Taxation and Development: The Weakest Link?

Taxation and Development: The Weakest Link?

Essays in Honor of Roy Bahl

Studies in Fiscal Federalism and State–local Finance series

Edited by Richard M. Bird and Jorge Martinez-Vazquez

Taxation and Development highlights the importance of better understanding the ways in which taxes and expenditure are linked. Focusing on developing countries, the book argues for a broader approach to the topic, with a secondary focus on developing and applying new modeling techniques to country-specific data.

Chapter 4: Foreign advice and tax policy in developing countries

Richard M. Bird

Subjects: economics and finance, development economics, public finance, public sector economics


‘Go west, young man’ is one of the many popular quotations that appears never to have been said by (any of) its purported authors. Nonetheless, these words capture in essence the advice given to many an ambitious American in the late 19th century – the period of the opening up of the West in the United States. Equally, aspiring tax policy experts in the post-World War II period who were too young to have played any role in the war and immediate post-war reforms in their own countries might have been well advised to ‘go South’ if what they wanted to do was to play an active role in developing and implementing tax reforms. How else could someone fresh out of graduate school have a chance not only to design major new taxes and to analyze a variety of complex policy questions but also to have the analysis taken seriously by decision-makers? Following in the footsteps of such pioneers as Carl Shoup and Richard Musgrave, over the last half century many economists from developed countries have dispensed advice on tax reform to developing countries – often, whether they had asked for such advice or not. The life of such peripatetic tax advisers has not always been one of wine and roses.

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