Last year, I published a post expressing my puzzlement regarding the source of the widely-cited statistic that over $1 trillion dollars are paid annually. I was pleasantly surprised by the speed with which several GAB readers pointed me to the original source that described the methods and data used to calculate that number—and while I wasn’t entirely satisfied, it was at least nice to know where the number came from.
I’m hoping someone out there can help me with a very similar question: Within the last few months, I’ve been at several conferences and meetings where someone has quoted the figure that worldwide corruption (not just bribery) imposes annual costs to the global economy of approximately $2.6 trillion, roughly 5% of global GDP. I’ve looked and looked, and I cannot for the life of me figure out where this number comes from.
Most sources I’ve found trace back to an estimate purportedly done by the World Economic Forum (WEF), with no citations to any other sources (other than sources which, in turn, cite the WEF). But most of the WEF documents I’ve found just quote the $2.6 trillion figure without any source or explanation (see, e.g., here and here). As far as I can tell, the earliest WEF document to contain this figure (and the only one to contain anything resembling a source reference) is an undated advocacy document (published jointly with the International Chamber of Commerce, Transparency International, and UN Global Compact). That document states that “[e]stimates show that the cost of corruption equals more than 5% of global GDP (US $2.6 trillion), with over US $1 trillion paid in bribes each year,” and cites the World Bank (with no further detail) as the source of these figures.
As discussed in my earlier post, there is indeed a World Bank research document that derives the “$1 trillion in annual bribes” figure (subsequently discussed in a chapter in one of the WEF’s annual reports). But that published chapter (the only source for this figure that I can access) doesn’t contain the $2.6 trillion total cost estimate. It is, I suppose, possible that either the unpublished version of the World Bank document contains the $2.6 trillion figure, or that the WEF document was citing to a different World Bank source. That said, it’s notable that no other source I’ve found, including those published by the World Bank, has cited to the World Bank rather than the WEF as the source of the $2.6 trillion number, which casts some doubt on the idea that there’s some unpublished World Bank document that derives this estimate.
I’m at a loss. Does anyone know how the WEF (or World Bank, or whoever was the original source of this estimate) came up with the $2.6 trillion cost figure? It’s a bit troubling that it’s so difficult to find the original source and methodology for such a widely quoted statistic.