UK aid money needs to stop going to ‘unhealthy development’
Global Justice Now is right to demand that the UK’s aid budget should benefit the world’s poorest, not big business. For the last few years DFID has been actively promoting the flawed ideology that the private sector is the panacea for poverty alleviation, and it’s already having a damaging impact in some of the poorest countries in the world.
Priti Patel, the new secretary of state for international development, has already made it clear that the government will “invest UK aid firmly in our national interest”, and this means more of the same – investment in the private sector.
Healthcare is just one area where DFID is actively promoting privatisation to some of the poorest countries in the world.
UNISON’s recent report “Unhealthy Development” exposes how DFID is using the aid budget to promote the commodification of healthcare through multilateral agencies, consultants, multi agency programmes and its own private sector investment arm, the CDC Group. It highlights how DFID sees the role of government not as a provider of health services, but as a regulator and a provider of finance to non state providers.
Much of the UK’s aid budget is now channeled through multilateral agencies, many of which are being used to promote a pro privatisation agenda. The International Finance Corporation for example has supported the expansion of several global healthcare multinational companies and invested in numerous private hospitals in poorer countries.
A large proportion of DFID’s work is also delivered through private sector contractors and consultants; many of which specialise in the privatisation of public services, Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) and public management reforms.
PPPs have been disastrous for the National Health Service, burdening hospital trusts with colossal debts, but guaranteeing fantastic low risk returns for investors. They are now being promoted by DFID as a model for development all over the world. DFID has even funded a PPP advisory facility run by the International Finance Corporation to encourage governments to hand over their health budgets to multinational healthcare companies.
The report also highlights how DFID is using the CDC Group, its bilateral development finance institution, to invest in private healthcare initiatives. Rather than supporting quality public health services for the poorest, many investments are in private fee paying hospitals, targeting middle and high income groups.
Rather than tackling poverty and inequality, DFID’s private healthcare agenda is encouraging governments in the global south to hand over scarce resources to the private sector, including multinational health companies.
UNISON is calling on DFID to reassess its health strategy and end its support for healthcare privatisation. Instead DFID should be promoting quality public health services as the most efficient and cost effective way for governments to meet the health needs of the whole population and contribute to the reduction of poverty and inequality.