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'Winning the Tax Wars': Mobilizing Public Revenue, Preventing Tax Evasion

Christopher Colford's picture
"Winning The Tax Wars" conference


"When something such as the Panama Papers [disclosures on global tax avoidance] happens, we seem to be surprised. We should not be."
— Vito Tanzi, former leader of international tax policy at the International Monetary Fund; author of "Taxation in an Integrating World" (1995)

"Taxes are what we pay for civilized society," said the famed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. So what does it say about society when it tolerates a skewed tax system that applauds tax avoidance, accommodates tax evasion, mocks the compliance of honest taxpayers and drags its feet on tax cooperation?

Those are some of the philosophical (and pointedly political) questions that are being debated this week at the World Bank, at a conference that has gathered some of the world's foremost authorities on international tax policy along with international advocates of fair and effective taxation.

If you can't make it in-person to the Bank's Preston Auditorium this week, many of the conference sessions are being livestreamed and the video will be archived at live.worldbank.org/winning-the-tax-wars

The livestreamed sessions include a pivotal speech by a determined tax-policy watchdog, former Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan) — the former chairman of the U.S. Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations — whose address on "Reducing Secrecy and Improving Tax Transparency" will be one of the highlights of the forum.

Coming just a week after a global conference in London on tax havens, tax shelters and abusive tax-dodging — a conference that highlighted some wealthy nations' lackadaisical approach to enforcing tax fairness —  this week's Bank conference, "Winning the Tax Wars: Protecting Developing Countries from Global Tax Base Erosion" will propel the fair-taxation momentum generated by the recent Panama Papers disclosures. That leaked data exposed the rampant financial engineering (by high-net-worth individuals and multinational corporations) to avoid or evade taxes.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

 

Development Co-operation Report 2015: Making Partnerships Effective Coalitions for Action
OECD
With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, the question of how to finance, implement and monitor these goals moves to the centre of the debate. Today, international development co-operation takes place in an increasingly complex environment, with an ever growing number of actors, policies and instruments involved. This complexity raises the stakes for achieving the goals, but also opens up new opportunities. Although governments will remain the key actors in the implementation of the new post-2015 goals, the role of non-state actors such as civil society, foundations and business is growing. Their association through effective partnerships will be key to the implementation of the post-2015 agenda. The Development Co-operation Report 2015 explores the potential of networks and partnerships to create incentives for responsible action, as well as innovative, fit-for-purpose ways of co-ordinating the activities of diverse stakeholders.

Women and power: overcoming barriers to leadership and influence
ODI
Around the world, women now have more power than ever before. Men still dominate decision-making -- but the number of women is on the rise in parliaments and cabinets, judiciary and police forces, formal employment and education. Increasing the number of women in political and public positions is important, but does not mean that they real power. Women in public life are often subject to sexism and prejudice. Women are less represented in the sectors and positions with the most power. This two-year research project on women's voice and leadership in decision-making, funded by DFID, set out to understand the factors that help and hinder women's access to and substantive influence in decision-making processes in politics and society in developing countries. The project also considered whether, as is often assumed, women's leadership advances gender equality and the wellbeing of women more broadly.
 

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Redefining aid could undermine fragile nations, says UN development chief
The Guardian
The decision to redefine overseas aid to include some military spending in fragile countries will hinder international efforts to help the poorest nations and could even undermine their stability, the UN’s development chief has warned. Last week, the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) revised the rules on what can be counted as foreign aid – technically known as official development assistance (ODA) – following lobbying from the UK and other member countries. Although proponents of the new definition argue that supporting military or security forces in fragile or war-ravaged states should be seen as a development aim and paid for from the aid budget, the move has been criticised by charities who fear it will mean less money reaches the poorest countries.

Emerging, developing countries gain ground in the tech revolution
Pew Research
A new Pew Research Center survey shows that across 40 countries surveyed in 2015, a median of 67% use the internet and 43% report owning a smartphone. But one trend stands out: People in emerging and developing nations are quickly catching up to those in advanced nations in terms of access to technology. Here are five takeaways on technology use in the emerging and developing world:
 

How to scale up financial inclusion in ASEAN countries

José de Luna-Martínez's picture
MYR busy market

Globally, around 2 billion people do not use formal financial services. In Southeast Asia, there are 264 million adults who are still “unbanked”; many of them save their money under the mattress and borrow from so-called “loan sharks”, paying exorbitant interest rates on a daily or weekly basis. Recognizing the importance of financial inclusion for economic development, the leaders of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) have made this one of their top priorities for the next five years.
 
Last week, the World Bank Group presented the latest data on financial inclusion in ASEAN to senior representatives of the ministries of finance and central banks of all 10 ASEAN member countries (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam). The session, held in Kuala Lumpur, is one of the joint activities the new World Bank Research and Knowledge Hub and Malaysia is undertaking to support financial inclusion around the world.
 

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond
World Economic Forum
We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before. We do not yet know just how it will unfold, but one thing is clear: the response to it must be integrated and comprehensive, involving all stakeholders of the global polity, from the public and private sectors to academia and civil society.

