|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
PRESS CONFERENCE ON HIGH-LEVEL ECOSOC MEETING
A global tax on airline tickets could be the “first voluntary contribution of global citizen solidarity in history” to help achieve the ambitious Millennium Development Goals, Philippe Douste-Blazy, the Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Innovative Financing for Development, said this afternoon during a Headquarters press conference.
Briefing the press on today's high-level meeting of the Economic and Social Council with the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Mr. Douste-Blazy said that finance and development ministers had discussed the idea earlier in the day, specifically debating whether to impose a mandatory levy, or rely on voluntary contributions.
“This still needs a lot of work, but the first studies demonstrated that it is very possible,” Mr. Douste-Blazy said, adding that the funds received from such a tax should be used to achieve the health-related goals of the millennium targets. The tax could be launched during the first ever world conference on innovative financing, planned tentatively for November 2009. He noted that an airline ticket tax in some European countries brought in $300 million in 2007 and $500 million in 2008.
The tax was just one of several new sources of financing that were urgently needed to help alleviate extreme poverty and hunger around the world, Mr. Douste-Blazy said. “What different countries in the world are experiencing in terms of hunger shows us that we really need to hurry,” he said, noting that one billion people lived on less than 1 dollar a day and that 11 million children would die this year of curable diseases.
Mr. Douste-Blazy said he supported the World Bank Chairman’s call for a ‘Marshall Plan’ to tackle hunger and poverty. He noted some successes thus far, including the creation in 2006 of UNITAID, an international drug purchase facility, to speed up access to high-quality drugs and diagnostics for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in highly affected countries. Thanks to UNITAID’s lobbying efforts, for the first time ever pharmaceutical companies agreed to price cuts of between 25 per cent and 50 per cent for drugs to treat AIDS, 40 per cent for drugs to fight malaria and 45 per cent for drugs to treat multi-drug resistant strains of tuberculosis.
In addition, a European facility, headed by the United Kingdom, had made $1 billion available for immunizing children in 70 countries against major diseases in developing countries, and it was working in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Clinton Foundation.
Still, in the face of global economic turbulence and a decrease in official development assistance (ODA), new and consistent financing for development was needed on a larger scale, he said, stressing that $130 billion was still needed to reach the Millennium Development Goals by the 2015 target date. During today’s meeting, ministers discussed the concept of levies on stock exchange transactions, the merits of small-scale or “micro-contributions” on stock exchanges and codes to regulate remittances of migrant workers.
A correspondent asked about the advantages of those micro-contributions. In response, Mr. Douste-Blazy said that for a long time a micro-tax was considered a liability for stock exchanges, but that during this morning’s meeting a representative of an institution working on that subject showed that such contributions could be universally applied to all stock exchanges worldwide, without any negative impact on stock transactions. The goal was to develop a micro-contribution that could collectively have a positive impact without changing the market economy.
As to whether the cancellation of debt-servicing payments should necessarily free up funds for development aims, he said that, indeed, debt forgiveness for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) was important and that the money saved should be used for projects related to the Millennium Development Goals. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) should establish such a policy, in that regard. Aid effectiveness was also essential, as were efficiency benchmarks and ensuring that donor countries did not view innovative financing as a substitute for aid.
As to his concern that rising food and commodity prices would wipe out current gains and future goals to alleviate poverty, he said better financing sources and global brainstorming about food and raw materials were needed. Moreover, the World Bank should create a comprehensive, global system to address health-care concerns in several poor countries, rather than focusing on diseases or countries separately.
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