Japan urged to introduce "solidarity levy" to improve poor's health

The executive director of UNITAID, an international organization focused on raising funds to help the poor fight infectious diseases, urged Japan on Tuesday to introduce a so-called "solidarity levy," such as a small tax on airline ticket purchases.

Denis Broun, a French national who formerly worked for the U.N. Children's Fund and the World Health Organization, told a press conference in Tokyo that the levy would serve to supplement Japan's official development assistance budget, which has been shrinking due to the nation's tight fiscal situation.

Broun brushed off concerns over negative effects on Japan's national budget or airline profits from introducing the levy, saying it would have "no impact."

"It is the passenger who pays three or four hundred yen additionally," Broun said of the aviation tax.

Many passengers who pay the tax are "happy that a small amount of their plane ticket was going to allow poor people to have access to medicine," he added.

UNITAID first asked for Japan's support in 2010 and the government and lawmakers have since shown better understanding of the levy, Broun said. He met with a group of parliamentarians earlier Tuesday to make his case for the tax.

The international entity using innovative financing was established in 2006 to enhance access in low-income countries to diagnostics and treatments for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

UNITAID has 29 member countries, with about 70 percent of its funding coming from air ticket levies.