The continuing tsunami
I watched some of the telethon last night and was impressed by the amounts of money being raised. The entertainment was a little less to my taste, but I suppose you can’t please everybody, so the aim is to attract as many as possible.
The worldwide response to the tsunami disaster has been equally impressive, though no more than was merited by a tragedy on such a large scale. But tsunamis are not the only disaster affecting humanity. Preventable diseases kill millions every year, and the disability caused by diseases like malaria is a huge drain on economic growth in many poor countries. For $US50 billion a year, we could implement the program proposed by the Commission on Macroeconomics and Health which would, quite literally, save millions of lives. Based on our share of developed-country GDP, Australia’s share of this would be only about $1 billion. The US could finance the entire program with the money currently being spent in Iraq. Europe and Japan could easily meet their shares by scrapping farm policies that harm both domestic consumers and poor farmers in less developed countries. Or the whole thing could be done out of private donations of around fifty dollars per person per year – well below one per cent of personal income.
If we could only make the kind of concern that’s been displayed over the past couple of weeks a permanent feature of our personal and political priorities, the world would be a much better place.
Update Reader and Uni of Maryland colleague Darrell Hueth points me to this piece by Nicholas Kristof arguing that the use of DDT in anti-malarial programs should be expanded. This issue has been debated at length on this blog, and I think Kristof gets the balance abotu right. Also, if you’re interested in an economic take on the costs and benefits of malaria prevention, the chapter by Mills and Shilcutt in Bjorn Lomborg’s book Global Crises, Global Solutions , coming out of his Copenhagen Consensus exercise, is well worth reading.
fn1. As I’ve previously observed, the Copenhagen Consensus, considered as a ranking exercise purporting to private that action to mitigate global warming is a bad idea, was a dishonest political stunt. But a lot of resources went into it and they weren’t all wasted.