Odd-Helge Fjeldstad

Research Professor, Coordinator: Tax and Public Finance

State-building requires predictable income, and domestic taxation is the essential component. In the absence of an autonomous domestic revenue base, the many necessary activities that states are expected to perform and that the international community attempts to assist fragile states in fulfilling – such as protecting borders and the population, providing justice, and delivering basic services – become impossible. We argue that the missing piece in the statebuilding puzzle is domestic revenue, and the only way this can be raised is through institutional procedures for domestic taxation. The research challenge is that we remain in the dark concerning how political rule in fragile states work, and under what circumstances other actors inside or outside the state, undermine or explicitly challenge the tax administration of the state. This leads us to ask the fundamental question: Why do some countries succeed in building functional tax regimes and others not? FRAGTAX’s point of departure is that state-building and taxation cannot properly be studied without making inquiries into the conditions of political authority. Our response to this challenge is to therefore analyse how the political authority to tax is established, exercised and maintained over time. To explain variation in why some states are more successful in building functional tax regimes than others, FRAGTAX has selected three cases with varying forms of political authority over fiscal capacity and taxation: Liberia, Mali and Tanzania.

The project will run over three years (2021-24). It is a collaboration between NUPI (Morten Bøås - PI, Kari Osland, and Alessio Iocchi), CMI (Odd-Helge Fjeldstad), ARGA-Mali (Abdoul Wakhab Cisse), Mzumbe University-Tanzania (Prosper Ngowi), and Platform 4 Dialogue and Peace-Liberia (James Shilue).