Chirac Announces France Will Begin Airline Tax to Provide Funding for HIV/AIDS, TB, Malaria Next Year

The French government next year plans to implement a tax on airline tickets to help fund the global fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, President Jacques Chirac said on Monday, the AP/USA Today reports (AP/USA Today, 8/30). Chirac in July sent a letter to about 145 world leaders asking for support on his proposal that would require an international airline tax to help fund the fight against the diseases. He first announced the idea in January at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The airline tax would be a surcharge on tickets issued to passengers departing from airports in countries participating in the program. In the letter, Chirac said the tax would be simple to impose and economically neutral and would take countries' economic status into account (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/29). French officials said a tax of about $6 per passenger internationally, with a $25 surcharge for business class, would generate about $12 billion annually worldwide, including $3 billion in Europe (AP/USA Today, 8/30).

International Support, Opposition
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in July expressed support for Chirac's proposal, saying a $1 to $2 additional charge per ticket would provide a constant source of supplementary income for the fight instead of requiring additional aid from the governments that already have made large contributions to the cause (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/29). Chirac said Germany, Algeria, Brazil, Chile and Spain will join France to advocate for an international airline tax at a U.N. meeting in September. U.S. officials in June said they oppose the tax but would not block the proposal, and Greece and Ireland recently gave the proposal a "frosty" reception at an EU meeting, Reuters reports (Pattanaik, Reuters, 8/29).

Next Steps for France
"Without waiting, I asked the government to start the procedures necessary to put such a levy in place next year," Chirac said on Monday. French officials will study how the tax would work and the possible judicial ramifications, and the proposal will have to be approved in Parliament, according to Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Industry spokesperson Sylvian Lambert (AP/USA Today, 8/30). No further details about the amount of money France plans to tax were provided. However, the airline industry is opposed to such a tax in France. Anthony Concil, spokesperson for the International Air Transport Association, said that people in the tourist and service industry in developing nations risk being adversely affected by the program, adding, "Making air travel more expensive is not the way to help the third world" (Reuters, 8/29).

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