Talking tax and transparency with EU governments

Added 31 Oct 2013

Savior Mwambwa, Policy and Advocacy Manager at Tax Justice Network Africa, is currently taking part in a fact-finding mission organised by Eurodad to look at tax and transparency issues in Europe. He has joined 10 other experts from developing countries - including members of parliament - who are meeting representatives of the UN, OECD, key national governments, EU institutions and Civil Society Organisations. Their mission covers Geneva, Paris, Brussels and Oslo. A report on the findings of the mission will be produced.

Mr Mwambwa spoke to Eurodad about the mission so far.

1.   What made you decide to take part in this fact-finding mission?

I think this is a great opportunity for those of us working on these issues to come and get a sense of the thinking in European institutions and governments and also understand their actions. It is also an opportunity for us to give our own impressions of the impact of tax avoidance on our communities and speak about the actions that should be taken.

2.   What are the most urgent challenges in your region and how could they be resolved with more domestic resource mobilisation?  

The main challenge that remains is the difficulty of African governments to provide social services. We have scarce domestic resources and we need to increase the ability of the government to provide services and improve the accountability relationship between the governments and local people. We also have a lot of aid dependency and increasing domestic resource mobilisation would reduce that dependency.

3.   What is your impression of the European delegations to the UN expert committee (which has a specific mandate to increase financing for development). Are they doing the right things in your opinions? Are they challenging some of the views in the other forums?

I feel they have delegated responsibility to the European Commission and to the OECD. The governments have been hesitant to take first steps to tackle these issues unless the EU does something. They also say that the OECD are the experts. I think they have delegated too many responsibilities. It should be the other way around. Countries need to take stronger steps to get their demands met. They need to ask institutions like the OECD to come up with technical solutions.

They also need to be more ambitious. They are saying the right things, such as calling for more transparency, but in terms of putting mechanisms in place, such as country-by-country reporting, they are less ambitious. They can talk the talk, but don’t seem to walk the walk.

4.   How can we ensure stronger southern participation in the various global (or semi-global such as the OECD) forums that are currently debating the hot issues of tax evasion and tax avoidance? 

Firstly, African governments and civil society need to be proactive in terms of African institutions and developing African positions. At the same time, developed countries must open up and not focus on self-interest. Most of the companies using tax havens are based in developed countries. They are only going so far. Those countries need to be much more holistic in their solutions and not just have short-term narratives. They also need to invest more in the UN and increase its capacity instead of focusing on institutions like OECD.

5.   This is the second country you have visited as part of this mission and at each place you have had a range of meetings. Which meetings have been the ones that have given you the strongest impression that the political currents and developments in Europe related to Tax Justice will really make a difference for domestic resource mobilisation in your country? Have any meetings caused you concerns?

Unfortunately, I was not able to join the delegation in Geneva, but I did join in France. I found that the French government was not exactly negative, but it was also not enthusiastic. They felt they could adopt some new rules as long as they are adopted by the EU. I have high hopes for meeting the Norwegian government, I believe we will hear some positive things.

6.   What do you think is the policy area/option that is still unexplored, or under-explored, by research organisations or think tanks?   

I mainly have positive impressions. One concern for me is that there is no global regulatory framework that is binding for national companies. I am sure CSOs are working on this. It is something we need to see.

7.   How do you think your participation in this fact finding mission can translate into support for the eradication of poverty in your country and relate to the "man on the street"?

If we get a sense of the thinking in the EU, we will know better how to pitch our expectations. We will get lots of strategic knowledge.


To find out more about the views of the mission participants, read this article published in the EU Observer.