French econ min scoffs at colleague’s aid tax idea


French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde on Friday ridiculed an idea promoted by her foreign affairs colleague, Bernard Kouchner, to tax financial transactions to raise money for development aid.

Kouchner defended the idea at a conference of ministers and development officials from many countries in Paris on Thursday.

Delegates told Reuters the plan could involve taking 0.005 percent of the proceeds of currency transactions, perhaps on a voluntary basis, to benefit global aid projects.

“You know, when foreign affairs ministers start getting out their box of ideas about finance, you can expect all manner of stuff,” Lagarde told reporters when asked about the initiative.

Kouchner, who first rose to fame in the 1970s as the founder of medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres, said at the development conference on Thursday that the global recession was an opportunity to challenge old ideas about financing aid.

France is ready to accompany a pioneer group of countries to implement such a tax,” he said, referring to the 0.005 percent levy idea.

“I’ve already proposed this many times and every time finance ministers said ‘it’s impossible’. Well, I tell you that nothing is impossible,” he said.

Meeting against the backdrop of the worst economic crisis in decades and mounting challenges like climate change, delegates said more cash should be channelled to developing nations that are yet to feel the worst of the downturn.