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A Tiny Tax Whose Time Has Come

by Leanne Wood

How we can defend people’s livelihoods and futures against the savage cuts to public services the UK coalition is inflicting?

How we can fund all the development Wales needs?

How we can pay for the projects that will build a green and caring society, one that also does its bit to make our world a better place for its poorest communities wherever they are?

Robin Hood Tax or Tobin Tax would be a good place to start. The Robin Hood tax is a tiny tax on financial transactions. It could raise billions to create jobs, to fight poverty and to combat climate change. A tax with the added advantage of reining in the kind of speculative trading – gambling, really – that plunged large chunks of the world economy into its current crisis.

Last year I was one of 1,000 parliamentarians in 30 countries who signed a declaration calling for early implement of a Robin Hood Tax, to make the financial sector – which caused the current crisis – pay a greater contribution towards safeguarding livelihoods and saving lives. In other words, making them help to turn the global crisis they caused into a global opportunity.

Since then, the support for a Robin Hood Tax has soared, bringing together some strange bedfellows.

Not too surprisingly, the TUC and many trade unions – Unison, Unite and the GMB, the NUJ, the teachers’ unions and more – see its potential to help hold the line against spiralling poverty, as do charities like Barnardo’s, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams and many churches.

Overseas development charities like Oxfam want part of the proceeds to go towardsfighting climate change in the world’s poorest countries.

Global supporters include UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Bill Gates, George Soros, Desmond Tutu.

Even the Pope is onside: the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace recommended that funds raised from it be used to help low income countries suffering the effects of the financial crisis.

There’s strong support across Europe. As you might expect, Plaid MEP Jill Evans backs it, but so does the European Parliament. Right wing leaders like French President Sarkozy and German leader Angela Merkel have been pushing it hard. The new Spanish Prime minister Mariano Rajoy has just joined them.

Amongst European leaders, the most strident opponent is David Cameron – once again on the side of the greediest bankers against the wellbeing of millions. Ed Milliband and Ed Balls once said they supported it, but have backpedalled; while many individual Labour and Lib Dem politicians and members believe a Robin Hood Tax is right, their leaders are failing to stand up to Cameron, Osborne and the banking lobby.

In a letter to the G20, 1,000 economists – including Nobel Prize winners and our own Dr Calvin Jones – argued that the financial crisis “has shown us the dangers of unregulated finance” and that it’s time “for the financial sector to give something back to society”. They went on to say:

Even at very low rates of 0.05% or less, this tax could raise hundreds of billions of dollars annually and calm excessive speculation. The UK already levies a tax on share transactions of 0.5%, or ten times this rate, without unduly impacting on the competitiveness of the City of London. This money is urgently needed to raise revenue for global and domestic public goods such as health, education and water, and to tackle the challenge of climate change. Given the automation of payments, this tax is technically feasible. It is morally right.”

I agree with them. I’d like to see Wales come out loud and proud in favour of a Robin Hood Tax on banks, hedge funds and the rest of the financial sector to make them pay their fair share to clear up the mess they created.

Let’s have a “Coalition of the willing” in Wales, to help push for this fair and useful tax – and to show Cameron and the other Westminster politicians that defending the interests of banking’s greediest is totally unacceptable to us. That it’s simply not fair for poor people to pay the price of mistakes made by rich bankers, to die for lack of medicines or for their children to be forced out of school because of an economic crisis they did nothing to cause.

Leanne Wood is Plaid Cymru Assembly Member for South Wales Central and currently a candidate the the party leadership.

This article first appeared on the radical blog Left Links. Leanne can also be followed on Twitter @LeanneWood

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