Takeoff for Tuberculosis!

Paying for global health using voluntary air ticket contributions? Surely you can't be serious.

Paying for global health using voluntary airline ticket contributions? Surely you can't be serious.

According to Mike Smith at the Global Health blog (and Time), an initiative being supported by Bill Clinton, the World Bank and the UN will soon have airlines asking for voluntary contributions towards international health projects:

Starting next January, whenever you buy an airline ticket at a travel agency or online, there’ll be a new question to answer before you hand over your credit card: Would you be willing to donate $2 to help fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in Africa?

Would it not make more sense to, oh I don’t know, doing away with the flying in of development workers and consultants on business class tickets, and use the saved money to help fund the health sector?

Sure, there are potentialyl negative incentive effects, but I’m doubtful they are that large. Chris Blattman’s blog had a huge debate about this a few months ago. Colour me cynical, but I’d be surprised if the money earned from voluntary contributions would come even close to the amount you’d save by cutting back on travel expenses.

Earlier NYtimes article about the scheme here.

5 thoughts on “Takeoff for Tuberculosis!

  1. Chris Blattman

    September 21, 2009 at 1:27pm

    I am sitting in economy class this very minute, en route from NYC to London, with the knee of a seven foot tall Brit in my back. Principles, sadly, offer a thin shield. I remain committed to my naive ideals, but I hope you will forgive for entertaining fleeting thoughts of trading a new well in Burundi for a comfy business class seat, tantalizingly in view.


  2. Michael Connellan

    September 22, 2009 at 6:23am

    This proposed scheme reminds me, depressingly, of the Bono-backed American Express RED Card.

    The scheme indicated that consumers could save Africa by buying more designer shoes on the high street, as 1 per cent of what they spent would be donated by AmEx to the Global Fund against AIDS etc.

    Not convinced!

  3. Ranil Dissanayake

    September 22, 2009 at 8:04am

    And then it begs a further question – do we really need more money in development? I think we’d get a lot further using the money we have more wisely. Even if we just gave the efficiency savings back to the source donors.

  4. Akhila

    October 4, 2009 at 3:36am

    Great post! Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying to fundraise in different, creative ways. It may not generate a huge revenue, but is that really a barrier? One interesting thing I saw was that British Airways fundraises for UNICEF – they keep an envelope and urge you to put your spare change of ANY currency. I always donate my leftover coins because, really, I’m leaving the country so what can I do with that spare change anyway?

    However, I don’t think fundraising itself is the problem. I really agree with Ranil above — the larger problem is that we don’t need to fundraise for the UN – there’s enough money to go around, it’s just not being used efficiently. And, I think NGOs could benefit a lot more from such partnerships.

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