The credibility of corruption figures

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In a very valuable audit made by the Swedish U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Center, published in 2021, it is reported that most quotable data on graft and corruption are either exaggerated or insufficiently researched and inadequately tallied and resourced.  اضافة اعلان

Researchers Cecile Wathne and Matthew G. Stephenson took to task the insightful evaluation of the most 10-quoted figures on the size and amount of corruption denominated in US dollars.

Such numbers include the following: 

• $1 trillion is paid universally on bribes in a year.

• $2.6 trillion of public funds every year are stolen or embezzled including tax evasion and illicit financial flows.

• $1.26 trillion of this occurs in developing countries.

• Approximately 20–40 percent of spending on water sector is lost to corruption.

• 30 percent of development aid is also lost to corruption.

The authors of the study either failed to trace reliable sources for such data, or were found not to be based on rigorous collection or error-proof extrapolation studies.

The fact that such figures are quoted by UN officials including the secretary-general, world leaders, and in the reports of leading international NGOs does not make them credible or above suspicion.

As a result, the study proposes that more serious efforts should be focused on collecting accurate data.

It is also true that more authentic research needs to be conducted in order to develop better models to estimate the size of corruption and its socioeconomic and welfare impact in the short and medium terms.

Yet, the authors believe that at least $600 billion is squandered on bribes annually.

They do not specifically offer alternatives to the figures $2.6 trillion or $1.26 trillion, but they are correct in insisting that the size, incidence, and sectors of corruption need more clarification.

In 2019, three IMF researchers published an article in the Finance and Development journal titled “ The Cost of Corruption”, in which they did not offer any specific numbers — whether in numbers or in ratios —  except in certain specific cases that became internationally infamous, such as the big scandal regarding the Brazilian oil company Petrobras or the 1970s scandal surrounding the purchase of airplanes by Japan from the US, and which led to issuing a bill in the US Congress barring graft to win bids and contracts abroad.

Yet, the authors, P. Mauro, P. Medas, and JM Fourier, came up with very useful generalizations.

One of them emphasizes that higher income countries reveal a lower level of corruption and a smaller number of corruption cases. Low-income countries are more corrupt.

The other conclusion is that the most bribe-attracting sectors are oil and minerals, government or public institutions dealing with money or resources, and government contracts and purchases.

In Jordan, we need to conduct such studies and we should seek the help of the Swedish U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Center, in order to rationalize the over-inflated figures concocted about graft and the prevalence of corruption.

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