The cluster aims to provide evidence to strengthen the fiscal compact between governments and citizens in Pakistan and provide a knowledge base for other developing countries facing similar fiscal challenges. The fellows in this cluster are currently engaged in a range of projects that involve issues related to property taxation, taxation on services, income taxation, and public procurement.


Public Finance is one of the major pillars of state effectiveness. Governments need access to resources to carry out their functions and provide public services. In this context, governments need efficient and equitable ways of raising revenues while maximizing the effectiveness of expenditures. Doing so is particularly difficult in fiscally-constrained countries such as Pakistan, where the tax to GDP ratio is a mere 11 percent compared to 40 percent in some of the advanced economies. The problem of a limited fiscal base is further aggravated by inefficiencies and wastages on the spending side.

Research Problems

  • The cluster seeks to investigate across the following areas:
Property Taxation

The Fellows are studying the distributional and revenue implications of different property tax valuation regimes in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa while also testing potential valuation reforms. They also hope to examine taxpayers’ perception of fairness in property taxes and how more equitable valuation regimes can aid subnational governments in generating revenue as well as explore the implications of the currently regressive property tax schedule on tax avoidance, tax morale, compliance, and real economic outcomes. The research is being carried out in collaboration with the Government of Punjab and the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Taxation on Services
  • The Fellows are working closely with the Punjab Revenue Authority (PRA) to find effective ways of expanding the tax base. The research here is focused on three areas of reform.
  • First, how can governments increase access to information trails to improve enforcement capacity? PRA has implemented an electronic invoice system but important constraints on adoption and compliance with the system remain.
  • Second, whether and how technology can help the tax authority improve its capacity to process and manage taxpayer appeals cases in the courts.
  • Third, how the PRA can improve its organizational capacity by leveraging the detailed information captured in a range of newly-implemented software systems.
Income Taxation

In collaboration with the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), the Fellows are exploring ways to support the FBR’s efforts to broaden and deepen the tax base. The research is currently exploring plans for behavioral interventions with taxpayers and then evaluating their success. After fleshing out the details of the strategy, the hope would be that this could become an important pillar in discussions with the IMF and the World Bank so that the Government of Pakistan has the time to roll out a clear plan for domestic revenue mobilization.

Public Procurement

In the environment of limited fiscal space, public expenditures must be carried out in the most efficient manner possible while ensuring effective service delivery to avoid red tape, incompetence, and corruption at various stages. The Fellows are closely collaborating with multiple departments of the Government of Punjab to introduce e-procurement in the province and increase the effectiveness of service delivery.


Ali Abbas

Doctoral Candidate

Ali Abbas is a doctoral candidate in Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University. His professional work includes working with the governments of Punjab and KP on the design of property taxation. Moreover, Ali has previously been associated with organizations such as the World Bank, the Center for Economic Research in Pakistan, and the Brookings Institution.

Ali’s areas of interest lie in public finance and development economics. His research focuses on taxpayer responses to tax policy, and the efficiency, distributional, and revenue outcomes of different income and property tax regimes, both in the United States and in developing country settings.

Before enrolling at Cornell, Ali attended the public policy program at the University of Minnesota as a Fulbright scholar.

Isabelle Cohen

Assistant Professor at the Evans School of Public Policy & Governance, University of Washington

Isabelle Cohen is an Assistant Professor at the Evans School of Public Policy & Governance at the University of Washington, focusing on development and public economics. Dr. Cohen holds a PhD in Economics from UC Berkeley (2021), and a Master’s in Public Policy (2012) and a Bachelor’s in International Relations (2011), both from the College of William & Mary.

 Dr. Cohen studies innovations and their potential to change the implementation of governmental and non-governmental activities and services in developing countries, using large-scale randomized control trials to rigorously evaluate new technologies and organizational methods. Her work also touches on many other important issues, including state capacity, education, financial inclusion, and women’s empowerment, in countries including India and Uganda.

Faiza Ismail

Assistant Professor, Shaikh Ahmed Hassan School of Law (SAHSOL), LUMS

Dr. Faiza Ismail has joined LUMS as Assistant Professor-Tenure Track in the Shaikh Ahmed Hassan School of Law (SAHSOL). Before joining LUMS, she has worked with the Institute of Business Administration, Karachi as a Research Consultant. Dr. Ismail obtained her Ph.D. in Business and Law from University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland. She completed her LLM from Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, and LLB from SM Law College Karachi, Pakistan. Her research examines legal and regulatory issues relevant to IMF, Anti Money Laundering Laws, Cyber Laws in Finance, and Islamic Finance in the US, UK, and Pakistan. Her research interests focus on the legal systems of international financial centers, operations of IMF, money laundering laws, and Islamic finance law.

Sher Afghan

Assistant Professor

Dr. Sher Afghan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics at Lahore University of Management Sciences. His research studies behavioral economics with a focus on social preferences and behavior change in general. His work utilizes a variety of methods including lab experiments, field experiments, observational data, and theoretical modeling. He applies his work to issues of discrimination and public finance. Sher Afghan completed his Ph.D. as a Fulbright scholar from the Iowa State University in 2020.

Fahd Ali

Assistant Professor at the Department of Economics and Dean of Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences , ITU

Dr. Fahd Ali is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Economics and Dean of Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, ITU. His research interests lie in macroeconomics and economic history with political economy as a theme common to both.

Before joining the Information Technology University, he worked at Habib University as an Assistant Professor in their Social Development Policy programme. He was also one of the 14 founding faculty members of the university.   His previous work experience includes working as a Research Assistant at Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Islamabad on programmes on renewable energy & clean fuels and sustainable livelihoods, and the environment.

