Global Financial Integrity



The Difficulty Of Addressing Governance Issues Underlying Illicit Financial Flows

A recent study at Global Financial Integrity (GFI) found that illicit financial flows from developing countries (henceforth emerging markets), which grew around 18 percent per annum since 2002 swelled up to  US$1 trillion in 2006. While the lack of prudent macroeconomic policies, political instability, and governance issues are major drivers of illicit flows, a subsequent study at GFI found that banking secrecy and  lack of regulatory oversight  facilitated the absorption of illicit flows in mainly Western financial institutions. Curtailing illicit flows must therefore involve both emerging market as well as developed countries to address the factors responsible for the generation and absorption of illicit funds.

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From Monetary To Fiscal Dominance: Implications For Illicit Financial Flows

Time is running short for recipient countries to curtail illicit financial outflows and for developed countries to implement stricter oversight of banks and offshore financial centers that absorb these flows. Developing countries cannot count on a continued increase in bilateral assistance to offset the erosion of real values through inflation let alone counteract the reduction in aid effectiveness due to unrecorded leakages of capital.

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Are Bilateral Trade Statistics Unreliable?

Illicit financial flows exit developing countries through two broad channels—as unrecorded capital flows from a country’s external accounts (captured by the World Bank Residual model) and trade mispricing (captured by the Direction of Trade statistics or DOTS model). GFI’s study Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries: 2002-2006 points out that some researchers have questioned the use of the trade mispricing model to capture illicit flows. They argue that data issues underlying the recording of partner country exports and imports introduce enough “noise” so that the trade mispricing model is unable to capture illicit flows. I was therefore not surprised to hear cynical remarks about the quality of bilateral trade statistics at a recent World Bank conference (Understanding the dynamics of the flows of illicit funds from developing countries, September 14-15).  Here, I point out the reasons why most economists reject such arguments for not studying trade mispricing as a conduit for illicit financial flows from developing countries.

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