The World Health Organization made a unique proposition: what if big donors pooled resources to take out private insurance to pay for vaccines in the case of a bird flu pandemic? WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan said WHO had been given more preparation time than it could have hoped for ahead of an influenza pandemic. WHO is using that time to study various financing options to allow low income countries to access vaccines and prevent a pandemic catastrophe that could kill millions of people.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) is under siege by private sector forces using their financial leverage to gain undue influence in the financially beleaguered United Nations agency, according to the author. He makes this assertion from observing developments such as the presence of Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates sharing the stage with WHO Director General Margaret Chan at the World Health Assembly in 2011, in the presence of industry interests at a civil society meeting before the 2011 UN summit on non-communicable diseases or from the private-sector influence in the increasingly powerful global foundations in health. Many corporate giants are noted to have been adopted by WHO since 2010, as private sector partners working together for ‘better global health’.
The origins of this public-private sector partnership process can be traced to WHO’s chronic funding problems and in the search for extra resources, the private sector funding of foundations has become more influential. The author points to concerns of industry influence in the reform proposals of WHO and asks the question whether the Director General's actions in promoting public-private partnerships have been at odds with her speeches on defending the basic mandate of WHO to promote the public health interest on the global stage?
Is government responsible for ensuring public health? Is it necessary for public entities to deliver this public good? Who else might serve the unprofitable urban poor?
Public services are being liberalized world wide, opened to foreign service providers, often turned into private services through privatization, commercialization, marketization, and deregulation. Yet the privatization of public services means that many, many people can no longer benefit from such services because they cannot pay, or because they do not belong to the social class for whom the private services are intended. The document discusses how little is known about the changes taking place in services long-considered to be a public "right", or about the widening social disparities that result from liberalization.
The cost of private health care is rising so rapidly that it is in danger of becoming unaffordable to all but the wealthy. The punch-drunk public health sector is, however, failing to provide an alternative for the average salaried person. Everyone, from blue-collar workers to senior executives, is clamouring for more affordable, quality health care. A radical new deal is needed for the private and public sectors. New ways of delivering and funding health care must be created. Both sectors are on the ropes and are being forced to act.
A group of international civil society organisations (CSOs) have called on the World Bank to implement smart procurement guidelines that support the development of the domestic private sector of developing countries. This submission calls on the World Bank to review its procurement guidelines so that they become an economic policy tool which is pro-poor, promotes domestic industry development and empowerment, reduces asymmetries between local and foreign companies in order to create a truly level playing field, focusing in particular on SMEs and works towards poverty eradication, sustainable development and mitigating climate change. The Bank should become a development tool, considers social and environmental criteria, and creates incentives for all private actors to behave in a socially and environmentally responsible fashion. It should also respect transparency and accountability, emphasising that accountability to citizens in developing countries matters most. The Bank can play a catalytic role in strengthening domestic accountability through its procurement practices, the CSOs argue. Finally the Bank should increase the effectiveness and developmental impact of aid and ensures that the larger share of aid inflows remain in the recipient countries.
Water, the most precious global resource, was the subject of World Water Day on March 22. This was preceded by the World Water Forum, held between 16-22 March, where officials from 140 countries met to discuss how to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water by 2015. Patrick Bond discusses the “water wars” – the battle by activists against the global trend that seeks to turn the delivery of water into a commercial enterprise.
On the eve of the landmark inquiry into the private healthcare industry in South Africa, the Netcare group is challenging the Competition Commission's use of professional services firm KPMG as its technical service provider for the investigation. The commission originally suggested the market inquiry into the private healthcare industry after concerns were expressed that certain factors in the sector prevent, distort or restrict competition. Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has been particularly vocal in expressing his disquiet about the matter. The market inquiry provision in the Competition Act became effective last year and paved the way for the introduction of an inquiry into private healthcare. The provision will allow the commission to initiate an inquiry if it has reason to believe that any feature of a market distorts or restricts competition. Unlike the 2006 inquiry into banking costs, which required the banks’ voluntary co-operation, the commission now has wide-ranging powers to summon people to testify or to provide documents. It will be able to call for any information it may deem relevant and may initiate a complaint against a firm based on what it gathers during the inquiry. The final terms of reference for the competition authorities’ private healthcare inquiry were published at the end of last year. They included looking at possible cost drivers such as pharmaceutical manufacturers, medical equipment and the inter-relationship between the public and private healthcare systems.