Written by Professor Mick Moore and Dr Wilson Prichard
Professor Richard Bird sadly passed away on 9th June 2021, at the age of 82. Anyone working in the field of tax and development will be very familiar with Richard’s published work. He started to produce in the 1960s, and was still publishing high quality work until this year.
Richard occupied many roles and posts. He was most recently Professor Emeritus in the Department of Economics and the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.
The University of Toronto was his main and longest intellectual home. But his work straddled academia and more operational posts – for example in the IMF and a great deal of advisory work. His ‘take’ on tax was always one of intellectually – informed practicality. He knew very well how taxes are actually assessed and collected, and showed little interest in ideas and theories that were not empirically grounded. But he also researched some of the big ideas in tax. His list of co-authors is long and impressive, including most of the big names in the field.
We want to express our admiration, fondness and gratitude to Richard on behalf of the ICTD. He was a hugely important part of the Centre: formally as the first Chair of the ICTD Centre Advisory Group, and practically as a consistent mentor, supporter and interlocutor.
We exchanged research papers and ideas regularly. His work at the intersection of economics, political economy and public administration have been an inspiration and guidepost for our own work, and the work of the ICTD.
When ICTD was first established, Richard suspected that we were at risk of endorsing and promoting simplistic or populist ideas about tax that had no practical application. He insisted that our work should always be useful, and that it engage seriously with the complexity of reform challenges in the ‘real world’.
He shared those ideas when he delivered the very first ICTD Annual Lecture, which in turn became the very first ICTD Working Paper. He continued to provide regular sceptical notes and comments until the end. But he warmed greatly to the ICTD.
We are very proud of the various messages he sent to the two of us in recent years saying that, were he a little younger and more research active, he would have participated enthusiastically in our research programme.
Delivered in his usual understated style, it felt like the highest compliment – and was, we hope, accompanied by a sense of pride in his role in shaping and building that program.
Mick Moore and Wilson Prichard (former and current CEOs of ICTD)