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Occasional paper series

Christian Aid's occasional paper series reflects work carried out by Christian Aid staff and others on a range of development topics.

The papers are addressed to policy makers, academics, the media and other non-governmental organisations. This means that a prior knowledge of the topic may be needed to fully understand some of the papers.

Disclaimer: The occasional papers are published in the name of the author(s). Their views do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Aid and should not be so attributed.

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Occasional paper 8: September 2012

Lessons from Mali’s Arab Spring: Why democracy must work for the poor

In the first quarter of 2012, the landlocked west African country of Mali was rocked by a full-blown separatist rebellion in its northern regions. By March, just as the country was about to celebrate 21 years of its much earlier version of the ‘Arab Spring’, restive soldiers in the capital Bamako staged a coup and deposed the democratically-elected government.

As state control crumbled in the north and the central government collapsed, hardly any of Mali’s 15 million-strong population made the effort to stand up to defend their ‘democracy’.

Thus, questions are now being asked. How can state control in the northern regions break down so quickly in a country where decentralisation should have already been working? How can apparently stable institutions – particularly a democratically elected central government respected throughout Africa and beyond, and which was, in any case, due to step down by April 2012 – collapse and come to ruin so quickly?

But more importantly, why did the majority of Malians not bother to make a stand to defend their democratic institutions?

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Occasional paper 7: December 2011

Taxing Ghana's Informal Sector: the experience of women

Erica Carroll

It is now widely agreed that in order to build a strong, responsive and accountable state, citizens must be engaged in the process – ‘good governance’ cannot be imposed through top-down institutional changes. The most common method of building this relationship is through taxation – citizens pay taxes to the government and in return they demand appropriate services and infrastructure. But what happens when citizens are not well informed about their responsibility to pay, or when the state does not clearly demonstrate how tax revenue has been spent?

This paper looks at the situation of women working in the informal sector in Ghana and their experience of taxation, using a survey carried out by two of Christian Aid’s partners. It lays out the results of the survey, examines the questions above, and provides some suggestions to tax officials and civil society in Ghana to try to improve relationships and outcomes between women in the informal sector and the local and national governments.

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Occasional paper 6: June 2011

Mapping future trends

Julian Boys and David McNair

The world is changing, but the goal remains the same. This paper investigates trends in global power relations and identifies threats to, and opportunities for, poverty eradication efforts that are lasting and sustainable.

Trajectories of economic and population growth, resource and energy usage, consumer consumption and technological progress are mapped alongside geopolitical developments such as the increased influence of emerging economies.

The implications of these trends for NGOs’ advocacy and programme strategies are then considered. For instance, changing power dynamics in the global economy are likely to open up space for non-state actors to significantly influence the coalitions and issue-based networks formed to overcome transnational challenges.

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Occasional paper 5: April 2011

Inequality and poverty

Is 'more' enough?: reassessing the impact of growth on inequality and poverty

Liam Wren-Lewis and Alex Cobham

More money does not necessarily mean less poverty. The relationship between economic growth and human development is complex, and even the relatively simple links between economic growth and people not having sufficient money for basic essentials such as food and medicines (know as income poverty) are not well undersood.

Increasingly urgent environmental considerations militate against the pursuit of unconstrained growth, while at the same time making more pressing the need to ensure that growth delivers reductions in income poverty.

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Occasional paper 4: March 2011

Introducing political settlements

Eric Gutierrez

Are political settlements a solution to corruption? Corrupt politicians are reviled, yet they win the vote. Violent criminals are detested, yet many become de facto authorities, dispensing street justice. To date, powerful local and national elites remain the 'elephants in the room' in discussions about international development. Warning signs are telling us that this needs to change.

In each country where good-governance reforms need to be considered, there exist powerful national and local actors who are always in a position, and by definition have the power, to flout, co-opt, thwart or even reverse such initiatives. So there seems to be no choice but to negotiate and bargain with them. The outcome of such bargaining – which may be peaceful or violent, formal or de facto, extended or quick, wholesale or piecemeal – is a political settlement.

This paper is an introduction to ongoing discussions on political settlements in the development community. It also introduces key limitations of conventional 'good governance' thinking and challenges common assumptions on power and political relationships.

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Occasional paper: March 2010

Transfer pricing and the taxing rights of developing countries 

David McNair, Rebecca Dottey and Alex Cobham

There is now widespread recognition of the importance of taxation in developing countries, and one key area within that relates to the tax revenues raised from multinational companies. Central to this debate is the challenge posed by transfer pricing, the mechanism by which profit is allocated between related subsidiaries of companies.

This paper explores a range of aspects of the transfer pricing mechanism, with a particular focus on the challenges posed to tax administrations in developing countries.

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Occasional paper 3: April 2009

Inequality and the state

Adele Poskitt

This paper uses Christian Aid’s programme and policy experience to look at the relationship between inequality and development. Tackling power relations and unequal power structures that entrench inequality is central to Christian Aid’s work.

This paper is part of Christian Aid’s attempt to deepen its understanding of different types of inequality and analyses the effect of high inequality on economic growth, state fragility and conflict. It explores a policy framework that can be successful in reducing inequality and the role the state and international community has to play in this.

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Occasional paper 2: April 2009

One size fits all? IMF tax policy in sub-Sahara Africa

John Marshall

Examining tax-policy recommendations spanning the period 1998-2008 from all available official International Monetary Fund (IMF) papers for 18 economies in sub-Saharan Africa, this paper shows that there is strong empirical support for the claim that the IMF has promoted the ‘tax consensus’ – often in spite of evidence that the implied policies are failing to meet their objectives.

Looking at how policy recommendations differ across time and country reveals that many of the central tenets of the tax consensus are uniformly promoted by the IMF regardless of important country-specific characteristics. Consequently, many countries are failing to realise the critical economic, social and political benefits associated with effective and inclusive taxation.

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Occasional paper 1: June 2008

Can tax challenge bad governance? 

Olivia McDonald and Kadi Jumu

Tax is critical for development, not only providing the only sustainable source of finance but also allowing redistribution and - crucially - playing a fundamental role in determining and strengthening the relationship between states and citizens. And yet for too long it has been neglected by donors, researchers and NGOs - dismissed as either too technical or too political.

This paper argues that, while there are no hard and fast rules about what sort of tax system is best for governance, there are nevertheless some clear policy implications for donors - and for NGOs like Christian Aid.

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