Dr. Ali received his Ph.D. in Economics from The New School for Social Research, University of Utah. Additionally,  he received the Frieda Wunderlich Memorial Award for Outstanding Dissertation by an International Student for his dissertation, Resource Mobilization through Taxation: The political economy of state and society in Pakistan. He was also one of thirteen recipients of the 2016 New School for Social Research Commencement Award.

Giulia Mascagni

IDS Research Fellow and ICTD Research Director

Giulia is currently working at IDS as Research Fellow and as the Research Director of the International Centre for Taxation and Development (ICTD). Giulia Mascagni’s main area of work is taxation, but she also has a research interest in public finance, evaluation of public policy, and aid effectiveness. At IDS she teaches economics, taxation, and public finance at the postgraduate level and on professional short courses.

Previously she worked as Associate Tutor at the University of Sussex, as an independent consultant for ITAD, the World Bank, the Overseas Development Institute, and as Adviser and Trainee at the European Commission.

Dr. Mascagni is an economist by training, holding a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Sussex. Her main geographical interest lies in African countries, with a particular focus on Ethiopia and Rwanda.

Mazhar Waseem

Associate Professor

Dr Waseem is currently working as an Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Manchester. Before pursuing his research interest, his primary time was spent serving in Pakistan’s civil service as a part of the Custom and Excise department.

Dr Waseem is affiliated with Institute of Fiscal Studies, London, Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), London and Centre for Economic Research in Pakistan (CERP), Pakistan.

His research interest lies in the areas of public finance, public economics and development. His recent research exploits discontinuities created by tax systems and policy reforms to study behavioural responses to taxation and their implications for optimal tax policy in law enforcement capacity environments. Dr Waseem is also interested in studying how informality affects modern broad-based taxes’ efficiency and compliance in developing countries.

Dr Mazhar Waseem holds a PhD degree in economics from the London School of Economics (LSE).

Shandana Khan Mohmand

Research Fellow

Dr. Shandana Khan Mohmand is Research Fellow in the Governance cluster at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Sussex.

She has over 18 years of experience teaching undergraduate, graduate, and professional training courses.

As a social scientist, her research has increasingly focused on the relationship between political participation, inequality and accountability and her research interests include democratisation, local politics, and the political economy of public policy and service delivery.

She has a D.Phil in Development Studies and a Masters in Governance and Development from IDS, University of Sussex. She also holds a Masters in Sustainable International Development from Brandeis University (USA) and a BA in Political Science and Economics from McGill University (Canada).

Adnan Khan

Professor of Practice

Dr. Adnan Khan is Professor in Practice and Academic Director at the School of Public Policy at London School of Economics. His academic experience prior to this includes being a Research and Policy Director at the IGC since 2009 and during 2018-19, he taught Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School.

Before joining academia, Dr. Khan served in the Pakistan Administrative Service including stints at the National School of Public Policy, the Education and Finance Ministries, and district administration.

His areas of interest include state capacity and fragility, political economy and public finance. He has conducted field experiments on taxation, public procurement, social protection and entrepreneurship.

Dr. Khan holds a PhD in Economics from Queen’s University Kingston and a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard Kennedy School Cambridge. He did his B.S.c. in Engineering from University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore and has a Diploma in International Affairs from Punjab University.

Michael Best

Assistant Professor

Dr. Michael Best is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Columbia University. Prior to this, he was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. Michael’s research focuses on tax evasion in developing countries and its implications for optimal tax policy and administration; the determinants of the effectiveness of public procurement in developing countries and the design of policies to improve it; and the effects of tax policy in developed countries and the design of optimal tax policies.

Michael holds a PhD from the LSE and an M.Phil from the University of Oxford.


Asad Ejaz Butt

Public Policy Professional

Asad Ejaz Butt is a public policy professional trained in Economics and International Development Studies with over 10 years’ experience in areas of public financial management reforms such as strategic planning & budgeting, expenditure reviews, development planning at local and subnational levels, fiscal transfer systems, cash and debt management strategies and macro-fiscal policies and regulations. His career started with ICF International where he modelled energy efficiency products for ICF’s demand-side management programs.

He has conducted several value-for-money (VfM) based PFM reform projects for both bilateral and multilateral donors including the EU and USAID in the energy sectors of Africa, US, Canada and Pakistan. He has advised UNDP Pakistan and GIZ to foster private sector engagement in the SDGs agenda. He holds a Master’s degree with double majors in Economics and International Development Studies from the University of Guelph, Canada prior to which he completed his undergraduate studies in Economics at York University, Canada.

Ali Cheema


Ali Cheema serves as the Director of the Mahbub Ul Haq Research centre, and is an Associate Professor of Economics at the Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani School of Humanities and Social Sciences, LUMS. Cheema is also a Senior Research Fellow at IDEAS Pakistan, co-founder of the centre for Economic Research in Pakistan (CERP), and a co-lead academic of the International Growth centre’s Pakistan programme. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex and was the Chair of the Economics Department at LUMS from 2004-2010. He was also a founding member of the Stockholm Challenge Award winning portal, Relief Information System for Earthquakes, Pakistan (RISEPAK).

His areas of research include economic development with a focus on human capital, inclusion and economic mobility, gender, public economics, comparative politics, economic history, and the economics of crime. His research combines extensive mixed-methods fieldwork, historical archival research, rigorous empirical analysis, and theory to offer insights into how political economy and historical foundations shape economic and political development. He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Cambridge, an MPhil in Economics and Politics from Cambridge, a BA (Hons.) in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) from Oxford where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and a BA in Mathematics and Statistics from Government College, Lahore. He was a visiting Fulbright and SAI Scholar at Harvard Kennedy School from 2010-11.

Dr. Ali Cheema is part of the board of directors for the  State Bank of Pakistan since July 2022.