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Brazil's Proposal to Tax Arms Sales to Fund UN Anti-Poverty Programs Discussed at Geneva Meeting - 2004-01-30

The presidents of France, Brazil, Chili and the United Nations secretary-general have signed on to a new plan for eradicating poverty and hunger in the world. The world leaders have jointly unveiled proposals which include taxing the sale of arms to raise the money needed to tackle global destitution.

The world leaders admit they have to come up with new money in a hurry or their battle to cut poverty and hunger in half by the year 2015 will be lost.

This latest plan to tackle global destitution is the brainchild of Brazil's President, Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva. He says there are many ways of helping developing countries improve their economic and social situations. He says it is possible to support them through freer international trade, foreign debt relief, foreign investment and greater international aid.

He says taxing the sale of arms could be a new source of revenue for fighting poverty. "We have decided to set up a working group to study all proposals on alternative financing mechanisms such as the taxation of arms trade and on certain financial operations," he said. "The resources raised by such mechanisms would finance the establishment of a fund to fight hunger and poverty."

French President Jacques Chirac is a staunch supporter of the Brazilian president's proposal. He notes that the weapons trade amounts to about $900 billion a year. He says taxes from that and from other sources should be put into a new fund, which he nicknames the Lula Fund, to fight poverty. "I am convinced that we shall not be able to avoid setting up a system of taxation, an international taxation system," he said. "Some people will be aware that I have set up a working group to study this proposal, a working group with representatives of the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the World Bank involved."

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan notes more than one billion people struggle to survive with less than one dollar a day, about 840 million people are affected by hunger and an estimated 24,000 people die every day from hunger-related causes.

Yet, he says only 11 years are left to meet the U.N.'s Millennium Development goal of substantially reducing the number of people stricken by poverty, hunger and disease.

"We all need to make special efforts to accelerate progress during this year and next," he said. "If we are not on track by the end of 2005, we shall already know that many of these goals will not be reached by 2015. Even if we make heroic efforts to catch up in the 10 remaining years."

Mr. Annan says last year, many world leaders were distracted by matters of war and peace. He says issues of poverty, hunger and disease do not grab the headlines in the same way. Nevertheless, he says the leaders must refocus their attention on these urgent life and death issues.