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A controversial United Nations plan to impose consumer taxes on such things as Internet activity and paying bills online in order to drastically restructure the world drug industry hit a wall of disagreement on Friday, and is likely dead -- for now.
Instead, they agreed to create a new “consultative expert working group” to examine all the issues involved one more time, and report back to the next World Health Assembly in a year’s time.
“This is a ‘Do Not Pass Go. Do Not Collect $200’ resolution,” said a U.S. participant at the Assembly. “My guess is that it will take one or two years or possibly longer.”
But the capstone of the deal for Western consumers was the “innovative financing” suggested by the original working group, which the experts hoped would raise “tens of billions” of dollars for the restructuring effort. Among the ideas suggested:
-- a "digital" or "bit" tax on Internet activity, which could raise "tens of billions of U.S. dollars";
-- a 10 percent tax on international arms deals, "worth about $5 billion per annum";
-- a financial transaction tax, citing a Brazilian levy that was raising some $20 billion per year until it was canceled (for unspecified reasons);
-- an airline tax that already exists in 13 countries and has raised some $1 billion.