This World Resources Institute post on Oxfam's latest report about Health, Water and Sanitation for All made me again ask myself if I think it's OK to charge for basic services such as water and basic health care.
Yes, it is OK, I think, and sometimes desirable. In places where the basic structure of tax collection and service provision do not work, you have to think outside the box and I think WRI and other blogs are pushing me to think more about well regulated business as a means to innovate and solve problems. Clearly, that shouldn’t open the flood gates to companies making a killing with basic services, but this question has to get beyond the "right" for everyone to have...health, water and sanitation. In theory, I think everyone should have these things, but it just isn't that easy. This kind of provision, if unregulated, leads to other sorts of exploitation. Certainly free aid is often diverted into commercial markets and I have heard stories of many hospitals charging just so the health workers can feed their own families. Keeping that in the shadows is like poison as the poor still don't get what they need and people who are just trying to get by end up being labeled corrupt.
What is harder to regulate, businesses with the potential to exploit or non-profits with the potential to give too much away and mix up the incentive structures? All in the tedious details, right?
I am going to read the Unilever case study from Indonesia. They were often mentioned in C. K. Prahalad's Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid.
Anyone with insight on this?!