Photo: Dr Piracha presenting his new book to Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Director General of the World Trade Organization

The ICTD is very pleased to announce that Dr Mutjaba Piracha has won the Bloomsbury Pakistan Book Prize 2022 for his book “Property Taxes and State Incapacity in Pakistan.” Piracha began his research on this topic with the ICTD back in 2010. His first output with us goes all the way back to ICTD Working Paper 33, which he co-authored with ICTD founder, Professor Mick Moore.

Dr Piracha, Pakistan’s ambassador to the World Trade Organization (WTO), successfully completed his PhD at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) in 2016 under Moore’s supervision.

Mick and Mujtaba in their robes on the Brighton seafront
Dr Piracha with his Phd supervisor Prof Mick Moore on his graduation day, Brighton July 2022.

His new book, which is based on extensive primary fieldwork, shows how Pakistan’s inability to collect taxes reflects a broader disconnection between the state and its citizens. This translates into growing fiscal deficits, poor service delivery, increasing socio-economic inequalities and low democratic accountability. The book is published by Oxford University Press.

According to Dr Piracha, he is honoured to have his book shortlisted, and thanks Bloomsbury Pakistan for this award.

“Pakistan is celebrating seventy five years of independence this August,” he says. “It faces tremendous social, economic and political challenges. I hope my research contributes to helping us understand some of the key governance and revenue raising issues, which are in no way limited to Pakistan. As a practitioner-cum-researcher, I hope this award will encourage others with similar background to research, reflect and document and deepen our understanding of the state and society.”

Professor Moore says “Mujtaba’s research on the sociological and organisational interactions between front line tax collectors and both their ‘clients’ and their supervisors has become central to our understanding of how taxes are actually collected.”

Reviews

This book helps deepen our understanding of state-citizen engagement in Pakistan’s particularly difficult context, especially around its struggles with establishing stable local governments—a level of government that is essential to many of its citizens’ most demanded services—and establishing a progressive tax regime.

It brings together these two essential facets of governance, and in the great tradition of ethnographies of the state, takes us deep into a barely understood but absolutely central part of the state apparatus in Pakistan.
Shandana Khan Mohmand, Governance Cluster Leader and Research Fellow, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, UK

This book examines the reasons for low local taxes in Pakistan, but it is unbelievably multifaceted. It provides a rich description of the institutional architecture of Pakistan’s federal fiscal system, analyses the perverse incentives it creates for local tax effort, presents rich primary evidence on the incentives created by the formal and informal arrangements that govern property taxation, and addresses issues of public policy.

The contribution is a richly illustrated study of how the real tax system works, the values and work styles of the property tax collectors and the role political economy, informality and constant negotiation between collectors and property holders play in creating an equilibrium that ensures low collection. The book is a must read for reformers and academics – Mujtaba Piracha truly shows how property taxation is a grudging political bargain, a permanent dispute or a strategic collusion between local wealthy taxpayers, intermediate tax collectors, and tax authorities, to minimize their duties and raid the fiscal commons.’
Ali Cheema, Associate Professor of Economics, Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)

Read Ali Cheema’s full review here

About the author

Alongside his role as as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the WTO since 2019, Dr Muhammad Mujtaba Piracha is currently the Chair of the Committee on Trade and Development.

He is a graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science and undertook his doctoral studies at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex. Dr Piracha has worked across Pakistan in both the government and non-government sectors.

Some of his previous assignments include Additional Chief Secretary (Services), Commissioner Lahore, Secretary Industries, Commerce, Investment and Skills Development in Punjab; Program Economist at the Aga Khan Rural Support Program; and multiple field assignments in Balochistan.

During his time at the ICTD, Dr. Piracha contributed to our research on Subnational and Property Tax.

Click below to read his publications:

WP33
ICTD Working Paper 33 – Understanding Low-Level State Capacity: Property Tax Collection in Pakistan
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Revenue-Maximising or Revenue-Sacrificing Government? Property Tax in Pakistan

To order “Property Taxes and State Incapacity in Pakistan” internationally, click here.