More aid. More advisors. Better tax systems?

14 February 2018 13:30 - 14:30 UTC-5
Side event


Cathal Long @cathal_long - Research Fellow, Overseas Development Institute (ODI)


Richard Bird - Professor Emeritus at Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

Elfrieda Tamba - Commissioner General, Liberia Revenue Authority

Maya Forstater @MForstater - Visting Fellow, Center for Global Development (CGD)

Iain Steel - Research Associate, Overseas Development Institute (ODI)


Following the Financing for Development conference in Addis Ababa in 2015, there is consensus around the need for developing countries to raise more domestic resources to finance the Sustainable Development Goals. Developing countries have committed to ‘step up domestic revenue mobilisation’, development partners have pledged to ‘collectively double their technical cooperation’, and all have agreed to ‘ensure policy coherence’.

But the notion of ‘tax for development’ is not new. Development partners have been supporting domestic resource mobilisation in developing countries for decades. Results have been mixed, and many have questioned the value for money achieved by their reforms. Some experts even suggest that overly ambitious donor-financed reform plans often hinder rather than support the building of state capability. Others view these failures differently, noting that political commitment has been lacking.    

This session at the First Global Conference of the Platform for Collaboration on Tax - Taxation and the Sustainable Development Goals at the UN Headquarters in New York takes a critical look at the current set of proposals associated with this ambitious agenda. The panellists address:

  • What have we learned from past experience? And, what is different this time round?
  • What do we mean when we talk about political commitment? How can we recognise it when we see it? 
  • How can we manage the quality and coherence of technical assistance at the same time as doubling it? And will this require a paradigm shift?


Richard Bird has published several books and many articles on tax and public finance issues, with special emphasis on the fiscal problems of developing countries. He received his Ph.D. from Columbia and taught at Harvard for several years before joining the University of Toronto where he is currently Professor Emeritus at the Rotman School of Management. In addition, he spent several years with the Fiscal Affairs Department of the IMF and has frequently consulted for the World Bank and other national and international organizations. His current research interests include tax policy, tax administration, and local finance and intergovernmental fiscal relations, particularly in developing countries. He is a member of the Advisory Group of the International Centre for Tax and Development at the Institute for Development Studies (UK).

Elfrieda Tamba is Commissioner General at the Liberia Revenue Authority. Previously, she was Deputy Minister of Revenue at the liberian Ministry of Finance and Chief Financial Officer for the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment. She holds a Master of Business Administration in Finance from the Morgan State University.

Maya Forstater is a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Global Development where her work focuses on the intersection of public policy, business strategy and sustainability – in particular tax and illicit financial flows. She has written extensively about the 'great expectations' on multinational tax avoidance and offshore finance, in the public and political debates on how to strengthen domestic resource mobilisation, enhance investment and secure accountability. She is also an advisor to the B Team on Responsible Tax. From 2014-2016 she was Senior Researcher for the UNEP Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System.  She has also worked with the Transparency and Accountability Initiative (for the Open Government Partnership), the South African Renewables Initiative, the Global Green Growth Initiative, AccountAbility and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. She started her career at the New Economics Foundation, and was involved in setting up the Ethical Trading Initiative. 

Iain Steel is a Research Associate at ODI and an experienced government economist and senior policy adviser having worked for HM Treasury in the UK and advised the government of Liberia for a combined nine years. He has worked on numerous revenue policy issues and reforms in both countries, from advising the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer on yield from the 50p rate of income tax to leading the revenue forecasting team in the Liberian finance ministry. At HM Treasury, he was head of policy in the Budget, Strategy and Tax team, responsible for coordinating tax and spend policy in budgets and pre-budget reports during the great recession. He has a degree in Economics from the University of Bath.

Cathal Long specialises in public finance reforms in low income and fragile states. His research is particularly focused on domestic resource mobilisation and social sector spending. He also works on technical assistance programs in Uganda and South Sudan through the Budget Strengthening Initiative. Prior to joining ODI he was an ODI Fellow in the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development in Swaziland, and previously worked in public sector consultancy. He holds a master’s degree in economics from University College Dublin and is a member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA).

Conference room 11