Countries urged to adopt French air ticket tax

28th February 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 28, 2006 (AFP) - Countries around the world were Tuesday urged to embrace a French proposal for a new tax on airline tickets as a way of boosting funds to fight poverty, hunger and disease in developing nations.

PARIS, Feb 28, 2006 (AFP) - Countries around the world were Tuesday urged to embrace a French proposal for a new tax on airline tickets as a way of boosting funds to fight poverty, hunger and disease in developing nations.

President Jacques Chirac, pushing the initiative at a Paris conference of representatives from 95 countries, said: "The moment has come to enter a new phase, to go forward in implementing concrete projects."

His surcharge on air tickets -- to come into force in France from July -- won approval from UN chief Kofi Annan, who was also attending the event.

That, and other practical ideas to increase development aid, "have great potential" to meet the Millennium Development Goals agreed by the international community in 2000 that aim to reduce the plight of the world's poorer states, Annan said.

"President Chirac has shown real leadership in efforts to find innovative sources of financing to help the world achieve the Millennium Development Goals," Annan said.

He urged other countries to follow suit, noting that Chile was also implementing the airline ticket tax and that Britain has said it plans to use money from an existing airline surcharge to the same end.

The current president of the African Union, Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso, also backed the idea, and raised other options, "such as a tax on weapons of war or on international financial transactions".

Under Chirac's initiative, passengers boarding flights in France will pay an extra one to 40 euros (1.2 to 47 dollars) on their tickets, depending on the distance travelled and the class they are flying in.

The money, expected to raise 200 million euros (240 million dollars) a year in France, would initially go to combating AIDS mainly in Africa, by subsidizing anti-retroviral medicine, as well as tuberculosis and malaria.

Algeria, Brazil and Norway have all publicly backed the idea and indicated they too might follow suit, and Chirac was hoping the Paris conference might convince up to another 20 countries to join.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said his country was committed to adopting a similar initiative, and stated: "Those who are hungry cannot wait. They need an urgent response."

But airlines and some countries such as the United States have expressed hostility to Chirac's idea, saying it would add another burden to an industry already struggling with high oil prices and increased competition.

Guy Sebban, the head of the International Chamber of Commerce, wrote in Wednesday's International Herald Tribune newspaper that the ticket tax "will penalise the very people intended to profit from it".

He argued that other foreign aid might decline and that the tax would dissuade lower income people from flying.

A better idea, he said, was to remove trade and investment barriers in countries and "bring the World Trade Organisation's Doha round of trade negotiations to a successful conclusion by the end of this year."

Chirac, though, cited UN figures to say "it is necessary to increase public development aid to around 200 billion dollars a year by 2015, while the current sum is around 65 billion."

The French government has offered to host an international agency to oversee and encourage widespread implementation of the airline passenger tax, and was examining other ideas at the two-day conference.

France and Brazil were notably looking at establishing an international drug purchase facility to boost access to drugs for AIDS and HIV sufferers.

Annan stressed that the initiatives were being formed outside of the UN aegis, and said: "Financing for development is also an area where political courage is needed. We must not rule out ideas solely for fear of controversy."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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