This weekend I read an article that concentrated on a most topical issue.
What role should government play in the lives of individuals?
Not only is the topic one that seems to define a portion of the presidential campaign, but the matter is front and center among the economic powerhouses of Asia.
My view is that a nation which invests in the betterment and future of its citizenry will allow for a more dynamic and productive country. That should not be a startling statement, and with history as our guide, should even sound overly simplistic. Yet, given the wild-eyed reaction from conservatives about government spending some might think my statement comes with a little red book held close to my chest.
What heartened me about this issue is the approach many of the Asian governments are taking with the creation and expansion of the welfare state. Asia has made grand profits for decades through the expansion of goods and services, and now the people are demanding services ranging from health care, pensions, and minimum wages.
And why shouldn’t they want such benefits and programs?
Instead of turning a blind eye, or pretending that government can not take care of its own, nation after nation throughout Asia has started to create and grow welfare programs.
Last October Indonesia’s parliament passed a law pledging to provide health insurance to all of the country’s 240m citizens from January 1st 2014. One government agency will collect premiums and foot the bills, making it the biggest single-payer system in the world. The same law also committed the government to extend pensions, death benefits and worker-accident insurance to the nation by July 2015.
In the Philippines, 85% of the population are now members of PhilHealth, the government-owned health insurer, compared with 62% in 2010. China’s rural health-insurance scheme, which in 2003 covered 3% of the eligible population, now covers 97.5%, according to official statistics. India has also extended (albeit modest) health insurance to roughly 110m people, more than twice the number of the uninsured Americans whose plight motivated Obamacare.
As The Economist noted it is essential that these nations construct workable plans that take into account aging cycles and ensure debt is not created. Sensible and sustainable programs can be created, and as the article noted it may be Asia that shows the rest of the world how social welfare programs can work.