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Chirac urges airline tickets tax to fight poverty

Tuesday, February 28th 2006 - 21:00 UTC
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French President Jacques Chirac urged the international community to adopt an airline tax to bankroll programs to fight poverty and disease. Speaking at the start of the two-day Paris meeting, President Chirac said France planned to begin imposing the airline tax as of July.

Addressing representatives of 95 countries gathered at the conference, Chirac called the French tax on air flights a simple and neutral experiment. He said the tax revenues, estimated to be about 240 million US dollars this year, would be spent on programs to fight malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS in the developing world.

Chirac has been lobbying the international community to adopt the airline tax initiative for the past few years. In France, passengers taking flights, as of July 1, will pay an extra 1.20 to about 47 US dollars a ticket, depending on the class and distance they fly. France and Brazil, another supporter of the tax, hope to establish an international facility to purchase drugs for HIV/AIDS patients in developing nations.

A number of other countries also support the tax. So does U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who praised Mr. Chirac in Paris for showing leadership in finding innovative financing sources to fight a host of development challenges in poorer countries. Only one other country, Chile, has followed France in taking concrete steps in imposing an airline tariff.

Initially, the money will go to combating Aids in Africa, by helping pay for the cost of expensive anti-retroviral drugs. "I urge other countries to join an international drug purchase facility mooted by France and Brazil to boost drugs access for Aids and HIV sufferers," Mr Annan told the conference

The concept remains controversial. Airline companies oppose the tax, arguing it places another burden on the financially troubled industry. The United States is also against the idea of a mandatory tax. But Chirac hopes up to 20 nations attending the Paris conference will sign up to the initiative. In the 2005 United Nations General Assembly 79 countries supported the initiative.

Chirac also praised presidents Ricardo Lagos and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva from Brazil for their actions in fighting poverty. "I want to pay homage to those grand voices from the South, President Lula and President Lagos who have helped advance international consciousness on the poverty issue" said Chirac who recalled globalization increases inequalities and current misbalances are "contrary to morals and seriously threaten world peace and stability".

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