Thursday, May 26, 2005

Blind Politicians, Blind People

Michael (not Jackson) is the Finance Minister in the nation where I live. Michael has announced that next months budget will vote $17 million dollars for cataract surgery. Michael has just discovered that several thousand people urgently need relief from cataracts.

In third world countries, the Fred Hollows Foundation does a cataract operation for a few hundred dollars, but in New Zealand decisions about cataract surgery are made by politicians. The problem with this is that when access to a service comes under political control, shortages, queues and rationing always follow. In the Soviet Union, politicians managed the supply of bread, so people had to queue for bread in the country that had been Europe's bread basket.

Some people have already waited a long time for surgery. Many will have to wait even longer, as health boards ration a limit number of operations. If these people needed a new television they could go and buy one. They would not have to stand in a queue. If thy needed a new car, they would face an amazing range of models and prices. They would not have to plead with Michael. Yet, when they want their cataracts removed, they have to lobby Michael to release some funds.

I cannot understand why something so basic as cataract surgery has to be a political issue.

Groceries are really important for life. I hope that Michael does not take control of the supply of groceries. We might have to start queueing for cabbages.

No comments: