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Monday, 7 December 2009

Are some lives more valuable than others?

Apparently so. The life of Katele Kalumba, Kenneth Konga and the list goes on are clearly more valuable than ordinary Zambians. This is the message I get from reading this latest revelation that the duo are receiving special treatment on tax payers money.

On purely moral grounds, sending political leaders abroad on tax payers money for special treatment is wrong for two reasons. First, it robs the poorest members of society valuable medical care. Money spent on Katele and others abroad is not free, it has an "opportunity cost". That money could be spent on saving hundred more lives within Zambia from curable diseases. Secondly, it sends the wrong message that long health is only a privilege of the few. The life expectancy in Zambia for males is below 35 years of age. The gentlemen in question are way above that age. The message appears to be that we care more about preserving the health of those older but rich than diverting the resources, say, to fight infant mortality.

The economic argument is equally straightforward. Sending political leaders abroad distorts the incentives of our politicians to improve our health systems. The duo in question are not only abroad because our health system is weak, our health system is weak because we keep sending political leaders abroad. Let these political actors experience our poor health system, may be just may be, they may do something about it.

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