Catching up

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Two days out in Norway (of which more later) and a lot seems to have happened.

The private equity debate in parliament did not go as well as I hoped. We really do need people who understand tax there. It's a disaster that we make politics such an unattractive job for first rate people. That said, I think the case is won. The CGT break will change, but will the new Chancellor have the courage to put these people into income tax, and back date the change by way of press release announcement to ensure there's no mass sale over the summer? I hit the Economist saying just that.

Then there's the excellent news that, as the Times put it:

Police have opened an unprecedented investigation into claims that two African heads of state with close ties to Paris have used millions of pounds of embezzled public funds to acquire lavish properties for themselves and their families in France. The inquiry into the affairs of presidents Omar Bongo, of Gabon, and Denis Sassou N'Guesso, of the Democratic Republic of Congo, marks a break with the protection that was accorded to France's African "clients" by President Chirac and other former leaders.

They mentioned the Tax Justice Network in that article;

International estimates of embezzlement by Africa's ruling families vary. In 2002 the Tax Justice Network set the figure at $30 billion (£15 billion) a year from sub-Saharan Africa.

It's good to see public recognition of our work here when I was at a conference on that very subject.

Meanwhile, my colleague John Christensen who is in South Africa has also hit the new, this time in New Zealand:

The Global Tax Justice Network has welcomed proposed changes to United States tax laws that would pave the way for sanctions against Pacific nations providing tax havens. The US senate is currently considering the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Bill which would penalise citizens using offshore banking systems as tax havens. US Internal Revenue Service court filings show countries like Vanuatu, Samoa and the Cook Islands are being used as probable tax havens.

The co-ordinator of the network, John Christensen, says some Pacific countries like Nauru have removed their offshore banking services. But he says others continue to provide such services so that tax authorities can't access needed information:

"Islands which currently offer off shore finance centres and tax haven services to people around the world, need to completely rethink their development strategy. By and large, the people who benefit from this are not actually the islanders - the islanders themselves often fine they are not that much better off, if they are better off at all. That is in my experience."

And as the FT reports today, the hypocrisy in World Trade talks continues:

Kamal Nath, the Indian trade minister, accused the rich countries of arrogance and inflexibility. He told the Financial Times: "It is not just a question of figures. It is a question of attitude. The US does not realise that the world has changed." The US and the EU said Brazil and India offered no serious access to manufactured goods markets in return for proposed reductions in US farm subsidies and European agricultural tariffs.

It seems to be beyond the imagination of the EU and US that they have all the comparative advantages here. They have to give more than they get. Some things don't change, I guess.