Domestic Tax and Education

Domestic Tax and Education

Report for ActionAid and International Commission on Financing Global Education (November 2016)

This report, part-written by Curtis Research, outlines how increased taxation in developing countries should fund public education. The task is urgent given that 121 million primary or lower secondary age children are out of school while 250 million children who are in school but not learning. Many tax incentives provided by developing country governments cause far more harm than good. First, and most importantly, they can massively reduce government revenues by removing the requirement for companies to pay fair levels of tax. Second, they can encourage corruption and secrecy when negotiated in highly discretionary ‘special deals’ with individual companies. Third, they mainly attract ‘footloose’ firms which move their investments from one country to another, and therefore do not encourage stable long term investments. Fourth, where they favour foreign investors, they can disadvantage domestic investors and deter them from entering markets or expanding. The ostensible reason for governments providing tax incentives to business is to attract foreign direct investment (FDI), yet the evidence suggests that tax incentives are not needed to attract FDI. There are four types of incentives that are particularly problematic: discretionary incentives, tax holidays, tax incentives in free trade zones and stability agreements. Developing countries are estimated to lose US$139 billion a year just from one form of tax incentive – corporate income tax exemptions. This could easily fill the annual global finance gap for basic education.

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Hotter Planet, Humanitarian Crisis: El Niño, the ‘New Normal’ and the Need for Climate Justice

Hotter Planet, Humanitarian Crisis: El Niño, the ‘New Normal’ and the Need for Climate Justice

Report for ActionAid (November 2016)

The world is enduring an unprecedented combination of climate related crises. We are living through what will almost certainly be the hottest year on record, and have faced one of the strongest El Niño weather events of all time. In 2016, the Earth has recorded the highest ever level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which are set to rise still further. The 2015-16 El Niño may yet prove to have caused the biggest drought that the world has ever seen and many countries are enduring their worst droughts in decades, affecting hundreds of millions of people. The Paris Agreement on climate change was celebrated with much fanfare less than a year ago, but the lack of an adequate response to the global El Niño drought shows that the world is not yet willing or able to respond properly to an actual climate crisis. The report argues that the world must now act to further cut greenhouse gas emissions, and that, since climate-induced extreme weather events are likely to become the “new normal,” far greater efforts are needed to prevent these from becoming humanitarian crises. Governments, donors, climate and humanitarian agencies must work together to prepare for and respond to an increasingly climate-chaotic world.

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Development Finance Institutions and Responsible Corporate Tax Behaviour

Development Finance Institutions and Responsible Corporate Tax Behaviour

Report for Oxfam IBIS (Denmark) and other NGOs (November 2016)

This report, written with Sara Jespersen of Oxfam IBIS, finds that Development Finance Institutions (DFI) are not doing enough to avoid becoming accomplices in harmful corporate tax practices. It highlights the role DFIs should play in promoting responsible tax practices by companies. DFIs are largely failing to use their influence as investors in companies operating in developing countries to ensure that those companies restrict or eliminate their use of tax havens or to reduce the risk of corporate tax avoidance. While others have taken important steps forward. There is a particular need for DFIs to play this role, given the scale of global tax dodging, the fact that DFIs largely use public money and since DFI investments in developing countries are significantly increasing.

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Invisible Lives: How the International Community is Failing Syrian Women Refugees

Invisible Lives: How the International Community is Failing Syrian Women Refugees

Report for Islamic Relief (September 2016)

This report focuses on the plight of female Syrian refugees who are trying to survive and make a living in two countries neighbouring Syria – Lebanon and Iraq. Over 1.5 million Syrians are now in Lebanon and over a quarter of a million are in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. A  large proportion are women and girls. Women now find themselves not only as refugees but often as heads of household and bread-winners, away from their traditional sources of support. This report focus on the barriers they face in providing for their families, such as: A lack of good employment opportunities; gender-based violence in communities and in the workplace; and extremely limited access to good education for their children, including girls. At the same time, not only has the international community failed to bring about an end to the war in Syria, but it is also failing to adequately support those who are fleeing it. UN financial appeals for Lebanon and Iraq remain massively under-funded.

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The New Colonialism: Britain’s Scramble for Africa’s Energy and Mineral Resources

The New Colonialism: Britain’s Scramble for Africa’s Energy and Mineral Resources

Report for War on Want (July 2016)

This report reveals the degree to which British companies now control Africa’s key mineral resources. It reviews the operations of all the companies listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) that have mining interests in Africa, focusing on key minerals and metals such as gold, platinum, diamonds, copper, oil, gas and coal. It finds that 101 companies have mining operations in 37 sub-Saharan African countries. These companies, which are mainly British, now control an identified $1.05 trillion worth of resources in Africa in just five commodities — oil, gold, diamonds, coal and platinum. Of the 101 LSE-listed companies, one quarter are incorporated in tax havens. A determination to plunder the natural resources of Africa is taking place, with the active support of the British government; this is contributing significantly to a net drain of resources from Africa, already the world’s poorest continent.

