The short answer is "no".
Some experts use regression analyses and other empirical methods in order to try to put a dollar figure on the cost of corruption. It is virtually impossible, though, since payments of bribes are not publicly recorded. No one knows exactly how much money is being "invested" in corrupt officials annually. And bribes do not take only monetary form: favours, services, presents and so on are just as common. At most, one can research the correlation between the level of corruption and, say, democratisation, economic development or environmental degradation.
The social costs of corruption are even less quantifiable. No one knows how much the loss of an energetic entrepreneur or an acclaimed scientist costs a country. Moreover, any estimated social costs in dollars would be inadequate to the task of measuring the human tragedy behind resignation, illiteracy, or inadequate medical care. A general scepticism vis-à-vis any attempt at quantifying the costs of corruption is thus warranted.
The following example illustrates the dilemma of pressing the issue into facts and figures:
A power plant is being built somewhere in the world, at a cost of US$ 100 million. It could be argued that - were it not for corruption - the cost could have been as low as US$ 80 million. The financial damage to the public would then be US$ 20 million.
In practice, quite often projects are planned simply so that those involved can make huge private profits. Assuming that the power plant was superfluous, the financial damage would have to be assessed at US$ 100 million. Yet no major construction project leaves the environment untouched. The results may be: increased pollution, a lowering of land prices, resettlement of local residents, an increased debt burden for the country, etc. This calculation - probably closest to reality - is immensely complex. On a global scale, it seems almost impossible. But even if one were able to calculate the environmental damage, the increase of the debt burden and other factors, how would one measure the erosion of public confidence and the deterioration of a government's legitimacy, which are the direct result of corruption?
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