Former finance minister warns of global scars

Former finance minister warns of global scars

“Our biggest risk continues to be further waves of infection,” he said, speaking from Paris.

Australia’s previous finance minister Mathias Cormann has sounded a warning about “the economic and social scars” of the pandemic. Global economic growth has gotten for the current year and keeps on improving, yet the resurgence of COVID-19 in Europe shows “serious downside risks remain”, the OECD Secretary-General told the Lowy Institute on Wednesday. Uneven vaccine coverage hampers growth prospects, as do limitations on development across the world, he said. Governments should target economic help to those in real need, and focus on sustainable investment in infrastructure as they rebuild.

Mr Cormann reiterated that “ambitious” action is needed on climate change.

“It is very significant that Australia has committed to net zero by 2050 and there is a transition pathway underway,” he said.

“It’s always important to be more ambitious but it’s even more important to be able to deliver the outcomes.”

Mr Cormann was Australia’s longest-serving finance minister and worked under three prime ministers, including during the Abbott government when Labor’s carbon tax was scrapped and current climate targets were set.

Now the OECD Secretary-General, the former senator from resources-rich Western Australia has called for the abolition of fossil fuel subsidies and coordinated global carbon pricing.

As head of the international economic body, he is mobilising global climate finance to help the world achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050

He is also working to protect a rules-based international trading system as the world adjusts to the rise of China. The recent global agreement on a new international tax regime, including a minimum corporate tax rate of 15 per cent, must be implemented quickly to level the global playing field, Mr Cormann said.

The landmark deal, agreed by 136 countries and jurisdictions representing more than 90 per cent of global GDP, included China and India as signatories. Competition on tax rules to attract foreign investment will also end under the pact, but Mr Cormann said the agreement was not about eliminating tax competition.

“We do believe it will make the global tax system fairer and work better.” Too many of the largest, most technologically advanced companies were structuring themselves to avoid tax, he said.

Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft or Apple have set up in low-tax jurisdictions. Mr Cormann said the OECD needed more members and any market-based democracy should be able to make its case to join.

China, the world’s second-biggest economy and Australia’s largest trading partner, is one of the many non-member economies. Mr Cormann said many issues, including climate change, could only be addressed if China, India and the United States were at the table.

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