In the past three years the IMF has advised countries to cut or freeze public sector wage bills in 78% of low-income countries where data is available. This is one of the central planks of austerity policies and has blocked the capacity of countries to address shortages of teachers, doctors, nurses, midwives and other essential public sector workers. This has become a major obstacle for countries wanting to make progress towards the sustainable development goals.
In the light of Covid the IMF has distributed emergency loans that encourage increases in health expenditure. However, there are at least three major problems with this:
While providing intensive care beds, respirators and personal protective equipment are critical in the short term, little is being done by the IMF to address the ongoing shortages of nurses, doctors or frontline public health workers which undermine these efforts and the overall effectiveness of the public health system.
The increases in health spending are expected to be short term, to contain the virus, and in most countries the IMF advises a return to ‘fiscal consolidation’ (IMF-speak for austerity) within a short time period.
Increases in health spending may be at cost of other public services, particularly education. It is already clear that for children to return to school with social distancing will require urgent investments in more teachers.
Lakshmi Moore, Country Director, ActionAid Liberia
Rosa Pavanelli, General Secretary, Public Services International
Haldis Holst, Deputy General Secretary, Education International
Leo Baunach, ITUC / Global Unions Washington Office
David Archer, Head of Public Services, ActionAid International
The webinar will be held on Tuesday 13 October at 1pm London time | 8am New York. Check your time zone here.