global banking sector reported profits of $700bn last year and Goldman Sachs is already filling this year's bonus pot. A transaction tax remains the best option to deliver the scale of resources needed," he added.

But the campaigners like the fact that the IMF has opened the door towards an international charge. "The IMF has fatally undermined the arguments of opponents that financial transaction taxes were impossible. The fund not only found that they are practical but that many countries already have them," Mr Lawson said.

The trouble with the tax is that, with the IMF giving much of it to national governments to spend as they please, it is likely to go towards plugging Britain's budget deficit before developing nations get a look-in.