Media, discussion and attitudes in fragile contexts
BBC Media Action
Drawing primarily on quantitative data from nationally representative surveys collected for BBC Media Action programming in Kenya and Nigeria, the paper develops and tests the hypothesis that balanced and inclusive media-induced discussion can be a positive force in mitigating attitudes associated with conflict. The results reveal a rich but complicated picture.  We find relatively consistent evidence in both countries that our discussion-oriented media programmes are strongly linked to private discussion among family, friends and others. Evidence from Kenya also suggests that exposure to debate-style programming is potentially linked to public political discussion, but that this relationship is likely to be mediated through other variables such as private political discussion. Finally, in both cases, both private and public discussion is strongly associated with individual attitudes towards conflict. However, the relationship is a complex one and bears further examination.

Learning about learning assessments

Andreas Schleicher's picture
High school students in Latin America review their notes.  Photo: © Charlotte Kesl / World Bank


How do large-scale student assessments, like PISA, actually work? What are the key ingredients that are necessary to produce a reliable, policy relevant assessment of what children and young people know and can do with what they know? A new report commissioned by the OECD and the World Bank offers a behind-the-scenes look at how some of the largest of these assessments are developed and implemented, particularly in developing countries. 

The challenges of widening participation in PISA

Andreas Schleicher's picture
Photo: Nafise Motlaq / World Bank


Since 2000, the OECD’s Programme for International Assessment (PISA) has been measuring the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students in over 70 countries. PISA does not just examine whether students have learned what they were taught, but also assesses whether students can creatively and critically use what they know.

The path to carbon pricing

Jim Yong Kim's picture
Iron and Steel giant ISKOR's Vanderbijl Park refinery. © John Hogg/World Bank


In just six weeks, world leaders will meet in Paris to negotiate a new global climate-change agreement. To date, 150 countries have submitted plans detailing how they will move their economies along a more resilient low-carbon trajectory. These plans represent the first generation of investments to be made in order to build a competitive future without the dangerous levels of carbon-dioxide emissions that are now driving global warming.

The transition to a cleaner future will require both government action and the right incentives for the private sector. At the center should be a strong public policy that puts a price on carbon pollution. Placing a higher price on carbon-based fuels, electricity, and industrial activities will create incentives for the use of cleaner fuels, save energy, and promote a shift to greener investments. Measures such as carbon taxes and fees, emissions-trading programs and other pricing mechanisms, and removal of inefficient subsidies can give businesses and households the certainty and predictability they need to make long-term investments in climate-smart development.

New landmark OECD PISA study on 'Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection'

Michael Trucano's picture
OK, I think I'm developing the outline of something pretty interesting here
OK, I think I'm developing the outline of
something pretty interesting here
The OECD today released a landmark report on students, technology and learning based on data from PISA, the international assessment of 15-year-old school pupils' scholastic performance on mathematics, science, and reading. This new publication presents the most detailed set of data and analysis to date on student access to computers, their use of computers, and learning outcomes (as measured by PISA).
 
Students, Computers and Learning:
Making the Connection
 

 principal author: Francesco Avvisati
Paris: OECD, 2015
 
Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of a related blog post by the OECD’s Andreas Schleicher:
 
"Totally wired. That’s our image of most 15-year-olds and the world they inhabit. But a new, ground-breaking report on students’ digital skills and the learning environments designed to develop those skills, paints a very different picture. Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection finds that, despite the pervasiveness of information and communication technologies (ICT) in our daily lives, these technologies have not yet been as widely adopted in formal education. And where they are used in the classroom, their impact on student performance is mixed, at best."
 
Press reports today have (unsurprisingly) not been terribly nuanced or sophisticated in their understanding or analysis of what the OECD report actually says. Witness the Irish Times: "Ireland has one of the lowest rates of internet use in schools in the world but, ironically, it may be doing students more good than harm, according to a global study published on Tuesday" or the BBC: "Computers 'do not improve' pupil results, says OECD". The Register concludes that the main message is "Don't bother buying computers for schools, says OECD report". More sophisticated and substantive takes on these findings will hopefully emerge in the coming weeks. (I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that a more relevant, and practical, directive might be to figure out how to make good use of all of this technology rather than simply to avoid it entirely, but maybe I am a biased observer here.)
 
My very quick summary take on a few of the key findings, for what it might be worth:

​Toward an effective PPP business model: An eight-point plan for closing the infrastructure gap

Thomas Maier's picture
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The global need for infrastructure is significant, particularly in emerging markets. By consensus estimates from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to the Boston Consulting Group and the World Bank Group, the estimated annual global infrastructure investment need is about US$3.7 trillion – of which only about $2.7 trillion is currently met on an annual basis. 

This much-discussed “infrastructure gap” is large and it is widening. Even if fiscal conditions in developed and emerging economies improve, the need introduced by the infrastructure financing gap is unlikely to be met from public sources alone. This generates an expectation that private capital and user charges must be mobilized to fill these gaps.

But this is an entirely predictable problem, and over many years the international community has made efforts to provide assistance in building public-private partnership (PPP) capacity in emerging markets. Finding ways to leverage private sector investment through sound, consistent and sustained public sector policies should be a focal point for governments around the world.  International financial institutions (IFIs), given their unique relationships with emerging market governments, can and do play an important role. The community of professionals in multilateral development banks (MDBs) is listening; MDBs are willing and able partners.

Of course, stating that idea is one thing; practicing it is another. Here are eight ways that together, we can move from the theoretical to the actual and reach our goals for infrastructure.

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