Rich Countries’ Dirty Money

PARIS – The world is now less than a year away from the deadline to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals set in 2000. Extreme poverty has been halved, as promised. But more must be done to meet the health, education, environment, and gender-equality goals. What accounts for the lag in these areas?

One way to speed up the progress is to limit the large amounts of money illicitly flowing out of developing countries, where it could be invested, into assets and bank accounts in the OECD. Those receiving the money are as responsible for this tragic situation as those providing it; but we can stop, and reverse, these outflows.

An estimated $1 trillion, almost one-third of Africa’s GDP, leaves developing countries annually, though the true size of hidden transfers is, by definition, almost impossible to ascertain. We have only a hazy sense of where the money comes from, whom it belongs to, the routes it takes, and where it ends up.

One obvious cause of these outflows is poor governance in developing countries. But recent OECD research suggests that rich countries are also at fault for failing to devise and enforce adequate laws to track and prevent illegal money transfers.