G20 draws a blank on poverty

By jlee

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The G20 missed a golden opportunity to tackle global poverty when it could only agree to disagree over how to make banks repay the cost of the economic crisis, said international agency Oxfam.

“After the G8 dropped the ball on aid, the G20 missed their chance to score against poverty by failing to move towards a Robin Hood Tax on banks,” said Mark Fried, Oxfam spokesperson. “With all eyes on the World Cup, a determined Canadian defense held the US and Europeans to a goalless draw in the big game of the day for Africa.”

“The G20 ought to have placed a tax on the financial sector to offer a significant hand up for the 64 million people forced into poverty by the economic crisis,” Fried said.

Facing France and Germany who support a financial transaction tax and the UK and the US who already implementing their own bank levies, Canada relied on the support of some emerging economies to block progress.

“It’s understandable that emerging economies don’t like a tax designed to provide welfare for Wall Street,” said Fried. “But I’ll bet they’d back a Robin Hood tax to bail out poor countries facing cuts in health, education and other vital services because of the crisis.”

A tiny tax on financial transactions in rich country markets could raise hundreds of billions annually to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and help poor countries cope with climate change. The revenue raised by any bank taxes adopted by G20 countries should help poor people reeling from the economic crisis.

Oxfam called the G20’s decision to take a more active role in promoting development a high point of the summit, and urged the G20 to move on the Robin Hood Tax to help poor countries fight poverty and climate change.

Fried said: “Poor people caught up in an economic crisis caused by a financial sector out of control can only hope that the next round in South Korea in November produces a more positive result.”

In 2011, when the G8 and the G20 meet in France, all eyes will be on France and the Europeans to ensure they deliver on their aid promises, and turn the financial transaction tax into a concrete tool to fight poverty and climate change in the poorest countries.