Thursday, December 17, 2009

Pay your taxes, and set your country free

Sylvia Mwichuli, the UN millennium campaign communications coordinator, is being quoted in the Guardian as saying that depending on foreign aid to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) does a disservice to Africa.

"African governments must find ways of financing development; we are calling for a paradigm shift in financing of development, not depending on donors," she said.

This short new Christian Aid video highlights some of the things that matter, including on corporate taxation. It quotes David Wood, the executive director of technical policy at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) as saying:

"Companies are very keen to be seen to have corporate responsibility . . . but it must be the most responsible thing to pay the right amount of tax at the right time."

Quite right. And this issue - of taxpaying as a component of corporate responsibility - is still the invisible elephant in this room. (Read more here.)

Back to the UN's Sylvia Mwichuli:

Once African governments are able to finance their national budgets without foreign aid, which usually comes with strings attached, they would be in a position to allocate resources according to local priorities and would make more headway in meeting the MDGs by 2015.

"I get disgusted with countries that entirely depend on donor budgets," said Mwichuli. "What then do we pride in as African countries, if we have no control over our own national budgets and affairs?"

It reminds us of the words of Michael Waweru, commissioner-general of the Kenya Revenue Authority, in November 2007:

"Pay your taxes, and set your country free."

Only six percent of Kenya's budget is foreign funded. OK, there's a long way to go for many developing countries before they can wean themselves off foreign aid (and, by extension, foreign interference and rulers' accountability to foreigners, rather than to their own people). But at least tax is starting becoming respectable.


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