Wednesday 22 August 2018

It’s Time To Get Serious

Natalie Sharples writes: 

Skyrocketing CEO pay, employment figures that mask in work poverty, and growing homelessness. 

Ten years since the financial crisis, as the countless headlines illustrate, for the majority of people, life in Britain is getting worse. 

Mental health problems are increasing whilst funding is cut. 

Four million people have difficulty feeding their families and one in every two-hundred people are homeless. 

Increases in suicides and old age mortality, even growing rates of obesity have all been attributed to austerity polices since 2008. O

Other shocking figures show that deaths of those who are homeless have doubled over the last five years. 

And this is a global problem. 

Across the world many countries are still trying to recover from the impacts of the neoliberal policy prescriptions – euphemistically termed ‘structural adjustment’ – that were forced onto them in the 80s and 90s. 

Today, unbelievably, half the world’s population is still denied access to essential healthcare, and nearly 800 million people face hunger. 

New research from a group of health organisations led by Health Poverty Action out today, shows the sheer scale of this. 

Changing tracks putting people before corporations, highlights how governments are diverting public money, to the tune of $1 trillion each year to big companies away from people and public health. 

This includes money they are allowing them to take by enabling tax dodging, as well as direct hand outs in the form of subsides to big agricultural companies and the production of fossil fuels, as well as tax breaks and reductions in corporate tax rates.

The UK for example has slashed corporation tax by 11% since 2000, and if you look back to 1980 the figure rises to a phenomenal 33%.

These $1 trillion are astronomical yet conservative. 

They do not include the cost of privatisation, or subsidies to pharmaceutical and arms companies, and of course the cost of bailing out the banks that caused the financial crisis in the first place. 

Yet it’s hugely significant. $1 trillion is the equivalent to funding the NHS six times over, and is triple the amount currently spent on healthcare for half the world’s population. 

Whilst people everywhere are affected by this diversion of resources, some governments bear more of the responsibility. 

Often it is multinational companies headquartered in countries like the UK, that divert money away from citizens both in their own countries and others. 

By failing to regulate their companies or by implementing tax and trade polices that reduce the revenue that other states have to provide healthcare, governments like our own are undermining health and human rights both at home and abroad. 

But this is not an issue of geography.

It is incomprehensible when you see the very visual rise in homelessness in London, that our successive governments has been allowed to continue with business as usual. That must change.

We argue that action is needed on three fronts. 

We urgently need to demand governments redefine priorities, including understanding the problem. 

An international commission to examine the impact of neoliberal policies on people and public health would provide the evidence base for this.

A shift in how we define and measure ‘progress’ moving away from just GDP growth to alternative measures of health and wellbeing is also required.

Secondly we need to overhaul how we regulate companies, including enacting the demands of the Treaty Alliance for a legally binding global treaty on corporations and human rights. 

Finally, we need to redistribute wealth on a massive scale, both nationally and internationally. 

Measures for this should include a global mechanism for social protection, taking contributions from member states and reallocating them to fund health and a range of public services where the need is greatest. 

Given the scale of the damage, if governments are going to continue to give public money away to private companies whilst ignoring the rights of their citizens, there is a strong argument they should also pay reparations to those whose rights are being denied.

Ten years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, it’s time to get serious about vital public health and the lives ordinary people.

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