'We don't know what tax is or what the government does with it.' This response to the 2011 People's Survey, conducted by the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) indicates the extent of the challenges facing the Ministry of Finance and Treasury in the Pacific nation. Add to that long-standing problems in collecting export revenue, significant tax evasion, and the economic and civil chaos that devastated the island nation from 1998-2003, and the task of growing the country's revenue base was daunting. A priority area for capacity-building in association with RAMSI, the Ministry had by 2010 made significant progress, including its first successful prosecution for tax evasion. Long-serving Deputy Commissioner George Tapo, however, realised that the Ministry itself urgently needed changes in capacity and culture to reduce its reliance on expatriate advisers. This two-part case paints a clear picture of some of the complex challenges facing developing nations. It can be used to discuss the new concept of collaborative regional assistance, or to reflect on how an individual manager might progress seemingly impossible culture change. Initial development of the case was funded by the former Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID). Part B briefly outlines the changes eventually achieved. The associated Background Note: Public Management Challenges in Solomon Islands gives a much fuller picture of the circumstances leading up to the arrival of the regional assistance mission, and the scope of its activities.
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