Monday, 26 August 2013

IEA Conference - a discussion as to whether a public institution can make both a profit and a loss?

Should the public sector be allowed to make a profit? Why is it only acceptable that the public sector can break even, make a loss or waste taxpayers money? An interesting discussion at the IEA conference as to:
- whether there is a will, or tacit agreement, for a state run school (or other public institution) to make a profit, provided that profit is then used for the benefit of the school, it's pupils and staff?
- whether health is a "non economic good"? Is it a service that has no cost, with no trade offs, and no cost pressures? The assertion was made in debate that the British public largely believe that health is a right that should never be looked at save as a national religion which cannot be criticised, evaluated from a cost to the taxpayer perspective or changed in any way.
- why do people frown on the NHS providing a health service to overseas visitors for a fee? For example, Moorfields Eye Hospital in London is a world leader. It is an NHS hospital. That is its fundamental purpose. Yet the previous UK Labour government set up a system whereby Moorfields could and did provide private treatment on the side by its public servant doctors and nurses. The proceeds of such private work paid for improvements to the hospital and its facilities. The Coalition has continued with this policy. The amount of work done privately by the NHS is only 0.5% of the total NHS budget, but this is still good money for the NHS in these difficult times.
-Why do people talk of profiteering and not of "lossering" (a made up word used by the academics today at the conference to counter the argument that there is no opposite to the word, and connations, of profiteering from a public sector institution)?
- the truth is tht people do not often criticise public sector institutions that run over budget and are run a t a comparative loss when compared to other countries, or British cities, similar models?
For more details of Moorfields approach and to make your own mind up, see:
This was a good discussion this afternoon on healthcare and education by Dr Steve Davies, of the IEA, and Professor Peter Zweifel of the University of Zurich.