Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

Views from the Center

CGD experts offer ideas and analysis to improve international development policy. Also check out our Global Health blog and US Development Policy blog.

Views From The Center Blog

 

The Proposed SDG Indicator on Illicit Financial Flows Risks Conflating Ordinary Business and Dirty Money

“Illicit financial flows” means dirty money crossing borders. It is an umbrella term which covers diverse actors including organised crime groups, business people making bribes, political leaders engaging in grand corruption, and major tax evaders hiding undeclared wealth. What they all have in common is that what they are doing is illegal (although they may be getting away with it), and they often use opaque international networks of legal entities, bank accounts, and property holdings to facilitate and store ill-gotten gains. There is a clear development case for rich countries to act to prevent their financial systems being used as havens for illicit financial flows that harm developing countries.

confidentiality agreement

Myths, Challenges, and (Maybe?) a Consensus around Commercial Confidentiality in Government Contracts: Grist for a New CGD Working Group

Last week, the Open Contracting Partnership released a new report, Mythbusting Confidentiality in Public Contracting, during the Open Government Partnership meetings in Georgia. The report is a fascinating and helpful read, based on a review of recent contract publication practices in eight countries as well as legal frameworks in another seven.

20-pound notes

What Advice Would You Give to Penny Mordaunt on Combating Illicit Financial Flows?

London is one of the world’s premier destinations for kleptocrats and corrupt oligarchs seeking to launder ill-gotten gains into property, investments, private school fees and influence. There is no reliable estimate of the total value of laundered funds that impacts on the UK. However the National Assessment of Serious Organised Crime says there is “a realistic possibility the scale of money laundering impacting the UK annually is in the hundreds of billions of pounds” (this includes both domestic and international sources). 

Will the UK Labour Party’s Big Idea of an Inequality Target Help or Hinder Development?

The UK Labour Party recently set out its ideas on international development in a paper titled “A World for the Many, Not the Few.” There is much to like in the policy paper, including pledges to put in place an effective whole-of-government development approach, to advance DFID’s monitoring of whether aid reaches the most vulnerable and excluded, and to communicate more honestly with UK taxpayers about the successes, challenges, and complexities of development. 

The Mongolian Millions: What Can We Learn from the Making of a Multinational Tax Avoidance Scandal?

Earlier this year, The Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (“SOMO”; a Dutch NGO) issued a report about an international mining company they said had avoided paying $232 million USD in taxes in Mongolia. The Oyu Tolgoi mine is considered a big deal in Mongolia and has been subject to lengthy negotiations on how to split the risks, costs, and profits of the project between the company and the government. While this question is of primary interest to the people of Mongolia, I think that delving into the detail of individual cases like this is also important for clarifying the broader debates and understanding of tax issues.

 

Pinning Down Illicit Financial Flows: Why Definitions Matter

The SDGs include a target to “significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen the recovery and return of stolen assets and combat all forms of organised crime”. However, there is no globally agreed upon definition for “illicit financial flows.” My new CGD paper looks at why there is so much disagreement and confusion over this term.

Tax and Development: Beyond the Big Numbers

Discussion on tax and development can be incoherent, both within and between different sectors. A symptom of this is the tendency for inflated expectations about the scale of revenues at stake in relation to multinational corporations and misunderstandings and contested definitions on the issue of illicit financial flows.

Is the Idea of Counting Dollars of Illicit Financial Flows Undermining Action Where It Counts?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include a target to “significantly reduce illicit financial flows (IFFs).” While there is no global consensus about what this means, working definitions point to funds that are “illegally earned, transferred, and/or utilized.” The term is thus generally seen as an umbrella for a wide variety of “dirty money” including funds associated with drug, arms, and human trafficking; wildlife and natural resource crime; state capture and illicit enrichment; the financing of terrorism; and the evasion of taxes and tariffs.

Stop Spreading the Myth: Zambia Is Not Losing $3 Billion to Tax Avoidance

If transparency in debates around matters of natural resource wealth, then so too does the way that figures get translated into public debates.  Earlier this month the Lusaka Times published a claim that multinational mining companies were “robbing Zambia of an estimated $3billion annually through tax evasion and illicit financial flows.” I have written about the Zambia Copper Billions before. I don’t think the figure is at all credible, and I am not the only one. Organisations that have allowed this myth to spread have not done any favours to the people of Zambia, and they have a responsibility to put it right. 

Pages