Naomi Fowler ■ Tax justice in the Arab world: new research
We’re pleased to be able to share the recent work of the Arab NGO Network for Development, a regional network in 12 Arab countries. They’ve released research (available in English here and in Arabic here) which assesses tax systems in a number of Arab countries from an economic and social justice perspective (focusing in particular on Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and Palestine) and also from a gender justice perspective (in Lebanon, Egypt and Tunisia).
The research critiques current policies which, it is argued, hinder Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Goal 10 (concerning reducing inequality within and across countries) and Goal 5 (achieving gender justice and the empowerment of women). According to the authors:
The increase in the size of public debt and the cost of its service in most Arab countries is one of the most important challenges that prevent us from achieving an acceptable level of sustainable development and justice. In some Arab countries, such as Jordan, Egypt and Mauritania, the public debt is close to 90% of the GDP, while it has exceeded recently 130% in Lebanon, making these countries fall in the so-called “Debt Trap”.
They identify many other challenges:
- Dominance of indirect taxes over revenues
- Poorly designed procurement and excise taxes
- Uneven tariff structures of taxes on international trade
- The average contribution of corporate and individual income taxes (about one-third of the tax revenues in the countries they looked at)
- The revenues of personal income taxes are lower than those in emerging market countries and developing countries, and are often not very progressive
- Corporate income taxes are applied at relatively moderate rates, but suffer from multiple tax rates and wide tax expenditures
- Property taxes play a limited role in the countries studied
- The problem of tax evasion and avoidance “the absence of clear legal mechanisms, the lack of a smooth and fair tax system, the fragility of institutional and supervisory work in the absence of democracy, and the existence of laws that sometimes facilitate the process of evasion, especially those related to foreign investment.”
- Gender tax justice measures have a long way to go (common in most other countries around the world)
With the aim of spreading awareness and furthering informed debate in the public sphere about tax justice in the Arab world, we’re currently setting up a monthly podcast and radio programme in Arabic (appropriate for the MENA region) which will build on the successes of our English language podcast/radio programme The Taxcast (which is in its sixth year now and has audiences in over 130 countries,) and our Spanish language podcast/radio programme Justicia ImPositiva (which has been running for over a year now and is broadcast on radio stations across Latin America).
From January 2018 our new podcast/radio programme in Arabic will be available for broadcast for free to any radio station that would like to air it, and for any individual that wants to download it. Like The Taxcast and Justicia ImPositiva it will bring listeners all the latest global news and expert analysis on tax havens, tax justice, corruption scandals and democratic accountability they won’t hear anywhere else. It will be accessible and, as always with the Tax Justice Network, it will be solutions-focused.