After Barack Obama attacked the banks, now it’s Brown’s turn.
Britain’s Prime Minister, Gordon Brown has called today all members of the G20 to place taxes on bank transactions worldwide. The revenue, according to him will go to fund social and environmental causes like fighting world poverty and dealing with climate changes.
Brown: Time to Tax the Banks
Brown made this announcement at the stage of the G20 summit which was held today in Scotland, two months after the Pittsburgh Summit in September. The G20 countries represent 90% of the world’s wealth, 80% of its trade, and approximately two thirds of the world population.
Brown’s words symbolize a change in Britain’s approach, which up till now opposed putting a “Tobin Tax” on foreign currency bank deals. The tax which is named after 1981 Nobel Prize winner for Economics, Professor James Tobin of Yale University, is intended to put a penalty on short-term speculation in currencies and in the same time raise funding for meaningful social projects. Nevertheless, the opposition both in the US and in Britain at the time has caused the idea to be put in the back of one’s mind.
“I think we all share a basic interest in trying to make sure we build a system where taxpayers aren’t exposed in the future and where the financiers are bearing the consequences of their mistakes – that they are responsible for the risks they take” he said. “We proposed in the United States a way to achieve that, by making sure that if … the government is exposed to any risk of loss, that we recoup that loss by assessing a fee on the liabilities of banks” he then added. He continued to justify his plan by saying that “it’s fair to the tax payer and it doesn’t put us in the position where retail investors and pension funds are the ones bearing the burdens of that cost”.
Brown went on to tackle obstacles in the way: “I do not in any way underestimate the enormous and difficult practical and technical issues that will need to be overcome that a globally cohesive system requires and raises”. He pointed out that any tax that will be decided on (if at all), should be worldwide and related to all the financial centers of the world- US, the European Union, Asia, the Middle East and Switzerland. Some G20 officials claimed that the tax that Brown referred to could be wider than a Tobin tax, and might include all financial transactions or even banks’ profits. Yet, the tax is supposed to be on a low level of 0.005% – only a tenth of the original Tobin Tax, when the profits will help prevent future crises in the banking sector.
Gordon Brown’s suggestion is expected to fuel rage among British economists and critics. Chairman of the FSA (Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries), Adair Turner, has already suggested the idea of a Tobin Tax in August and encountered severe criticism in London. Still, British charity organization Oxfam has blessed Brown for his idea- “The tax on the banks, might be a big step in the road to destroying the banks’ greed”. “The G20 is responsible to act. The money raised can really effect the day to day course of regular people”, an Oxfam official added. Among the fans of the Tobin Tax, you can find French President, Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor, Angela Merkel who already tried to promote the idea in the Pittsburgh Summit. According to them, this kind of taxing will shrink the banks’ profits and by doing so decrease the bonuses which banks can hand out to veteran bankers.
Some G20 members, had already began taxing on their own, like Brazil which putted a tax on foreign investments in stocks and debentures, keeping in mind funding their 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Experts proclaim a Tobin tax in the rate of 0.05% (the original Tobin Tax), can yield up to 700 billion dollars yearly almost equal to the entire financial bailout package introduced by Obama’s administration. In conclusion I must say, that it’s only a shame that Tobin who passed out in 2002, missed out on all the action and the publicity.
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