Dynamics in International Campaigns and National Implementation

Global taxation initiative
Ronald C. Molmisa

The Tobin Tax, also known as currency transaction tax, is a percentage of the quantity of domestic currency converted into foreign currency. The tax, originally proposed by Nobel Economics Laureate James Tobin in 1972, has regained attention due to events of last few years. Several transnational social movement organizations have been advancing the tax proposal. At the forefront is the ATTAC (Association for Taxation of Transactions to Aid Citizens), founded in France in June 1998 and currently has 38 affiliated country organizations, mostly from Europe.

The Tobin tax, however, remains an unpopular agenda in the Philippines. Discussions on the subject are often anchored on the issue of capital controls which is largely perceived by many civil society organizations as the domain of economic managers and the private sector. Unlike other local taxes (e.g., value-added tax), the implications and relevance of the Tobin tax to the lives of ordinary citizens have yet to be clearly articulated and vigorously promoted. Nonetheless, there have been individuals and groups surrounding and supporting the agenda. These include the: (1) Action for Economic Reforms, an independent think-tank that conducts policy analysis and advocacy on key economic issues; (2) Freedom from Debt Coalition, which supports taxation reforms in relation to its debt agenda; (3) Alliance of Progressive Labor, a “national labor center” and an active promoter of social movement unionism; and (4) Focus on the Global South, a program of development, policy research, analysis and action. It is said that Philippine civil society is “better equipped to deal with economic issues than their counterparts in other East Asian region because they have been resisting international financial institutions (IFI) intervention for the last two decades” (Chomthongdi 2001, 52).

The paper posits that the Tobin tax movement in the country did not flourish because there is not much public interest in the issue. This can be attributed to two factors: the technical nature of the agenda and the low priority or non-urgency in the Philippine context.

(Photo credit: ATTAC-Muenchen,

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