The SPD wanted it, the FDP didn't: The question of introducing a financial transaction tax is what caused the Social Democrats' approval of the Greek bailout to fail. Nuremberg Jesuit Father Jorg Alt is one of the initiators of a campaign for such a levy.
CBA: Father Alt, the financial transaction tax is obviously the sticking point in the vote on aid to Greece. Would you ever have thought that?
Alt: When we launched the "Tax Against Poverty" campaign a year ago, no one, including me, would have believed in such a development. But it shows how explosive and threatening the out-of-control financial market has become and that it indeed threatens, as German President Kohler put it, the functioning and credibility of our social and economic system. That, of course, calls for good ideas for a solution, and the financial transaction tax is one such good idea.
CBA: Apparently, there has not only been a dispute between the SPD and the CDU/CSU over the transaction tax, but also within the governing coalition. Now the proposal seems to be off the table for now, or?
Alt: No, there are enough voices in the CDU who are angry that the FDP has blocked an agreement with the SPD by posing the coalition question. Progress across parties and camps would be quite possible. For this, the FDP would have to start dealing with the content of how a financial transaction tax would work, instead of dodging it with formal references to the coalition agreement. Until then, it remains to be said: All parties in the Bundestag except the Liberals support a financial transaction tax in one form or another, not to mention President Kohler, President Haasis of the savings banks, our campaign with its 59 supporting organizations and tens of thousands of citizens.
CBA: Is your model still being discussed at all?? After all, the revenue should be used to fight poverty, not to plug budget holes.
Alt: In fact, the "Tax Against Poverty" campaign has two demands: the introduction of a financial transaction tax and the use of the funds to fight poverty. These days, we have been talking above all about the first demand, which also has advantages for poor countries – because everyone benefits from less speculation and a less volatile global financial market. What the revenue from this tax will be used for is another question, but here the Left Party, the Greens and the SPD would not oppose increased support for poor countries, and even within the CDU/CSU, as I know from conversations, there is understanding and sympathy for this aspect.
CBA: What happens now with their petition in the Bundestag?
Alt: First of all, it will be discussed on 17. May, the Finance Committee of the German Bundestag will hold an expert hearing on the financial transaction tax and bank levy. We will also make our position clearly heard at other events during the week when Finance Minister Schauble will be inviting people to Berlin for a G20 meeting. In October there will be another hearing in the Petitions Committee. Apart from that, I suspect that if the politicians continue to let the markets have their way, we will soon have to discuss financial aid for Portugal and Spain. Even in this case, our proposal would remain on the parliamentary agenda.
CBA: Many critics say that a financial transaction tax can only be implemented internationally. Do you think something like this can be done at all with the U.S. and the U.K?
Alt: An international enforcement would be the optimal solution. We still see a lot of room for maneuver here. In addition to European states, there is sympathy for this among emerging countries such as Russia and India. The International Monetary Fund has ruled out a financial transaction tax only in the short term, but is positive about it in the medium term if currently outstanding ies can be convincingly resolved. In addition to Germany, there are now similar campaigns in England, Austria, Canada, Italy and other countries. That is, societies and governments elsewhere are also swinging to this course. Technically possible and sensible would be a financial transaction tax also within the framework of the EU and the Eurozone. The only thing missing is the political will to establish the legal basis for such a tax. The interview was conducted by Christian Wolfel.