Sat, Dec 07, 2013 - Page 15 News List

World Bank calls for health cover

AFP, TOKYO and BERLIN

Universal health coverage is not only morally correct, but vital for a country’s economic development, the president of the World Bank told a conference in Japan yesterday.

Jim Yong Kim said instituting a system that ensures the whole population has access to medical care is key to reducing poverty in the developing world.

“Japan committed to universal health coverage [in 1961] at a time when the GDP per capita wasn’t among the highest in the world and at a time when many people outside of Japan thought that Japan could not afford to provide universal health coverage,” Kim said.

“The World Bank and leading economic development experts think that was one of the keys to Japanese economic development,” Kim said.

After devastation and defeat in World War II, Japan rose quickly to become one of the world’s leading economies and enjoyed decades of rapid growth.

Under the Japanese public health system, a patient pays up to 30 percent of the medical bill, with a social insurance scheme and general taxation paying the rest.

Government ministers from developing nations around the world were invited to the one-day conference in Tokyo, hosted jointly by the World Bank and the Japanese government.

Open access to healthcare is “one of the best things you can do to spur immediate and long-term economic growth... and one way of reducing inequality [which can] slow economic growth,” Kim told the meeting.

Separately, Germany’s central bank yesterday raised its growth forecast for Germany next year to 1.7 percent, citing expanding domestic demand in its upbeat assessment.

The forecast was up from the central Bundesbank’s prediction made in June of 1.5 percent GDP growth for next year, citing an easing of the wider eurozone crisis.

In 2015, it said, the growth rate would accelerate to 2 percent.

“The German economy is in good shape,” bank President Jens Weidmann said.

“The unemployment rate is low, employment is rising, and wage growth is returning to normal,” Weidmann added.

The bank also raised its GDP growth projection for Germany for this year to “no more than 0.5 percent,” from 0.3 percent six months ago.

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