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Chinese, Brazilian and Indian Investments in African Agriculture: Impacts, Opportunities and Concerns

Chinese, Brazilian and Indian Investments in African Agriculture: Impacts, Opportunities and Concerns

Report for Acord International (June 2016)

This study offers new analysis of Chinese, Brazilian and Indian investments in African agriculture. It brings together three new case studies of Chinese investment and aims to assess the impacts of investment on Africa’s small-scale farmers. The report aims to assess how appropriate these investments are for Africa’s small-scale farmers, including how aligned they are to Africa’s own agriculture strategies. The report finds that there are major problems with Chinese, Brazilian and Indian investments. Some investments are associated with land grabs, several projects are having adverse consequences on local farmers, and the kind of technology being promoted in Africa tends to be more suited to Chinese, Brazilian and Indian agribusiness interests than to Africa’s smallholder farmers. Above all, investments and cooperation programmes do not appear to systematically involve African smallholder farmers in project design or implementation, but appear more suited to large-scale farming. This is despite some projects which proponents claim are resulting in significant crop yield increases, although there are few genuinely independent evaluations of these projects.

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Still Racing Toward The Bottom? Corporate Tax Incentives in East Africa

Still Racing Toward The Bottom? Corporate Tax Incentives in East Africa

Report for ActionAid and Tax Justice Network Africa (June 2016)

In 2012, ActionAid and Tax Justice Network Africa published a report estimating that East African countries were losing revenues of up to US$2.8 billion a year by providing tax incentives.  The 2012 report received – and continues to receive – widespread attention from the media and governments. This new report assesses what progress has been made since 2012 in reducing these tax incentives, and outlines mixed findings. On the one hand, governments have taken some positive steps to reduce VAT-related incentives, which are increasing tax collections and providing vital extra revenues that could be spent on providing critical services. On the other hand, they are still failing to eliminate all unnecessary tax incentives, including corporate income tax incentives given to corporations. Precise figures are impossible to provide due to a lack of transparency, but the evidence gathered suggests that four East African countries could still be losing around US$1.5 billion and possibly up to US$2 billion a year.

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Supporting Small Businesses in Developing Countries: Which Programmes Work and Why?

Supporting Small Businesses in Developing Countries: Which Programmes Work and Why?

Report for European NGOs (Christian Aid, Church of Sweden, ICCO, Diakonia, Norwegian Church Aid, DanChurchAid) (June 2016)

This study examines how governments and donors can better promote ‘business enabling environments’ so that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can contribute to inclusive economic development in developing countries. It focuses on ‘what works’ and contains a review of literature on SME support plus three case studies. Despite a substantial literature on business development, remarkably little is known about which SME support programmes work and why. There is significant funding of SME support programmes by multilateral and bilateral actors but much of this is focused on providing financial loans to SMEs and advocating general reforms to the investment climate, which mainly benefit larger enterprises, including multinational companies, rather than SMEs. Other support programmes are often neglected. This study challenges these approaches and suggests alternative support policies.

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The Need for Model Mining Legislation: Case studies on the impact of mining in Angola, DRC, Kenya and Zimbabwe

The Need for Model Mining Legislation: Case studies on the impact of mining in Angola, DRC, Kenya and Zimbabwe

Report for International Alliance on Natural Resources in Africa (IANRA) (May 2016)

Africa is rich in natural resources, with significant deposits of gold, platinum, iron ore, copper, diamonds, and many other minerals and metals. Yet Africa’s people benefit little from these riches and African governments typically capture only a small share of the final value of the vast mineral exports from the continent. Even worse, many communities in mining areas – usually farmers who are already poor – are often left worse off as a result of mining operations. This report presents new research from mining operations in four countries – Zimbabwe, Angola, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo – and highlights ongoing problems and adverse human rights impacts from industrial mining. The report calls for and proposes model mining legislation to ensure that governments transform policies and laws to make African mining support the rights and needs of its people.

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Gated Development: Is the Gates Foundation Always a Force for Good?

Gated Development: Is the Gates Foundation Always a Force for Good?

Report for Global Justice Now (January 2016)

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) is the world’s largest charitable organisation, with an asset endowment of $43.5 billion. In global health and agriculture policies, two of its key grant areas, the BMGF has become probably the most influential actor in the world. Bill Gates himself has become probably the single most influential voice in international development. But the BMGF’s increasing global influence is not being subjected to democratic scrutiny. Further, this study shows that the BMGF’s programmes are – overall – detrimental to promoting economic development and global justice. The world is being sold a myth that private philanthropy holds many of the solutions to the world’s problems, when in fact it is pushing the world in many wrong directions.

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