An accountant at the G20 summit
AccountingWEB.co.uk correspondent Richard Murphy became the first blogger ever to ask a question at a major international summit this week, questioning the Prime Minister on the issue of tax havens at the G20 summit in London. In an exclusive report, he details his experiences among leaders from the world's 20 largest economies.
It was an interesting experience to be one of the 50 bloggers from around the world selected to blog from the G20 summit in London yesterday. We were en eclectic bunch from those (like me) for whom the event is pretty integral to what we do, to some for whom this was a matter of social observation.
The event was organised by aid agencies in the main, so of course there was a bias among those present towards those working on development issues and I fitted into that. My own work calling for tax haven reform has that ultimate objective in mind, because tax havens cause massive poverty in the developing world.
It was precisely because of that concern that I managed to get in a question to the Prime Minister at his press conference on development issues related to tax havens. This was the first time that a question has ever been asked by a blogger at such an event. That, of course was the highlight of my day, but being present gave me an opportunity that would just not have otherwise been available: the chance to see Obama in action and yes, he is as cool as you’d imagine. I also got the opportunity to see the PM and others in action, which is different from watching the television.
More importantly for me, I got the opportunity to lobby and discuss issues with those in the negotiations as the day went on. There’s a massively important note in the declaration that supported the communiqué that says: “We are committed to developing proposals, by end 2009, to make it easier for developing countries to secure the benefits of a new cooperative tax environment.”
This was the outcome of a massive amount of work by Christian Aid, Action Aid, Oxfam, War on Want and others that I worked with before this event to make sure that the benefits of tax haven reform reach the countries that really need it. Now we have six months to work on the detail. That task began even before I’d left ExCel in the first quick meetings with officials.
The event was also an opportunity for me to watch the media in action and be interviewed - I would not have made Newsnight had I not been there!
Most of all this has been an opportunity to appreciate that these things work pretty much like any deal that accountants who has ever done a reasonably heavy M & A deal will understand: As the pressure rises, the compromise become easier, the risk of failure gets higher and the desire to close increases massively. That heat was felt yesterday. It was very apparent, even from the media room. You could sense the relief when Brown delivered, and his body language said a great deal. He thinks (rightly or wrongly, I’m not on that issue here) that he has delivered.
Most amazing of all? The sheer enormous effort of it all, and the massive human time involved: One crazy statistic. I stayed 600 yards from the ExCel centre. It took two coaches, five security checks and 75 minutes to make the journey. It’s some measure of the surreal nature of these things.
My hope is just this: That the tax haven era really does draw to a close, although there are many obstacles on the way as yet, a point I note in the Guardian and that some of this benefit gets to developing countries who have lost out so badly (to the tune of $400 billion a year) from tax haven activity.
For a full list of the G20Voice bloggers, http://www.whitebandaction.org/g20voice" target="_blank">click here
Richard Murphy’s blog: www.taxresearch.org.uk/blog