Monday, September 28, 2009

A Tiny Tax Could Do a World of Good

From the New York Times:

The G-20 nations could help both the poor and the global economy by fully financing lagging efforts to fight poverty and disease worldwide, and the best way to do this would be to impose a very small tax on the prosperous foreign exchange industry.

The eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals — which include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, establishing universal primary education, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and combating AIDS, malaria and other diseases — are meant to be reached by 2015. Morally and practically, the world must try harder to keep these promises. President Obama has made it clear that the United States has, in his words, “a responsibility to protect the health of our people, while saving lives, reducing suffering and supporting the health and dignity of people everywhere.”

Disease takes an enormous toll on economic growth: it sidelines or kills productive workers and causes tremendous suffering. Take, for instance, tuberculosis, an illness that with the right treatment can usually be cured. In 2007, it killed nearly 1.8 million people, more than 600 times the number who have died from H1N1 swine flu. The World Bank estimates that tuberculosis has caused the gross domestic product in some countries to fall as much as 7 percent.

Or consider maternal health. About 530,000 women worldwide die each year from pregnancy-related causes, most of them preventable, and millions more suffer injuries or develop lifelong disabilities. A serious effort to reduce those numbers would bring real economic gains. Improvements in the health of Asian women and children accounted for a significant share of that continent’s economic growth from 1965 to 1990.

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