The BMZ initiative for an International Tax Compact. Keynote speech, held at the International Tax Compact Workshop (Brussels, January 2010)

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1 Dr. Ulla Mikota Deputy Director General German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) The BMZ initiative for an International Tax Compact Keynote speech, held at the International Tax Compact Workshop (Brussels, January 2010) Thank you Mr. Balzer, It is a pleasure for me to take over. Assistant Deputy Director General Lorea Arribalzaga, Director of General Affairs Klaus Rudischhauser, dear colleagues and representatives from development partner countries and organisations, Ladies and Gentlemen, good morning to everybody! It seems to be a very productive Monday morning. As the representative of the BMZ, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, I am very pleased to be able to welcome so many of you here today. At the first International Tax Compact event - just a year ago in Berlin - the numbers were decidedly smaller. For today s event, which the BMZ has organised jointly with the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation and the EU-Commission, we have representatives from 27 partner countries and from a number of international organisations. Some of you have made very long journeys in order to be at this workshop. We are very pleased about that and see it as confirmation that a forum like the International Tax Compact is needed as a joint dialogue and learning platform about issues relating to development cooperation in tax matters. What is the background of the International Tax Compact? Transparent, fair and functioning public finance systems are one of the most important basic requirements for poverty reduction, sustainable, self-determined development, stability and good governance. They not only mobilise funds but also create legitimacy for state action and foster a good relationship between citizens and their governments. Although we have known all of this for a long time, international development cooperation has mainly concentrated on the expenditure side of the budget cycle. It is only recently that more weight has been placed on the income and the revenue side as well. This change was triggered, as you know, by the conferences on financing for development in Monterrey in 2002 and in Doha in At those conferences an agreement was reached that not only more funding for development cooperation needed to be made available by the donors, but that greater efforts were also needed in our partner countries in order to mobilise their own national resources, particularly by increasing their tax revenues. Since the average tax to GDP ratio in our partner countries is currently 17% (whilst the OECD average is 35%), there seems to be a huge potential for self-reliance and self-determination in financial matters. We are all aware that our partner countries in particular feel the negative effects of tax 1

2 evasion and tax avoidance especially strongly. The result is that they are denied the funds they urgently need for investments in education, and other forms of social infrastructure. As you know, these losses are estimated to be several times higher compared to what donor countries spend each year on global development aid in the form of Official Development Assistance. Against the background of these two developments- the discussion about financing for development and the discussion about effective ways to tackle tax evasion and tax avoidancethe BMZ decided to launch a development policy initiative for an International Tax Compact. We intend this as an informal dialogue and learning platform for donor countries, partner countries and international organisations, where they can agree as equal actors on concrete joint activities based on best practices for fostering transparent, fair and functioning tax systems in partner countries within the framework of international development cooperation and of effectively fighting tax evasion and tax avoidance. At the first event in Berlin we announced that we were willing to finance a coordination secretariat for this purpose. This ITC Secretariat already exists and has begun working. The contact person at the Secretariat is Dr. Ute Eckardt. (I m sure you will get to know her personally very soon). Mrs. Eckardt has been working in this area for many years and played a major role in the preparations for today s workshop. I would like to take this opportunity to say a warm thank you to her and the entire GTZ support team for all their hard work. And my thank of course goes as well to everybody who has made this workshop possible like in particular Mr. Wollny from BMZ. Before I m going to say a few words on the intended concrete results of the workshop and of the ITC in the month ahead, let me briefly refer to the current political environment of the initiative. Following last year s election, Germany now has a new government since November The most important and encouraging message for us here today is: the topic is still high on the German development cooperation agenda. The new government s Coalition Agreement states that good governance, ownership and self-help in our partner countries will play an even more prominent role in the future as core defining elements of German development cooperation. Greater attention is also to be given to partner countries own efforts to mobilise domestic funding. A key instrument when it comes to putting all of this into practice is, we feel, the International Tax Compact initiative. It will play a pivotal role in German development cooperation in the future as well. And for this in respect to our initiating role with ITC, we can build on more than 30 years experience of German development cooperation in fiscal matters. In the past we have worked with numerous countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia and South-East Europe to carry out bilateral cooperation-activities in areas such as tax, fiscal decentralisation, budget supervision, procurement and fighting corruption. Many of these cooperation-activities are still ongoing and new projects have been added. During our G8 Presidency in 2007, we successfully campaigned for the G8 Action Plan for Good Financial Governance in Africa and we are pleased that the African Development Bank 2

