Thanks to GAB Editor-in-Chief Matthew Stephenson, readers of this blog have known for years not to believe the many numbers thrown around about the global cost of corruption. As he has shown in a series of posts, (here, here, here, and here) and in a 2021 paper for the U4 Anticorruption Resource Centre with Cecilie Wathne, these estimates are, not to put too fine a spin on it, baloney. Or what I have somewhat scatologically termed WAGs (Wild A** Guesses).
Unfortunately, White House staff apparently (and disappointingly) neither read GAB nor follow U4’s work. That is the only explanation for why they would have let President Biden say at the launch the other day of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity that “corruption saps between 2 to 5 percent of global GDP.”
Fortunately, Washington Post crack fact checker Glenn Kessler didn’t let the President’s citation of what his paper termed a “fishy statistic” go unchallenged. Relying on Matthew’s and Cecile’s paper, backed up by a chat with U.S T.I. director Gary Kalman, Kessler termed the 2-5 percent statistic “so discredited” that it should have never been “uttered by the president of the United States.” The White House, he wrote, must in the future do a better job of vetting such “dubious” data.
While I trust White House staff will, I hope the error in no way hope cools theirs or the president’s commitment to upping America’s anticorruption game. After all, as the president also said at the Indo-Pacific launch, corruption “steals our public resources,. . . exacerbates inequality [and] hollows out a country’s ability to deliver for its citizens.” All unequivocally true. No fishy data required. QED