NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

BEHIND THE SUBSIDY CURTAIN

October 19, 2006

Over the past half century, taxpayers in the European Union have handed out billions of euros in agricultural subsidies without knowing who gets the money or how much, says the Wall Street Journal.  That will change if, as expected, European Union (EU) member states today agree to reveal the names of everyone who receives checks from a number of programs, including the biggest cheese of them all, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

  • Based on the experience of the 11 EU members that have already released at least partial data about their farm-subsidy recipients, transparency should put paid to the notion that the CAP protects small family farmers.
  • The vast majority of handouts go to big agribusiness firms that could survive just fine on their own -- or, if they couldn't, should have fallen by the wayside long ago.

What ought to be a banner day, though, could be dampened by news that some countries want to keep the subsidy-recipient lists secret for another couple of years, maybe as late as 2009, says the Journal. 

  • There are a number of reasons why certain national capitals prefer to stall, the chief being politics. 
  • Next year the French go to the polls, and politicians don't want to anger farmers who know that transparency will likely boost the case for cutting back on CAP largesse.

But let's savor the good news.  This is a long overdue step for a union that frets about its "democracy deficit" yet does worryingly little to address it.  Taxpayers can make better choices if they know how their hard-earned money is spent, says the Journal.

Source: Editorial, "Behind the Subsidy Curtain," Wall Street Journal, October 19, 2006.

For text (subscription required):

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB116120690999296812.html

 

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