A new Oxfam report calling on developing country governments to devote a greater proportion of their budgets to building these vital services for their citizens, and a critic of the World Bank policies.

(Oxfam, september 2006)

[Oxfam] Classrooms with teachers, clinics with nurses, running taps and working toilets: these basic public services are key to ending global poverty, according to a new report from Oxfam and WaterAid. And, the agencies say, only governments are in a position to deliver them on the scale needed to transform the lives of millions living in poverty.

The report, “In the Public Interest”, calls on developing country governments to devote a greater proportion of their budgets to building these vital services for their citizens – and for rich countries to support their plans with increased, long-term aid commitment.

“ Building up public services in poor countries is key to making poverty history,” said Oxfam’s policy advisor Max Lawson, “What greater investment could there be than paying for the training and salaries of teachers and health workers, or developing national water and sanitation systems?”

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.

The report argues that universal public services were the basis for today’s prosperity in rich countries.

“A hundred years ago, life expectancies in Europe weren’t so very different from modern-day Africa,” said Lawson. “It was only through strong government-led programmes that we tackled disease and created an educated workforce, laying the foundations for the level of wealth we enjoy today.” (read more here)

A critic of the Oxfam Report from the perspective of the World Bank policies advocates

(From PSD posted by Christine Bowers, 11.16.06)

[Christine Bowers writes] According to William Kramer at NextBillion, Oxfam continues to bash private sector approaches to development:

As I read this report, the private sector is seen as the enemy at worst and a wild beast to be caged at best, the profit motive as antithetical to welfare, and more aid as the solution.

Oxfam’s new report is In the Public Interest: Health, Education, and Water and Sanitation for All – another call for massive aid flows. One recommendation: Abolish fees for basic education and health care and subsidise water for poor people.

Seems they haven’t read James Tooley’s excellent essay on (private) slum schools, which puts up a convincing challenge to the idea of free public education as a human right.

Related materials:

In the Public Interest: Health, Education, and Water and Sanitation for All – Oxfam / WaterAid report – Septemb 2006 Download a PDF file of the full report (2MB)

Twelve page summary (398KB)

Public not private – key to ending global poverty – press release (1 September 2006)

Related links:

In the Public Interest – foreword by Mary Robinson, President, Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative, and Honorary President, Oxfam International

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