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Budget crises, health, and social welfare programmes


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Governments may feel they are protecting health by safeguarding healthcare budgets, yet David Stuckler, Sanjay Basu, and Martin McKee argue that social welfare spending is as important, if not more so, for population health

The recession of 2008 has had profound economic consequences for many countries. How and when to reduce budget deficits was a major focus in the recent general election in the United Kingdom and continues to make headlines around the world. The new government has already begun to make large cuts in public expenditure, even though the UK’s projected underlying debt, as a share of gross domestic product (GDP), is less than that of other industrialised countries, it has longer than many other countries before it is required to refinance loans, and the actual deficit in 2009-10 was considerably less than expected. Leading economists have widely divergent views about whether the cuts will aid or hinder economic recovery, but have paid scant attention to the potential effects of reductions in health and social expenditure on population health. We examine historical data for insights into how lower levels of public spending might affect health.

Detailed analysis of the study is available at: http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/340/jun24_1/c3311

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 Other Articles in Human Development
 
 
Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

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