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Simon Atkinson

Deputy Head of Mission, Cape Town

Part of UK in South Africa

14th June 2013 Cape Town, South Africa

G8 2013: taxes, transparency and trade. What could be more exciting?

The G8

There are just a few days left before world leaders convene in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, on 17-18 June for the G8 Summit. It makes me recall my first job in the Foreign Office – G8 Desk Officer for our 2005 Presidency. Talk about the deep end – just eight months after starting, I found myself in a room with some of the most powerful world leaders! Deep breath!

If you haven’t heard of the G8 (I was armed with only the haziest of notions before I joined the office!), here are the basics: it’s an annual forum that brings together 8 of the most powerful economies in the world to discuss important issues of the day. Even its detractors would have to agree that it remains a powerful tool to make things happen on the world stage. It also provides an opportunity for the G8 members to demonstrate that we’re getting our own houses in order. Little point asking others to follow an example we haven’t tried to set (one of the reasons we signed up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative last month).

Taxes, transparency and trade

Our focus on Africa in 2005 was about raising unprecedented levels of aid and cancelling debt. This year’s agenda – which Prime Minister David Cameron has set as pushing for fairer tax regimes, greater transparency and freer trade – recognises that positive impacts of non-aid policies, such as trade and tax, are just as important for development, if not more. It is an agenda that is equally critical to the prosperity and growth of Africa as it is to the G8.

Without open societies and open economies, can developing countries really tackle poverty effectively? Can we really afford for tax havens to sit on an estimated $20trillion (as a tax payer, I have to admit to feeling pretty bitter about this!)? And should we not continue to look at ways to drive global growth, including dismantling protectionism and trade barriers (something that holds back African development)?

South Africa’s role in the agenda

South Africa already plays a leading role on the agenda. It is a founding member of the Open Government Partnership, it has important roles on the Africa Peer Review Mechanism and the Kimberly process, it has a superb revenue service and the second most transparent budget in the world. President Zuma’s personal championing of the North-South trade corridor is a crucial element in regional trade integration. South Africa has a huge amount to contribute – both to the 3Ts debate, and to our efforts to take forward the G8 agenda in the months to come.

For more information

If this has whetted your G8 appetite, here are some links:

About Simon Atkinson

Simon Atkinson was born and spent the first 9 years of his life in New Zealand, before his family moved to the less leafy suburbs of Wallington, South London. After…

Simon Atkinson was born and spent the first 9 years of his life in New Zealand, before his family moved to the less leafy suburbs of Wallington, South London. After university at Leeds and 4 years teaching English and working for NGOs in Europe and South America, Simon joined the UK Foreign Office. His first overseas posting was in India, where he was a political officer covering issues like counter-proliferation and the relationship between India and its neighbours. He was also the Commonwealth Games Attaché during Delhi’s 2010 Games.

Cape Town is his second and current posting. His role here is dual hatted – as Deputy Consul General, he supports the Consul General manage the office, and as the Head of the Political Team, he covers the whole gambit of South African policy (though being based in Cape Town means this is heavily focused on domestic policies and Parliament).

Simon is married to Gina, who also works for the Foreign Office. They enjoy being in South Africa, as both a fascinating country to cover politically and wonderful place to live, allowing them to pursue their passion for the outdoors and perfect their ability to ‘braai’ (not that they’re under any illusion about how often they’ll get to demonstrate this skill once they return to the UK)!