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May 2016

'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.

Quote of the week: Zaha Hadid

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“If I was a man, do you think I would be called a diva? No — they would just talk about the architecture.”

-Zaha Hadid, an Iraqi architect and the first Arab woman who received the Pritzker Architecture Prize, winning it in 2004. She also received the Stirling Prize in 2010 and 2011. In 2012, she was created a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, and in 2015 she became the first woman to be awarded the RIBA Gold Medal in her own right.  Hadid is known for liberating architectural geometry with the creation of extremely expressive, sweeping fluid forms of "multiple perspective points and fragmented geometry to evoke the chaos of modern life." Her acclaimed works include the aquatic center for the London 2012 Olympics, the Broad Art Museum in the U.S., and the Guangzhou, China opera house.  She died on 31 March 2016 in Miami.

Chart: More Than Growth in Humanitarian Aid Needed

Tariq Khokhar's picture

The size and share of all aid going to humanitarian assistance is rising. Responding to long-term crises requires greater partnership between humanitarian and development actors that goes beyond financing to include development-oriented planning around prevention, preparation, and response.

Access to finance and job growth

Maria Soledad Martinez Peria's picture

The recent global financial crisis has highlighted the impact of credit markets on the real economy, in particular on employment. While an extensive literature exists on how finance can affect corporate investment and overall economic growth, comparatively little is known about the effect of finance on labor market outcomes. 

In a recent paper, entitled “Access to Finance and Job Growth: Firm-Level Evidence across Developing Countries” Meghana Ayyagari, Pedro Juarros, Sandeep Singh and I use comprehensive firm-level data across a large set of developing countries to analyze the impact of access to finance on job growth and the heterogeneity in this relationship across firm size.[1] In particular, we study the differential impact of access to finance on MSMEs’ ability to create jobs relative to that of larger firms.

Issues of data collection and measurement

Berk Ozler's picture
About five years ago, soon after we started this blog, I wrote a blog post titled “Economists have experiments figured out. What’s next? (Hint: It’s Measurement)” Soon after the post, I had folks from IPA email me saying we should experiment with some important measurement issues, making use of IPA’s network of studies around the world.

Could a livelihood in agriculture be a way for refugees to move from surviving to thriving?

Dorte Verner's picture
 Dorte Verner

Syrian families have been forcibly displaced and scattered across the Middle East and beyond and many of those who fled the war tell me they have lost friends, family members, and most of their possessions. 

Jasser, a 24-year-old Syrian man, and his family were forced to flee in 2012 because of the bombings. He lost his mother and sister, his house, car, and job. Before leaving Syria he was working in farming, processing and producing fruits and vegetables. Jasser and other displaced people like him are struggling to find jobs (and get visas), generate income, and gain an education. They all say they want to return home in the near future. They all say they want to work and keep their dignity.

Brazil: Extending school days may hurt students

Rita Almeida's picture
Photo: Stephan Bachenheimer/ World Bank

María is a single mother with two young children who spend about five hours a day in school. Since she has a full time job, it’s a challenge for her to care for them and not lose her only source of income. This may be a hypothetical situation but it’s replicated, every day, in many countries in Latin America that have a reduced school day. 
In Latin America, several countries – Chile, Colombia, Uruguay, and Brazil – have introduced programs to lengthen the school day. The goal: to improve student learning, reduce student dropouts, and to ultimately shrink income inequality.

Why cultural diversity matters to development

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Culture is an essential component of each and every society. It is the fabric that weaves communities together and gives them their unique identity. Acknowledging and factoring in cultural diversity is essential to working efficiently with our client countries and adapting interventions to the local context.
 
Embracing cultural diversity, especially through the preservation of cultural heritage assets, also brings tangible economic benefits. Preserving or repurposing historic landmarks in downtown cores, for instance, can make cities more vibrant, attract new firms, and foster job creation. In addition, the preservation of cultural assets plays a key part in supporting sustainable tourism, a sector that has significant potential for reducing poverty in both urban and rural settings.
 
On this World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, Ede Ijjasz and Guido Licciardi tell us more about the role of culture and its importance to the World Bank's mission.
 
If you want to learn more about this topic, we invite you to discover our latest Sustainable Communities podcast.

Bhutan's Gross National Happiness (GNH) and the World Bank

Genevieve Boyreau's picture
Photo Credit: Oliver Jammes

The concept of “Gross National Happiness” has been long discussed, debated, understated, overstated or seen as a gimmick. Now what is really Gross National Happiness? And how does the World Bank engagement fit in it? Let’s look into it together in an attempt to de-mystify the concept into what it really is, which is: a vision, broad policy directions trickling down to programs, a survey, a policy screening tool, and yes also, a foreign policy instrument and a brand.
                  
The visionary statement, “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product” was first enunciated by His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan in the 1970s. In turn, the Fifth King declared: “Today, GNH has come to mean so many things to so many people but to me it signifies simply - Development with Values. Thus for my nation today GNH is the bridge between the fundamental values of kindness, equality and humanity and the necessary pursuit of economic growth.” Article 9-2 of the constitution directs the state “to promote those conditions that will enable the pursuit of Gross National Happiness”.
 
GNH is translated into broad policy directions that provide the Government’s overarching, long-term strategies and five-year plans. The four pillars of GNH philosophy are: sustainable development; preservation and promotion of cultural values (traditional and cultural heritage paramount  - its loss leads to a general weakening of society); conservation of the natural environment (Bhutan’s constitution: 60 percent forest coverage, green economy), establishment of good governance.

How many people does it take to change a light bulb?

Ashok Sarkar's picture
What is this? Read on to find out.

Riddle us this. In what country are...
  • 450 million ceiling fans already in use, 40 million new ones sold every year?
  • 350 million fluorescent tube lights already in use, 10 million new sold every year?
  • 30 million air conditioners already in use, three million new sold every year?
If you guessed India, you are right.

With a population of about 1.2 billion, India is one of the largest consumer markets in the world. So it’s no surprise that household appliances account for several gigawatts of electricity usage across the country. As India’s middle class grows and people move from villages to towns and cities, electricity usage is only increasing. In fact, hundreds of millions of electric appliances will be added over the next few decades. This poses a serious challenge for India’s energy security since there already are electricity supply shortages, which often lead to chronic outages and blackouts. The surge in household appliances is also a climate change challenge—India, the world’s third-largest CO2 emitter, is predicted to continue increasing its greenhouse gas emissions at least until 2030.

But India is turning this challenge into an opportunity by tapping into energy efficiency solutions, a relatively new area with already a few major successes. Considered globally as the “first fuel,” energy efficiency is rising to the forefront of India’s quest for innovative solutions to provide 24/7 reliable and affordable electricity for all.

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