Oxfam report blasts private sector

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The title of Oxfam's press release today, Public not private - the key to ending global poverty, sums up the subject of their brand-new report on how to provide health, education and water for the world's poor. From the release:

Rich countries and the World Bank come under fire for undermining governments’ ability to deliver public services by pushing inappropriate private sector projects in water provision and health. The report acknowledges that the private sector has a role to play, along with charities and faith groups, but argues they cannot provide services on the necessary scale, geared to the needs of all citizens, including women and girls, minorities and the very poorest.

...rich countries still spend almost as much on pet food ($40billion) as the $47 billion a year it would cost to meet the Millennium Development Goals on health, education, water and sanitation.

I imagine that we'll see an official response from the World Bank at the annual meetings later this month. My personal, very unofficial response is that the report is absolutely correct - when it says the number of people living without access to these basic services is scandalous. And yes, the best case scenario is that developing country governments step up and meet the needs of all of their constituents. But I disagree with Oxfam's insistence that "meeting the MDG targets on health, education, and water and sanitation would require an extra $47 billion a year." If throwing big piles of money at development problems worked, we would have solved these problems already. Plenty of  big checks have been written that accomplished frustratingly little.

Developing country governments need to improve and become more responsive to the poor. Meeting the Millennium Development Goals will require significant financial and other commitments over an extended period of time. Private sector involvement in service delivery, when done right, can reduce waste, improve government finances and expand coverage. These are not contradictory ideas.

(via The Independent)

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