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Open the Gates for Robin Hood

by Oxfam | November 3, 2011


Mark Fried, Oxfam Canada's policy coordinator, reports from the G20 summit in France.

Today was to be the G20’s “development day” and indeed it brought a key victory. Tomorrow may well bring more.

Bill Gates presented his report on innovative financing for developmentOpens a new window. Capitalizing on Gates’ endorsement of a financial transactions tax, France announced that not only is Germany firmly on board, but Argentina and Brazil too. We heard that Spain voiced its support, and so did South Africa. The core group of Robin Hood champions are off and running.

Very exciting, but you wouldn’t know it in the newsroom. Here, though our scrum on development issues this morning was well-attended, it is all Greece all the time. Every possible reference is making the rounds of the media centre: Greek tragedy, Greek myth, Greek salad…

Though most media may pass on the story, Mr. Gates rose to the moment and was as impassioned as a technocrat can get. He endorsed the Financial Transactions Tax, urged rich countries to increase aid, and backed a carbon price on shipping and aviation fuel – all key issues for Oxfam.

Read Oxfam’s reaction here. We toyed with the headline: “FTT Ship Sails with World’s 2nd Richest Man on Board.” But then we’d have had to add “and they pay a carbon tax on the fuel,” and the metaphor would have become hopelessly mixed.

Seriously, the Gates report is well done. It argues for a dozen measures dear to Oxfam’s heart. Gates even calls on G20 countries to impose strict country-by-country reporting of profits and payments by all mining, oil and gas companies listed on their stock exchanges – to keep them from hiding from the tax man.

Precisely what the federal government quashed in Parliament last year.

As I say, Gates is a technocrat. The word “rights” did not pass his lips, nor does his paper contemplate the obvious need for people to have a say. For example, in the G20’s plans for big infrastructure projects, which he enthused about (and which remain veiled in secrecy).

But, hey, let’s celebrate a win. Watch this space tomorrow for news on how the G20 address food prices and climate finance.



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