Thirteen Countries To Impose Tax on Airline Tickets To Fight HIV/AIDS, TB, Malaria; France, U.K. To Review Implementation of IFF
Twelve countries on Wednesday agreed to join France in imposing a tax on airline tickets to fund HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria programs, Reuters reports. At the end of a two-day international conference of 95 countries in Paris, an additional 25 countries declined to impose the tax but pledged to contribute funds to a central account created by the 13 countries from the tax (Heritage, Reuters, 3/1). French President Jacques Chirac on Tuesday called on developed countries to impose the tax, which France plans to implement in July (Louet, Reuters, 2/28). The French Parliament in January passed a measure that will add a tax of up to $47 for travelers departing from French airports. Chirac in January 2005 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, first announced the idea for the tax (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/3). The other 12 countries -- Brazil, Britain, Chile, Congo, Cyprus, Ivory Coast, Jordan, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mauritius, Nicaragua and Norway -- that agreed to impose the tax will individually decide on tax amounts (Reuters, 3/1). The International Air Transport Association urged governments this week not to agree to the proposal. "Making air transport more expensive is akin to biting the very hand that feeds development," Giovanni Bisignani, head of IATA, said (Reuters, 3/1). The U.S. also is opposed to the tax, which is expected to raise about $248 million annually, BBC News reports. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Tuesday also expressed support for the initiative and urged other countries to follow France's example (BBC News, 2/28). Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso also supports the idea and has proposed implementing a similar tax on weapons of war and on international financial transactions, AFP/Tocqueville Connection reports (AFP/Tocqueville Connection, 2/28).
France, U.K. To Review Implementation of IFF
France and the U.K. at the conference on Tuesday also announced the creation of a joint working group to review how an International Finance Facility to fund health and development programs worldwide could be financed through the airline ticket tax and other sources (Reuters, 2/28). The $100 billion facility, which would aim to help Africa meet the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, would frontload development aid primarily through the purchase of bonds on the international market (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/8/05). According to British sources, France agreed to support IFF because of the success of the pilot program, launched in September 2005, called the International Finance Facility for Immunization (Elliott, Guardian, 3/1). Finance ministers from the Group of Eight industrialized nations at a meeting next month are expected to approve the IFFIm plan, under which G8 nations would provide between $800 million and $6 billion to subsidize the purchase of new vaccines for diseases -- including HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria -- that largely affect developing nations (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/13). Under the agreement between France and the U.K., France will provide about $100 million annually to IFFIm over two decades, and the U.K. will use a portion of the approximately $1.7 billion it raises annually from its airline ticket tax to finance both IFF and IFFIm (Guardian, 3/1). Brazil has agreed to contribute $12 million to IFF (Vasconcelos, Agencia Brasil, 3/1). Some advocates of IFF said the next step is to persuade Germany and Italy to become involved in the program. The U.S. is opposed to the initiative, according to the Guardian. The France-U.K. working group is expected to report on its progress before the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in September. In addition, the U.K. has pledged about $2.6 billion in annual long-term aid to fight HIV/AIDS and expressed support for Chirac's proposal to develop an international drug purchase facility that would buy medicines in bulk at low costs for developing nations (Guardian, 3/1).