In a new Re-Define policy brief we have addressed the all important question of the incidence of financial transaction taxes, seeking to answer the question ‘who pays in the end’, should FTTs be widely introduced. We also demonstrate how a differentiated transaction tax regime can address market behaviour issues such as churning and excessive short termism as well as help reduce systemic risk.
Re-Define Managing Director Sony Kapoor sat down with the Real News Network on one of his visits to Washington DC and gave a series of wide-ranging interviews on the difficulty of getting the right financial regulation, the extreme fragility of the economic recovery, the sheer scale of the problem of rising unemployment and stagnating wages, the problems of collective action faced by institutions and governments and a number of other topical issues including the question of what should be done with institutions such as Goldman Sachs.
Proponents of the financial transaction taxes (FTT) are happy that the tax is in the news again. However they can’t help but wonder if it is just another false dawn. It is not.
The financial crisis, the biggest in living memory, has massively titled the political and financial landscape in a direction that makes such taxes not just more desirable also much easier to implement.
Keynes was an early proponent of FTTs and the idea got a new lease of life when James Tobin extended it to currency markets. The Asian crisis helped revive the discussion and after falling off the agenda yet again the idea was brought back to life as a potential source of revenue for funding development. Each time it died a slow death. The opponents of FTTs won those battles but are about to lose the war. Here is why.
Tobin taxes are back in circulation again. The financial crisis has highlighted the fundamental problems of financial stability as well as the costs associated with bailouts of the financial sector.
Interestingly the family of tobin taxes, better known as financial transaction taxes ot security transaction taxes are good tools which can help tackle both of these problems. Their potential and role in helping provide solutions to the challenges confronting us are discussed briefly in this policy note here. This note which was written a while back will be followed by a Re-Define Policy Paper out next week.
Exponentially expanded financial markets
It is widely known that turnover in financial markets (the total value of financial instruments traded every year) has grown exponentially. This has been the case for almost all financial markets both on-exchange such as stock markets and off-exchange such as OTC derivate markets.
Currency market turnover for example rose from about $4 trillion in the 70s to $40 trillion in the 80s to more than $500 trillion now. Turnover in equity markets registered a seven fold increase between 1993 and 2005 to about $51 trillion and the wealth held in the global bond market is more than $60 trillion now with turnover substantially higher. The notional value of OTC credit default swaps, just a single kind of derivate, rose to more than $60 trillion from almost nothing a decade ago.