Foreign Advice and Tax Policy in Developing Countries
Fifty years of experience tells us that the right game for tax researchers and outside agencies interested in fostering better sustainable tax systems in developing countries researchers is not the short-term political game in which policy decisions are made.
The right game for them is instead the long-term one of building up the institutional capacity both within and outside governments to articulate relevant ideas for change, to collect and analyze relevant data, and of course to assess and criticize the effects of such changes as are made.
Tax researchers in developing countries can and should play an active role in all these activities. To do so, however, they often need considerably more and more sustained support from academic institutions abroad as well as from international agencies than is now available. Such long-term ‘institution-building’ activities are seldom immediately rewarding. They appear at present to be out of fashion with international agencies concerned with development, where most efforts at present seem to focus on designing and implementing ever more rigorous ‘benchmarking’ schemes.
Nonetheless, the long-term institution-building approach seems still to provide the most useful way in which foreigners may perhaps be able to assist in the formidable and on-going task of achieving more efficient, equitable, effective, and sustainable tax systems in developing countries.
This paper was originally published by the International Center for Public Policy at the George State University.