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Lettera a Strauss-Kahn: come la finanza può ripagare i regali avuti


Dear Mr. Strauss-Kahn,
In September, the Group of 20 (G20), at their summit in Pittsburgh, mandated the International
Monetary Fund (IMF) with preparing a report ahead of the next G20 summit in June 2010 to
consider “how the financial sector could make a fair and substantial contribution toward paying
for any burdens associated with government interventions to repair the banking system.”

We, the undersigned civil society organizations, citizens’ groups, social movements and other
stakeholders, welcome this initiative and look forward to working with you on this important
matter. We are writing with four requests:

1. As part of its report, the IMF should pay serious consideration to proposals for financial
transaction taxes as a key tool for ensuring that the financial sector helps pay for government
bailouts of their industry.

2. The IMF should establish a formal process for engaging civil society views in this initiative,
both by setting up a clear channel for submitting written input as well as organizing public
dialogues. The IMF has created such mechanisms for civil society dialogue in the past on
other important matters, such as debt restructuring and cancellation, and more recently in the
governance reform process at the IMF that you initiated.

3. The study should thoroughly explore the possibility of taxes on currency transactions and on
all financial transactions, taking independent evidence from economists and academics who
have looked at the feasibility of such taxes, modeling a range of different rates and analysing
the technical feasibility and impact on different markets of unilateral implementation of such

4. The IMF should be open to the work of other international bodies that are focusing on this
issue, such as the Taskforce on International Financial Transactions for Development, recently
created by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner under the auspices of the Leading
Group on Solidarity Levies for Development.

Background on Financial Transactions Taxes

Since the outbreak of the crisis, a number of organizations and countries have pointed to the need
for a financial transaction tax (FTT) to both help stem the speculative flow of a broad array of
financial instruments and also generate resources for public goods. This alone would not resolve
the crisis, of course, but it could play an important role in raising funds to compensate those who
ended up paying for the resulting “bail-outs”.

Unlike a currency transaction tax or a “Tobin tax,” which just covers currency transactions, an
FTT would have a much broader tax base, covering all kinds of financial assets such as shares,
bonds, securities and derivatives, and both domestic and cross-border transactions. Technically
the FTT can be levied easily and at very low costs since all stock exchange transactions are
captured by electronic platforms. A simple electronic tag would automatically transfer the tax to
the tax office. At a tax rate of 0.5 percent, it would also help curb speculative transactions that add
little to the real economy.

Such taxes already exist. The most prominent example is the British “Stamp Duty”, which levies a
0.5 percent tax on the nominal price of any purchase of shares of UK companies and which has
not lead to substantial tax evasion or the weakening of the City of London. Country specific
financial transaction taxes exist in Austria, Greece, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Spain,
Switzerland, Hong Kong, China, and Singapore. The U.S. state of New York levies a stamp duty
on Wall Street (New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ) on all firms based there. Claims that
financial transactions taxes are not feasible should therefore not be a serious concern.

Growing Support for Financial Transactions Taxes

As you are no doubt aware, many politicians have recently voiced their support for taxing
financial transactions, among them French President Sarkozy and German Chancellor Merkel.
U.S. President Barack Obama has also noted the need for “a Financial Stability Fee on the
financial services industry so Wall Street foots the bill -- not the American taxpayer”. Your
predecessor, former Managing Director Horst Köhler, now President of Germany, said at
Chancellor Merkel’s swearing-in ceremony that the new German government should support an
FTT. The U.S. House of Representatives is exploring the idea of an FTT, and European
Commission President Barroso and Lord Turner, Chair of the British Financial Services
Authority, are also favourable to the idea.

We want to add our voices to these calls for financial transactions taxes and to offer our input as
you work to prepare a report of significant value to the G20. We consider this a critical
component of the G20’s goal of ensuring the integrity and stability of our global financial system.

Sarah Anderson from the Institute for Policy Studies, Peter Wahl from Weltwirtschaft, Ökologie
& Entwicklung (WEED) and Fraser Reilly-King from teh Halifax Initiative Coalition will be
following up with you on this request.