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Dr. Samuel Jibao is an ICTD researcher whose main area of interest is public economics with special focus on taxation. He holds a PhD in Economics and has done extensive research on tax, both at the national and sub-national levels.

Jibao is the Director of the Centre for Economic Research and capacity Building in, Sierra Leone, Senior Lecturer at the Africa tax Institute – University of Pretoria and former Deputy Director of the Monitoring, Research and Planning Department of the    National Revenue Authority of Sierra Leone. He has published a number of research focusing specifically on Sierra Leone, including Rebuilding Local Government Finance After Conflict: The Political Economy of Property Tax Reform in Sierra Leone and The political economy of property tax in Africa: Explaining reform outcomes in Sierra Leone.

 

Why are you interested in taxation as an issue?

My interest in tax stems from my understanding and conviction that taxation is a cornerstone of broad-based development and a secure, efficient and sustainable way to finance Africa’s development. It provides a stable flow of revenue to finance development priorities such as strengthening health, education, physical infrastructure, and is interwoven with numerous other policy areas, from good governance and formalising the economy, to spurring growth. Despite a seemingly widespread recognition of the central importance of taxation, effective dialogue and debate on tax issues remain limited partly, owing to the paucity of evidence- based research on the topic. Hence my interest in contributing to narrowing this research gap.

 

What are your research areas of interest to which you are most dedicated?

Over the past few years I’ve worked extensively, in collaboration with Wilson Prichard of the ICTD, on property tax reform measures and tax compliance issues at the local government level in Sierra Leone. Property tax has the potential to be both a primary source of local government revenue in low-income countries and a critical component of achieving the broader governance-enhancing objectives of decentralisation. By providing local governments with expanded revenue the property tax promises not only expanded service provision, but also greater decision-making autonomy for local governments.

 

Why are you particularly interested in these issues?

Decentrailisation has been a major component of recent governance reform efforts in sub-Saharan Africa, and has figured prominently in a wide range of post-conflict settlements in efforts to diffuse regional tensions. However, whilst decentralisation has gained significant attention, and the decentralisation of nominal expenditure responsibilities has made significant progress, much less progress has been made in expanding revenue collection capacity at the local government level, thus local governments have to overwhelming rely on central government transfers which undermines their desired autonomy. Whilst there are persuasive reasons provided in the literature to expect that expanding local government revenue may be important for broader development outcomes, there is surprisingly little work looking at the nature of existing systems and challenges of reform. Most existing work focus relatively narrowly on questions related to the appropriate design of tax policy and the local government level. By contrast, very limited research has looked at questions related to (i) Taxpayer experiences and perceptions of the local tax system, (ii) The connections between taxation and broader governance outcomes and (iii) the efficacy of specific reform interventions. I believe that there is correspondingly much to be gained by better understanding tax compliance issues and barriers to reform, and the factors that have contributed to stronger performance in certain countries, or jurisdictions.

 

You’ve published a number of research focusing on Africa and specifically Sierra Leone. What are some of the research findings you’ve come up with that are most surprising to policymakers?

Our most recent paper, The Political Economy of Property Tax reform in Africa: Explaining Reform Outcomes in Sierra Leone, published in African Affairs, identified four sets of factors that has been critical to shaping sub-national variation in reform outcomes.  First, elite cohesion has served as a critical barrier to tax reform, and particularly to effective enforcement, by strengthening the effectiveness of resistance by economic elites. Second, ethnic diversity – as reflected in a higher share of migrant large property owners – has, somewhat counter-intuitively, enhanced the effectiveness of reform by fragmenting elite resistance.  Third, opposition councils have shown a stronger commitment to local tax collection in response to the risk, whether real or perceived, of the politicization of intergovernmental transfers. Finally, competitive local elections have the potential to not only expand incentives for tax collection, but also to shape the character of tax reform efforts in the direction of greater transparency, inclusiveness and equity.

 

What do you think is the most neglected policy issue in taxation?

Study on capacity requirements for an efficient and strategic allocation and utilization of the tax revenue generated at both national and sub-national government levels. 

 

In your opinion, what role does/can the ICTD research play in the development policies/discussions in Africa and other developing countries?

ICTD research findings have been very useful particularly for African Researchers and some policy makers in Africa. The role of civil society groups is very critical for policy discussions in Africa, thus ICTD could support some civil society groups to promote salient and topical policy issues in the continent. Also, ICTD should strengthen relationship with the African Tax Administration Forum and embark on joint policy discussions. Finally, ICTD should endeavour in the distant future to embark on Technical Assistance missions to African institutions.

 

How can ICTD research be made more relevant and accessible to practitioners and policymakers?

Research outputs could be simplified into policy briefs and disseminated to policymakers through ICTD partner organisations. The ICTD could also directly engage with policymakers on research findings particularly those related to case study countries and expand membership to annual meetings to include policy makers both at national and sub-national government levels.

 

To what extent has doing research for the ICTD helped you grow as a researcher?

My affiliation with ICTD research team, particularly the Research Director Wilson Prichard, has not only increased my interest in Political Economy research but also built my research capability a lot. Secondly, the annual meetings have been very relevant in terms of knowledge sharing and networking. Finally, research grants provided enabled me set up a Research Centre that is actively engaged in policy research in Sierra Leone.

My dream is to expand the capacity of the Centre for Economic Research and Capacity Building to ensure that our research remain at the forefront of public policies in conflict and post conflict settings in Africa, addressing the evolving challenges of these societies. 


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