Social protection and taxation in crises – How can tax-benefit systems support households through crisis?

Think WIDER Webinar Series - New perspectives on domestic revenue mobilization

Jukka Pirttilä and a panel of experts join the Think WIDER Webinar Series on 13 December 2022 to offer insights on tax-benefit systems in the Global South, and their ability to support the citizens in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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About the session

While the need to build up crisis resistance was already noted after the financial crisis of 2008, many countries, especially in the developing world, had to set up new support systems very swiftly after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

How well prepared were the social insurance systems in developing countries to the crisis? To what extent did some of the new COVID-19 related policies, and the existing social protection programmes, cushion households against the poverty and inequality increases associated with the crisis?  How could the tax-benefit arrangements in these countries be further developed towards offering a more comprehensive support for households when shocks occur? And where can one find suitable fiscal space to finance these programmes, especially when public finances have taken a severe hit during the pandemic?

These are some of the questions addressed in this one-hour event, which is chaired by Professor Ravi Kanbur, who is the one of the editors  of an upcoming book volume on tax-benefits systems and crises. The introduction to the topic is given by Professor Jukka Pirttilä. Discussants and panelists include Treasury Undersecretary of Chile Claudia Sanhueza, OECD tax economist Gioia De Melo, and University of Cape Town Professor Murray Leibbrandt. The event concludes with a Q&A session where the audience is invited to ask questions.

About the speakers

Ravi Kanbur researches and teaches in development economics, public economics and economic theory. He is well known for his role in policy analysis and engagement in international development. He has served on the senior staff of the World Bank including as Chief Economist for Africa. He has also published in the leading economics journals, including Journal of Political Economy, American Economic Review, Review of Economic Studies, Journal of Economic Theory and Economic Journal. He is Co-Chair of the Food Systems Economics Commission.

The positions Ravi Kanbur has held include: Chair of the Board of UNU-WIDER, member of the OECD High Level Expert Group on the Measurement of Economic Performance, President of the Human Development and Capability Association, President of the Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, member of the High Level Advisory Council of the Climate Justice Dialogue, Co-Chair of the Scientific Council of the International Panel on Social Progress, and member of the Core Group of the Commission on Global Poverty.

Jukka Pirttilä is a Professor of public economics at the University of Helsinki and also works as a Non-Resident Senior Research Fellow at UNU-WIDER. He has previously worked for the University of Tampere,  Labour Institute for Economic Research (Helsinki, Finland) and the Bank of Finland. He conducts research on topics related taxation and social protection in developing countries.

Claudia Sanhueza is the Treasury Undersecretary of the Chilean Ministry of Finance. She has a PhD in Economics from the University of Cambridge, a Master's in Economics, Economic Growth and International Economics from the University of Chile and a Bachelor’s in Economics from the same university.

She was founder and director of the Center for Economic and Social Policy (CEAS) and associate researcher at the Center for Conflict and Social Cohesion (COES) and World Fellow of the World Inequality Lab, as well as director of Collective Knowledge. She served as president of the Pension Advisory Council in 2014 and was a member of Chile's National Socio-Economic Characterization Survey (CASEN) Panel of Experts between 2015 and 2017.

She was also a member of the board of directors of the National Foundation for Overcoming Poverty and the Laboratory for Research and Innovation in Education for Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as various presidential commissions.

Gioia De Melo works in the Tax Policy and Statistics Division of the Centre for Tax Policy and Administration at the OECD where she is leading the development of a social protection tax revenue framework that aims to help identify country-specific tax policy options to bridge the social protection financing gap and quantify their potential revenue capacity.

Her work at the OECD also covers advising emerging countries on broad tax policy issues. In her previous role as executive secretary of the Centre for Fiscal Studies in Uruguay, she led several research projects including the analysis of the adequacy of contributory pension system in Uruguay. She holds a PH.D in Economics from the University of Siena and has broad experience working both in the public sector and academia.

Murray Leibbrandt is the National Research Foundation Chair in Poverty and Inequality Research, the Director of the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit at the University of Cape Town and the Director of the Africa Centre of Excellence for Inequality Research within the African Universities Alliance. He is a Non-Resident Senior Research Fellow at UNU-WIDER and is on the Executive Committee of the International Economics Association.

His research uses survey data and especially panel data to analyse South African and African poverty, inequality and labour market dynamics. From 2007 to 2019 he was a founding Principal Investigator on the National Income Dynamics Study, South Africa’s national longitudinal study.

In 1995-96 he served on the President Mandela’s Labour Market Commission to advise on post-apartheid labour market legislation and, from 2016-17, served on Deputy President Ramaphosa’s Advisory Panel on the National Minimum Wage. In 2021 he served on the Expert Group to advise the Minister of Social Development and the President on Basic Income Support and in 2021/22 served on a Ministerial Task Team of the Department of Higher Education and Training to support a policy review of student funding.