The SDGs need real solutions, not failed ideas

Instead of the same old failed ideas, we need real solutions to the SDGs funding gap more urgently than ever. Public services – whether in high or low income countries – are best funded through public money, which can be spent where need is greatest rather than chasing profit. These solutions include Global Solidarity Levies – alongside cracking down on huge global companies that dodge paying taxes in low income countries, and wiping out unpayable debts for the lowest income countries.

Yet over the last decade, politicians in high income countries have tried to fob us off with failed ideas. Their favourite is the so-called ‘Billions to Trillions’ approach, which lets high income country governments off the hook by relying on huge global companies to voluntarily fill the SDGs funding gap.

They claim that if these companies are offered profit guarantees, backed up by $100 billion from the aid budget, they will invest one trillion dollars into essential public services in low income countries. But this approach has been called ‘mathematical gymnastics’ – experts suggest this sort of private investment could only double the aid budget at best.

Click here to read our report: Billions to Trillions: A Reality Check

More and more evidence – from both high and low income countries – also shows that public services such as hospitals and roads do not generate big profits. Guarantees then leave governments on the hook for sky-high payments decades to come.

In Lesotho, annual payments for one hospital built through a ‘Public Private Partnership’ (PPP) ended up costing half the country’s entire health budget. In 2018, Chancellor Philip Hammond vowed not to sign another ‘Private Finance Initiative’ (PFI) deal for UK public services for this reason, and the French Court of Auditors recommended the strategy be abandoned in 2017.

And private funding also neglects the most vulnerable.

The ‘Billions to Trillions’ approach ignores the evidence that low income countries are often left worse off, wastes scarce aid money, and doesn’t reach those most in need. And every day spent talking about ‘Billions to Trillions’ is a day wasted, when real solutions to fill the SDGs funding gap are being ignored. It’s time for governments to get real, and force those who can best afford to pay a bit more, to do so.

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