Bankers party while poorest are getting poorer

Bankers party while poorest are getting poorer
August 10th 2011 / 
Action for Global Health

This blog was submitted by International HIV/AIDS Alliance. 

“Only bankers will save the world” read a poster depicting a superhero at the City’s biggest banker summer party. I wonder where these banker superheroes were during the recent financial crisis?

As a result of the financial crisis, around 120 million more people are now living on less than US$2 a day and 89 million more on less than US$1.25 a day. Despite the effects of the financial crisis remaining for ordinary people (ongoing cuts, unemployment, donors cutting health and development programmes in poor countries), the City continues to celebrate its prosperity.

From this perspective, the party’s luxurious entertainments, such as gambling tables, expensive massage, champagne, super luxury products and dancers look a little misplaced. You can see a gallery of the bankers’ party here.

No wonder the party provoked public outrage last year, as the organisers themselves wrote. Despite the ongoing crisis and in the face of public feeling, they still went ahead with the party yet again this year.

Financial sector has abundant resources

The financial sector is traditionally under-taxed relative to the rest of the economy. Profits and bonuses are immense. City bonuses for 2010 were £6.7 billion, enough money to provide free healthcare to 250 million people in developing countries.

Signs of extra profit and big bonuses were abundant at this year’s City party. For example bankers were paying £10 for a 10 minute head and neck massage. For a comparison, £2 could pay for a day of therapeutic milk for a child so severely malnourished they cannot even eat.

Expensive champagne was being quaffed in large amounts whilst 1 billion people lack access to safe water.

One of the party entertainments was subscription to “small luxury hotels of the world”. 1 billion people worldwide live in slums and the figure will likely grow to 2 billion by 2030.

This is not about the world being equal, it is about being fairer. While 40,000 children die of hunger-related causes every day, it is just not fair that others enjoy super high luxury.

During 4 hours of the City party, 120 children died around the world as a result of AIDS. Only around 28 per cent of children in need of antiretroviral therapy have access to it. Unfortunately, this is not on the bankers’ superhero minds…

A Financial Transaction Tax for global health

There is an opportunity here for a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT), including for global health. Between 2009 and 2015 there is an estimated $488 billion gap in resources to support the health of the poorest, including $127.4 billion for newborn, maternal, child health, $125 billion for responding to HIV and AIDS, at least $27 billion for addressing malaria, at least $28 billion for eliminating TB as well as $68 billion for sustaining and developing human resources for health.

Governments could ensure some of the excess wealth in the financial sector is put to better use in the world, helping to make amends for the damage caused by the financial crisis. Comprehensive innovative financing mechanisms, such as an FTT, a tiny tax of just 0.05% on the casino bankers’ trading that could raise billions a year, could help us achieve that.

Read more about an FTT for Global Health in the brief developed and supported by 14 organisations and many other individuals.

This is not a pipedream – the European Parliament is in support, as are France, Germany, Spain, Belgium and others. Sarkozy has made it one of his priorities for France’s Presidency of the G20. Whilst the bankers are partying, we are taking huge steps towards implementing an FTT that will raise billions that could be used to fight global health problems, poverty and climate change in developed, middle-income and developing countries.

If the bankers really wanted to be seen as superheroes, supporting an FTT that will make a huge contribution to the world’s less fortunate would be a good start.

Olga Golichenko is Action for Global Health Advocacy Officer based in International HIV/AIDS Alliance. 

Has your council signed up to support the Robin Hood Tax?
Find out now