Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

Views from the Center

CGD experts offer ideas and analysis to improve international development policy. Also check out our Global Health blog and US Development Policy blog.

 

How Big Is the Transfer Pricing Prize for Development?

It is often stated that developing countries are “haemorrhaging billions of dollars” of tax revenues through companies abusing transfer pricing, in particular by mispricing commodities.There is no doubt that companies can take advantage of weak regulations and enforcement, but new studies based on microdata from revenue authorities suggest the scale of revenues that might be recovered is unlikely to match up to heightened popular expectations.

Why Do People Think Nigeria Might Be Losing $1 Trillion to Corporate Tax Evasion?

Misunderstandings about the scale of multinational tax avoidance are common. The origin story for an erroneous $1 trillion figure is a case of bad lip reading, but its proliferation reflects the belief that there are absolutely huge sums of money for development at stake from cracking down on multinational tax avoidance. The figure itself may be ridiculous but these myths are serious—they undermine both trust in revenue authorities and businesses, overheat disputes, and make it harder to judge practical progress on improving tax systems and compliance.

Do Weak Governments Doom Developing Countries to Poverty?

When you read what economists have to say about development, it is easy to be disheartened about the prospects for poor countries. One big reason is that slow changing institutional factors are seen as key to development prospects. I’ve just published a CGD book that’s a little more optimistic: Results Not Receipts: Counting the Right Things in Aid and Corruption.

Liberians’ Eagerness for Debate Can Bode Well for Accountable Leadership

At the Liberia Development Conference, I laid out four interlinked themes vital to Liberia’s future development progress and to pose questions for conference participants, including what Liberia’s development partners can do to leverage their support with stronger Liberian ownership and concrete enduring results. Here, I summarize my speech’s four themes and attempt to give my thoughts in answer to the question I posed to others.

How Much Aid is Really Lost to Corruption?

One of the questions reportedly from the Presidential transition team to the State Department was: “With so much corruption in Africa, how much of our funding is stolen?” During the nomination hearings for Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State, Senator Rand Paul provided one answer: seventy percent of aid is “stolen off the top.” The question is a fair one to ask. The bad news is that the short answer is “we don’t know.” The better news is that the slightly longer answer is “nowhere near 70 percent.” And the best news is that if we spent more time tracking the results of aid projects, we’d have a much better idea of where corruption was a problem and if our efforts to reduce it were working.

How the US and UK Can Help Ordinary Zimbabweans without Helping their Government

How can countries with a strong history and connection to that beleaguered country help its people while not entrenching its kleptocratic leadership? Between the “lend and hope” strategy and the “isolate and wait” approach, what could the international community do to prevent unnecessary suffering without aiding the oppressors? Here’s an agenda.

Give Us the Courage to Change the Things We Can

Rory Stewart MP gave a wise speech about how Britain can play a role in global peace and stability. In my brief response to the Minister, I suggested twelve policies which are within our control which would help create conditions for stronger, more peaceful, more prosperous countries to thrive, and so reduce the risks of future conflict and instability. Here they are.

"The Worst Aid Project in the World:" EU Support for Detention Camps in Sudan

More than a million migrants and refugees arrived in Europe in 2015, with thousands dying in the attempt to cross by sea. EU development policy has swung into action, in an attempt to address the “root causes” of the movement of people. But this rapid reaction has led to some poor decisions, with the potential to waste a lot of money, and potentially cause serious harm.

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