The highs and lows of 2009

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I haven't got time for a long review of 2009. Its pace has not slowed as the year draws to a close, and there is a great deal of work to get through. As a result some lists of highs and lows, hopes and aspirations will have to do.

Highs from the world at large for 2009 include:

1) Barack Obama becoming US president. Make no mistake: no progress would have been made on the tax haven issue if the Republicans had won;

2) The April G20. Oh, I know, it could have done so much more - but let's celebrate what we got;

3) Gordon Brown and Nicholas Sarkozy endorsing country by country reporting. There is a long way to go - but again, let's celebrate what we have got;

4) The UK government committing to government spending to keep us out of recession — as is essential;

5) The unfolding financial crises in the world’s secrecy jurisdictions, as foretold here, which foretells the demise of their so called ‘business model’. I stress, this has nothing to do with the places in question — and all to do with the finance industry that operates from them.

Lows from that same world at large are:

1) The OECD undermining the G20 process by setting absurdly low targets for tax havens to achieve on information, linked to the fundamentally useless Tax Information Exchange Agreements;

2) The failure of the UK and USA to really tackle banking reform;

3) The failure of the UK to adopt the Green New Deal;

4) The Copenhagen summit;

5) Everything George Osborne has said, all year — the man is a walking economic disaster that I hope might not happen.

There were also personal highs:

1) I’ve worked with some great people — from the TUC, Tax Justice Network, the Green New Deal group, the Task Force on Financial Integrity and Economic Development, Christian Aid, Action Aid, Compass, the World Bank, Global Witness, PCS, the BBC, Greenpeace and more besides. To them all a big thanks.

2) I guess being a blogger at the G20 was a high.

3) Getting a radical tax agenda into the public domain has also been a high — whether it be on tax havens, progressive taxation or now the Tobin Tax. All are real indications of change, and the agenda is really changing as a result.

4) Finishing a book on tax havens — to be published in January 2010 — was also a high. Thanks to my co-authors, Ronen Palan and Christian Chavagneux are appropriate.

5) In a small way the change in the VAT relationship between the UK and the Isle of Man was a high, because it showed one person and a blog can change things.

And personal lows? I’ve had a few, but too few to mention.

It was a good year. The tax justice agenda has made massive steps forward. Of course it is dismissed by its opponents more vociferously than ever — but precisely because they are so worried about our success. And right now I see no reason why that success cannot continue, not least because this is a worldwide agenda, not one for any country in isolation. And around the world the appetite for change, to collect tax that is rightfully due, and to tackle the cheats (and most especially those who assist them) is growing. That is good news for all democrats, all believers in the rule of law, all who believe in society and all who want a fair world in which each can play their part in a way the market will never allow without government correcting for its inherent weaknesses. That’s me. I go forward in hope, and expectation.