Let me on behalf of President George Manneh Weah and the Government and People of Liberia thank the Member States of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, of the Council of Europe as well as the Coordinating Body of the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters for the invitation extended to Liberia to accede to the Convention. Liberia’s signing this Convention confirms the country’s robust commitment to international cooperation on a variety of fronts. Considering that Liberia is already a member of the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, it comes as no surprise that we signing this Convention.
Liberia’s signing underscores the heightened importance the Government attaches to the accuracy, integrity and transparency of revenue accruing to the people of Liberia. The country is delighted to join other nations in the accelerated push against tax evasion and avoidance, which are dealing a crippling blow to revenue generation in developing countries. The reality is that the marginal impact of tax evasion and avoidance is largest in developing or low income countries such as Liberia.
The three features of the Convention- the exchange of information, including simultaneous tax examinations and participation in tax examination abroad; assistance in recovery, including measures of conservancy and service of documents—significantly redound to shoring up the capacity of countries in the complex field of tax audit, assessments, collections and recovery.
Several reports have amply shown that most African Governments are under-receiving taxes from multi-national corporations in the natural resource sector, for example, where these companies deploy sophisticated accounting gimmicks beyond the reach and capacity of countries. While the corruption and abuse of natural resource rents by Governments is a big part of the much bandied about ‘natural resource curse,’ the manipulation of taxes by powerful multinationals contributes immensely and equally to the ‘resource curse’. The Government of Liberia believes the Convention can be useful not only in shedding transparency or exchanging information on these critical tax matters; the Convention is also an instrument for deepening bilateral and multilateral partnerships on the effectiveness and efficiency of tax administration.
Also, the importance of this Convention to countering illicit financial flows and terrorist financing is amply recognized. Illicit financial flows flourish where information exchanges are weakest. By signing and/or ratifying this Convention, countries agree to create a global transparent tax information exchange and enforcement platform that can frustrate illicit financial flows and make it difficult to get resources in the hands of terrorists.
We look to leverage the Convention as part of our Domestic Resource Mobilization Strategy, which is in the final stages of development. This strategy provides the roadmap and the framework for transforming Liberia’s tax administration over the next five years. Because domestic resource mobilization is critical to Liberia’s debt sustainability in light of the country’s ambitious Pro-Poor Development Agenda, we will take great steps to significantly ramp up the effectiveness of our tax administration, while plugging leakages and shoring up capacity for tax assessment.
In concluding, let me convey President George Manneh Weah’s strongest commitment to fully cooperate with other Parties under the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax matters to the extent allowable under the terms of the Convention. While the Convention does accord due primacy to domestic tax laws of Parties, Liberia as a party commits to taking steps to minimize implementation delays that can arise from the inherent tension between the terms of the Convention and the terms of domestic tax laws of Parties to the Convention.
With this signing, we look forward to completing the domestic procedures for ratifying the Convention.
I thank you.