On 26th June 2012, the BMA voted in favour of the Robin Hood Tax after successful campaigning by EG4Health member Khalil Secker. The tax proposes a 0.05% levy on all inter-bank transactions, to generate revenue of £20 billion annually which can be focused at three priorities: 1) public services in the UK; 2) aid for developing countries; and 3) combating climate change.
The BMA is the official trade union of doctors in the UK. Throughout its 175-year history, it has focused predominantly on defending the interests of doctors. In recent years, it has become increasingly active in defending the interests of patients, for example by opposing the government’s reform of the NHS. However, never before has this relatively conservative organization taken another step back and spoken out against the government’s general macroeconomic policies, its tax policy, or whether it is doing enough about global health and development. The fact that BMA is now beginning to speak out on such matters is true testament to the positively changing role of the BMA, as well as the strength of the Robin Hood Tax proposal.
Across the EU, more and more countries have expressed explicit support for an EU-wide Robin Hood Tax, including all the big economies (France, Germany, Spain and Italy). France has gone so far as to adopt the tax unilaterally in order to increase momentum to the proposal. The European Parliament continues to work on the policy in order to canvass wider support of the few outlying countries such as the UK.
An increasingly wide range of groups all across UK society now support the Robin Hood Tax, with the notable exception of the banking elite (due to self-interest), and the political elite. The banking elite has borne a disproportionately light share of the economic burden since 2008, when compared to the general public,. This makes the UK political elite look increasingly out-of-touch with the general public, as the government’s policies appear to serve the interest of only a fraction of society. This is fractally similar to the wider problems of economic governance at the global level, with the IMF looking increasingly as though it serves the interest of a minority group of the international banking elite, as opposed to promoting the economic well-being of the world at large [1, 2, 3].
Looking ahead, advocates of health and sustainable development must continue to mount pressure on the UK government to break its statist-dogma that belongs to the 20th century, and to accept the 21st century reality of an interconnected economy with interconnected outcomes. Supporting an EU-wide tax on financial transactions will have immediate benefits for all European citizens, as well as indirect security and migration benefits by alleviating much of the trouble in remote parts of the world. After passing an EU-wide RHT, we can work toward inspiring other countries to adopt similar norms and values about the benefits of working toward the global good, which would in turn strengthen global solidarity on global economic issues. The pinnacle of such a transition would be fundamental reform of the IMF itself, so its activities can once again serve the interests of the common good for which it was originally intended.
1 Stuckler, D., S. Basu, M. Suhrcke, A. Coutts, M. McKee 2011. Effects of the 2008 financial crisis on health: a first look at European data. The Lancet v378(9876): 124-5. http://people.ds.cam.ac.uk/ds450/details/financemortality.pdf
2 Stuckler, D, S. Basu, and M. McKee. International Monetary Fund and aid displacement. International Journal of Health Services. v41(1): 67-76. http://people.ds.cam.ac.uk/ds450/details/stuckler%2041_1.pdf
3 Stuckler D, King LP, Basu S. International Monetary Fund Programs and Tuberculosis Outcomes in Post-Communist Countries. PLOS Medicine 2008 http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.0050143