Although French President Jacques Chirac was right about the Iraq war, he is indeed a slimeball. Not for the reasons war supporters gave, but he is a slimeball nonetheless. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, on the other hand, was wrong about Iraq but is not a slimeball.
Blair has made attacking poverty in Africa one of his goals for this year. His government is one the provided the so-called Marshall Plan for Africa. As I I wrote earlier, it would be a good idea if it placed more emphasis on democracy, human rights, rule of law, respect for private property and good governance. But its heart is in the right place and, with some tweaking, might actually have a chance of badgering some African governments into fundamental change.
Jacques Chirac, for his part, was not happy about being upstaged by Blair. Africa has always been France's plaything, much like Latin America has always been the US' plaything. The French have never wanted the Anglos to gain too much influence in Africa, which is why the Paris backed the francophone genociders in Rwanda against the anglophone rebels.
So Chirac decided to combat Blair's legitimate plan with a gimmick. He wants to institute a global tax on financial transactions to fight global poverty. It would only be a tiny fraction of each transaction, but multiplied by millions of transactions a day, it would be a lot of money.
Or perhaps I should say "He proposes to institute..." because I'm not really sure if he wants to or not. It seems more like a gimmick to gain brownie points and look like he cares about Africa than a serious approach. It's unworkable and Chirac knows it. Who would collect the tax? Who would distribute it? To whom would it be distributed? Besides, Washington, who's approval would be necessary for such a scheme to work, would never ok it anyway. Nor should they.
Prominent African leaders, for their part, continue to insist that opening European markets to African goods would do far more than aid given with countless strings attached or only for disasters.