Ideas to Action:

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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.

 

The Mongolian Millions: What Can We Learn from the Making of a Multinational Tax Avoidance Scandal?

Earlier this year, The Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (“SOMO”; a Dutch NGO) issued a report about an international mining company they said had avoided paying $232 million USD in taxes in Mongolia. The Oyu Tolgoi mine is considered a big deal in Mongolia and has been subject to lengthy negotiations on how to split the risks, costs, and profits of the project between the company and the government. While this question is of primary interest to the people of Mongolia, I think that delving into the detail of individual cases like this is also important for clarifying the broader debates and understanding of tax issues.

 

Is the Idea of Counting Dollars of Illicit Financial Flows Undermining Action Where It Counts?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include a target to “significantly reduce illicit financial flows (IFFs).” While there is no global consensus about what this means, working definitions point to funds that are “illegally earned, transferred, and/or utilized.” The term is thus generally seen as an umbrella for a wide variety of “dirty money” including funds associated with drug, arms, and human trafficking; wildlife and natural resource crime; state capture and illicit enrichment; the financing of terrorism; and the evasion of taxes and tariffs.

Demonetization Ushers in New Era of Digital Finance in India

It has been more than 100 days since the Modi government declared that the two largest denomination notes in India—the 500 and 1000 rupee notes—would no longer be accepted as legal tender. The announcement of “demonetization” had an immediate and sweeping effect on Indian households, which were no longer allowed to use the notes (outside of a few narrow exceptions) and were given less than eight weeks to deposit or exchange them.

Criminal Finances: Should the UK Be Imposing Public Registers of Beneficial Ownership on Its Ex-Colonies?

A new Criminal Finances Bill is making its way through the UK House of Commons which aims to make it harder for criminals and kleptocrats to use the UK financial system to launder ill-gotten gains, while minimising the burden on legitimate businesses and individuals. The bill gives expanded powers to law enforcement agencies and makes banks and other businesses liable for prosecution if they fail to prevent facilitation of tax evasion. It also introduces ‘Unexplained Wealth Orders’ (UWOs). These would allow the authorities to demand explanations about any assets that appear suspicious. These measures should have both domestic and international benefits in tackling illicit financial flows.

Destination Havana: Getting Investment Flowing Might Be Tougher Than You Think

Lifting the trade and investment embargo on Cuba is a laudable policy objective that would allow Cubans better access to American goods and services. It might also give American businesses a boost, including from places that could do with one, like rural Louisiana. Changing the law will be an uphill struggle unless November’s elections transform Congress. But even if Congress can agree, changes to the law might not be sufficient to convince investors to go to Cuba.

US Treasury Under Secretary Nathan Sheets Calls for Action on De-risking at CGD Report Launch Event

Last Thursday, Under Secretary of the US Treasury Nathan Sheets spoke at CGD about anti–money laundering policies and the problem of de-risking, in connection with the launch of a new CGD working group report on the unintended consequences of anti–money laundering policies for poor countries. Sheets’s comments were consistent with the report’s key recommendations including the need for better data and for clearer guidance from financial regulators and standards setters.

Are Anti–Money Laundering Policies Hurting Poor Countries? – New CGD Working Group Report

Next week, the G-20 Leaders will meet in Antalya, Turkey, to continue their conversation about the importance of financial inclusion in achieving strong, sustainable, balanced economic growth. One item on the agenda will be the cost of remittances. In 2009, G-8 Leaders set a goal of reducing remittance costs to 5 percent within 5 years, roughly a 5 percentage point decrease.

How Much Do We Really Know about Multinational Tax Avoidance and How Much Is it Really Worth? Comments Welcome!

At the Financing for Development conference in Addis Ababa this week, the issue of international cooperation to address ‘tax dodging’ and illicit flows will be higher up the agenda than ever before. Credit for this is due in no small part to the various non-governmental organizations that have built up public consciousness and pressure through sustained campaigns focused on the tax affairs of multinational companies.

Extending the UK Charity Commission’s Anti-Terror Powers Could Backfire

During the Queen’s Speech, newly re-elected British Prime Minister David Cameron proposed an extended counter-extremism bill in order to confront “head-on the poisonous Islamist extremist ideology.” A press release from the Prime Minister’s office said that the Bill would give new powers to the UK’s Charity Commission to identify charities that use their income to fund extremism and terrorism.

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