3 and the UN Commission for Africa have begun discussing an African Agenda for Good Financial Governance. Supporting regional organisations is another important part of German development cooperation. In Africa the main organisations are the recently founded African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF), the Collaborative Africa Budget Reform Initiative (CABRI), the African Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (AFROSAI), the East African Community (EAC), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the UN Commission for Africa (UNECA). In Latin America we can look back on long years of cooperation with the Centro Interamericano de Administraciones Tributarias (CIAT) and with the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). Furthermore, Germany has been cooperating with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on support for Regional Training Centres in Africa since 2002 and has now also expanded this cooperation to include an IMF training centre in Central America. We are the first donor country to contribute to the newly set-up IMF Trust Fund on Tax Policy and Administration, from which partner countries will be able in future to receive targeted support for reforming their tax systems. In October 2009, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the IMF for even closer cooperation which will also include joint Technical Cooperation activities in bilateral programmes and closer coordination between the various initiatives supported by the BMZ and the IMF. Germany also is deeply committed to supporting global approaches such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which now includes 30 developing countries as members (and in which, I have the honour to serve as a board member at present). Last, but of course not least: What are our expectations for the workshop? All in all, there are a lot of activities going on, co-financed by Germany and many other development partners, who are involved in this issue of taxes. However, in spite of all these accumulated experiences and commitments, we feel that we are still very much at the beginning of understanding the real dimensions of the problem and how we should address it! Enhancing tax revenues is not an end in itself. We do not want to make the rich even richer and the poor even poorer. On the contrary! The Doha Declaration of 2008 calls upon us to undertake tax reforms I quote "with an overarching view to make tax systems more propoor". This must be the overarching goal and the driving force, and it raises the question of equity as well as the question of how to structure tax systems in such a way that they serve as an incentive for poor people to develop their own economic potential and do not hinder them. Another challenge is the question of how to link a pro-poor revenue policy with a pro-poor policy on the expenditure side. Very often our projects still seem to be too technical and too isolated. We have to develop a much more holistic approach and try from the very beginning to link measures on the revenue side with measures on the expenditure side. Programmes for public financial management, budget support, development planning and debt relief must go 3

4 hand in hand with tax reform and enhanced transparency initiatives in order to lay down a robust foundation for sustainable economic and social development, strong civil society participation and reduced dependency on external aid. There are a lot of other very interesting topics on the international development agenda, for instance: What are the different regional experiences regarding development cooperation in tax matters? What are the prospects for enhanced South-South cooperation? What are the most serious constraints for developing countries when it comes to implementing international tax standards? How can we harness the illicit flow debate for our development cooperation? What can development cooperation do to foster developing countries capacity for handling the problem of transfer pricing? Are there already lessons to be learnt from EITI? Do we have a sufficient understanding of the political economics of tax reform in developing countries? What is the role of taxes in state-building? Other fora especially the UN Tax Committee, the OECD Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes and the International Tax Dialogue have already made valuable contributions to these topics. However, there is a strong feeling that the development dimension of the problems should be stressed more strongly. That is not only the feeling within the European Union, where Spain is currently putting the item high on the agenda of its EU Presidency, but also within the OECD and in our partner countries- as you know, right after our workshop, on 27 and 28 January, there will be two important OECD events on taxation and development and domestic resource mobilisation in Paris. Our ITC workshop is very likely not going to produce definitive answers for all these issues. However, I am certain that it will provide important inputs particularly from the point of view of our partner countries and that it will hopefully also mark the first steps in terms of concrete implementation measures. We want the ITC to be highly operational! Tomorrow, at the end of the workshop, we hope to be in a position to constitute a core group of like-minded partners who are willing to engage in more concrete cooperation commitments. Those could be: designs for best practice dissemination, enhanced South-South cooperation, joint studies at the country or regional levels, or whatever else the workshop deems it necessary to address. We also wish to invite interested partners to join us in the work of the ITC Secretariat, especially partners from developing countries. This involvement can range from internships or secondments to co-financing arrangements. In the long run, the Secretariat should also reflect the multi-partner approach of the ITC itself. 4

5 As you see, there are many issues to discuss, and we do hope we have been able to include them in the agenda for the workshop. I wish all of us interesting and fruitful discussions, concrete results and successfully networking! Thank you very much for your attention!!! 5

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