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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.

 

A meeting of the CGD working group on government contract transparency

From Open Oil to Open Everything? The 7 C’s of Using Open Models for Contract Negotiation

When companies and governments sit down to negotiate the terms for major deals with the private sector, workhorse spreadsheet models are what underpin projections of revenues, costs, and profits over time. Both companies and government agencies should have their own models. But in practice, on the government side, there is often no model at all. And even where there is, they are poorly understood, narrowly shared, and rarely if ever updated, leaving the public completely in the dark about how public assets and deals are managed.

The Proposed SDG Indicator on Illicit Financial Flows Risks Conflating Ordinary Business and Dirty Money

“Illicit financial flows” means dirty money crossing borders. It is an umbrella term which covers diverse actors including organised crime groups, business people making bribes, political leaders engaging in grand corruption, and major tax evaders hiding undeclared wealth. What they all have in common is that what they are doing is illegal (although they may be getting away with it), and they often use opaque international networks of legal entities, bank accounts, and property holdings to facilitate and store ill-gotten gains. There is a clear development case for rich countries to act to prevent their financial systems being used as havens for illicit financial flows that harm developing countries.

Pinning Down Illicit Financial Flows: Why Definitions Matter

The SDGs include a target to “significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen the recovery and return of stolen assets and combat all forms of organised crime”. However, there is no globally agreed upon definition for “illicit financial flows.” My new CGD paper looks at why there is so much disagreement and confusion over this term.

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.