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16 JUN 2012

Eurozone breakup would cost poorest countries $30 billion, G20 must not allow Euro crisis to derail development efforts – Oxfam

A Eurozone breakup could cost the world’s poorest countries $30 billion in lost trade and foreign investment, international agency Oxfam warns as the G20 leaders meet in Mexico to discuss the state of the global economy.

Many poor countries would be pulled into a vicious spiral of falling export earnings, damaging their economies and putting pressure on already limited resources for essential health and education services. $30 billion is almost a quarter of the global aid budget, and represents an additional burden on poor countries at a time when 18 million people in West Africa are at risk of a looming food crisis. Aid agencies have so far not been able to raise adequate funding to help those going hungry.

Oxfam’s calculations are that if the Euro breaks up, the resulting drop in European countries’ GDP would mean a loss of income for Least Developed Countries – most of these in Sub-Saharan Africa – of up to $20 billion in revenue from exports to Europe in the year following the breakup. Poor countries could expect to lose a further $10 billion due to reduced investment from the continent. A collapse of the Eurozone would exacerbate the problems already facing low-income countries, including food shortages, failing aid and reduced capital flows as a result of the economic crisis.

Oxfam is calling on the G20 to support a financial transactions tax (FTT, known in many countries as a Robin Hood Tax) to help poor people hit by the economic crisis by allocating FTT revenues to development and climate change adaptation. The European Commission has proposed a Europe-wide FTT that would raise $71 billion [€57 billon] a year. The G20 also needs to take urgent action to curb financial speculation on food commodities, reverse biofuel policies that transform food into fuel and improve land rights.

“The Eurocrisis is a grave threat to poor countries already reeling from hunger and aid cuts,” said Oxfam spokesperson Steve Price-Thomas. “G20 leaders have an obligation to protect those that have reached the limits of their ability to defend themselves against the crisis.”

“We need a concerted effort to protect poor people from economic and food crises that have left one in seven people in the world hungry. The financial sector should work in the interests of society – not the other way around: that means curbing food speculation and insisting that the sector which bears responsibility for the economic crisis helps poor people trapped by it.”

Three years ago, the G20 launched a framework for “strong, sustainable and balanced growth”. They have delivered little for people most at risk of losing their livelihoods and most likely to be pushed into poverty before their meeting in Los Cabos.

Gross capital flows to developing countries plunged to $170 billion last year compared with $309 billion in 2010; aid to developing countries fell by $3.4 billion last year.

“The G20 must use their power to solve the crisis in the world beyond Europe. Whether or not they do so is a political choice,” said Price-Thomas.

Oxfam is calling on the G20 to:

  • Take action to fix the broken food system. The G20 persists in failing to address the most important drivers of the food price crisis: increased demand for biofuels, financial speculation on commodities and climate change. Most urgently, 18 million people in the Sahel now face a severe food shortage. This is on top of the nearly billion worldwide who already go hungry.
  • Clamp down on tax dodging and improve tax transparency. Developing countries are losing billions every year that would provide a vital boost to their economies and could be spent on reducing poverty. So far the G20’s promise to crack down on tax havens has largely failed to materialize.
  •  Raise money for increased public spending and support to the poorest by introducing a carbon price on international shipping, which would help to cut emissions and in the process raise $25 billion a year.
  • Concentrate on ensuring that growth is fair and boosts equality, so that its benefits people living in poverty. As a first step, G20 countries must publicly and annually report progress on reducing inequality and make inequality reduction a measure of progress alongside GDP growth. They should task the IMF with doing this. 
  • Support increased investment in high-quality public health and education services. These are crucial safety nets for the poorest and those falling on hard times, as well as crucial investments in future productivity and a fairer society.

About Oxfam
Oxfam is dedicated to fighting poverty and inequity worldwide. The international and independent development and humanitarian organisation tackles poverty in four main ways: sustainable development in poor communities, disaster relief, local and global advocacy, and education with Hong Kong youth. Established in Hong Kong in 1976, Oxfam Hong Kong is a founding member of Oxfam, an international confederation that has assisted poor people in 92 countries. Oxfam Hong Kong alone has supported poor people in over 70 countries/regions.