Get rid of tax havens now

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Yesterday's call on this blog to neuter the world's tax havens has transferred to the Guardian today. As Larry Elliot says:

Robert Zoellick, the World Bank's president, made a contribution to this debate yesterday when he called for the anachronistic G7 to be expanded to include seven leading developing countries. That would be sensible, as would toughening up credit rating agency rules and a general beefing-up of the IMF's early warning role in spotting crises.

This list does, however, contain one crucial omission - the role of tax havens in undermining the policies of sovereign states. As Richard Murphy of the Tax Justice Network noted yesterday, tax havens provide a "get-out-of-regulation free" card for banks faced with tougher sanctions. This card needs to be taken off the table - but to do so will require the sort of global policy coordination so sorely lacking in recent years.

Whilst Polly Toynbee puts it this way:

Sadly international action now seems remote, but Britain has the power to close down the many tax havens it administers: days of turning a blind eye to offshore activities are over.

A number of other ideas from this blog are also to be found in her article, whilst Paul Collier says:

While the crisis will weaken our assistance for the poorest countries by curtailing aid, it could inadvertently have an offsetting effect if we use it to close the illicit outflow. Money flows out of Africa into our banks, and into the offshore banks that depend for their existence upon being able to transact with our banks. US rules on banking transparency are even weaker than the European rules: vast sums looted from the public purse in Africa are being held in nominee accounts and moved around the world at greater speed than our cumbersome legal processes can track them down.

Western legal systems are stacked, thanks to the hired hands of skilled lawyers, to protect the rights of the crooked over the rights of Africa's ordinary citizens. At the time of the Commission for Africa, I urged that Britain revise its laws on banking secrecy. Yet despite the enormous emotional energy aroused by Gleneagles, there was no political appetite: aid, yes; banking openness, no. The silver lining in this grim cloud is that we have a second chance to clean up the banks.

There is a growing consensus on this issue, but the neo-liberals will still fight it, as Paul Collier notes they did after 9/11 and on Blair's Commission for Africa.

This time though we'll sink if we don;t do it. Surely that's enough to kick start the change, or do the elite really want the chaos to continue? Never rule out that possibility: they think they're immune form it, so what do they care?