Thursday, November 19, 2009

Reading List: Aid, Taxation and Ownership

I've been sitting on a few pages lately related to development.  I'm clearly not going to get around to writing a proper blog post on them, and the number of tabs open on my Mozilla Firefox is growing day by day, so I'm just going to link to them and say briefly what they are, in approximate chronological order.  Maybe it will form itself into some kind of thoughtful blog post.

I've come across a couple of posts from Aid Thoughts and AidWatch about taxation in developing countries and its positive effect on accountability and infrastructure.  The AidWatch article about taxation and vaccination either side of an arbitrary line drawn in colonial Nigeria is rather over-simplified, I feel, but the principle is worth looking at further.

Aid Thoughts have made another post today about Ownership and the Paris Declaration, how true ownership is necessary for effective development, but that for true ownership, donors need to trust Governments to drive their own agenda.

Of course, faith in Governments to do the right thing should correlate positively with their accountability to the people, which in turn should increase with taxation, so it all links in together.  I can't imagine however, how the Tanzanian Government would begin to effectively and fairly tax the people of rural Songea, to use a region I know quite well.  An easy tax would be VAT, but that's regressive and hurts the very poorest people disproportionately.  A poll tax wouldn't be much better.  Implementation's going to be a bit of a bugger.

I also came across an article in the Dallas Morning News entitled 'Africa needs more than condoms', which eloquently discusses how different African's spiritual beliefs are from those coming to aid development, and how this creates barriers to behaviour change.  Sadly, it then goes on to use this as an excuse to suggest that the imposition of Catholic morals is less objectionable than promotion of contraception, because the Catholic morals more closely resemble traditional African spiritual morals.

The man makes a good point, but in his haste to promote sexual morals (rightly) as part of the solution, there's an implicit suggestion that condoms aren't working.  And that leaves me feeling rather uncomfortable.

A couple more links:

Is A Wall To Keep People Out Better Than A Wall To Keep People In?

The Corrective Rape Of Lesbians

(Image pinched from this site)


  1. you're right that ownership and tax is linked, but it's a complex relationship. The more tax revenue there is relative to aid (absolutes don't matter so much here), the less the Government needs ownership of the aid agenda. It also depends on what kind of tax is raised.

    Also true that the biggest issue is practical. For this to work, it needs to be income and corporate taxation that is collected; the biggest constraints are 1) information (knowing who's doing what) and 2) designing a system that works in the local context and given local assessments of what is legitimate.

    If a tax structure is perceived as illegitimate or irrelevant (as De Soto argues for property), it will be subject to mass avoidance and will cease to function quite quickly.

  2. Cheers for your comment Ranil.

    And that's exactly why you won't see me talking about it with any significant confidence - I get the basic concept but the complexities are way beyond my current understanding.

    It's an interesting issue that I've recently read a bit more about.


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