A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
Great news arrived from Brussels on Tuesday as European Finance Ministers agreed to allow eleven EU countries to introduce a Financial Transaction tax (FTT). This is a giant leap for the Robin Hood Tax campaign.
What does this mean?
I wrote in November that the European Commission gave the go ahead to the ‘enhanced cooperation procedure’, but it required the approval of both the European Parliament and the European Council (in this case, EU Finance Ministers). In December, the European Parliament voted by overwhelming majority (533 to 91, to be precise) in favour of the tax. The decision by Finance Ministers in Brussels on Tuesday was the last hurdle before the countries can actually put in place a common tax on financial transactions.
Now, the eleven countries have the green light to implement an FTT – ‘a milestone in global tax history’ according to the EU Tax Commissioner. Based on the proposal put forward by the European Commission’s (of a tiny tax of 0.1% on shares and bond transactions and 0.01% on derivatives trades), the FTT could raise €37 billion.
So what could this money achieve?
The European Financial Transaction Tax will only be a Robin Hood Tax if a big chunk of the estimated €37 billion annual revenue is used to help poor people at home and abroad, who have been hit hardest by the economic crisis and climate change. The potential for what the tax could achieve is huge – the numbers are staggering:
- In just four seconds, Europe’s new FTT could fund over 10,000 children to be immunised from Meningitis in Africa
- In a single hour, the tax would raise €4.2 million, enough to pay the annual salaries of over 5000 teachers in Africa.
- In one day, the new European tax could raise €101 million, enough to train over 2.5 million health-workers in the developing world.
- In three weeks, the tax could raise €2 billion, enough to reverse the cuts to family and children’s welfare in European countries hit the hardest by the financial crisis.
- Allocating a quarter of annual revenues to the Green Climate Fund would guarantee an annual predictable replenishment of almost €10bn into the Fund which currently still stands empty.
We’re over the final hurdle and into the home straight for the Robin Hood Tax campaign. Yesterday, European countries sent a message that the financial sector must help to clear up the mess that they caused. Despite some reports in the media that the money will be used for a European bailout fund for banks, there’s been no decision on how the money will be spent. So now, more than ever, we need to keep these government’s feet to the fire to ensure that the new money from the tax goes to where it’s needed most.
So if you haven’t already, it’s time to grab a green hat, maybe even some tights, and join the merry men and women of Sherwood to finish the job on the Robin Hood Tax.