Commentary on Political Economy

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Trump suspends funding to World Health Organization

The US will halt funding to the World Health Organization after Donald Trump accused the global health body of “severely mismanaging” the coronavirus pandemic. The president said hundreds of millions of dollars in US funding would be suspended while a review was conducted to assess the WHO’s “role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus”. He also criticised the organisation’s relationship with China. “American taxpayers provide between $400m and $500m per year to the WHO, in contrast China contributes roughly $40m a year, even less,” Mr Trump said on Tuesday. “As the organisation’s leading sponsor, the United States has a duty to insist on full accountability.” The US, where almost 26,000 people have died from Covid-19, is the largest single contributor to the WHO. It gives the body about $500m each year, with $116m mandated by the UN and about another $400m in voluntary payments. “With the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, we have deep concerns whether America’s generosity has been put to the best use possible,” Mr Trump said. It is Trump’s incompetence that continues to make this crisis worse than it had to be Daniel Wessel, Democratic National Committee “The reality is that the WHO failed to adequately obtain, vet and share information in a timely and transparent fashion.”

Australia has also expressed concerns about the WHO’s handling of the pandemic, calling for greater transparency from the health body on the causes of the outbreak. Editor’s note The Financial Times is making key coronavirus coverage free to read to help everyone stay informed. Find the latest here. Scott Morrison, Australia’s prime minister, criticised the WHO’s apparent refusal to advise China to keep its wet markets closed, which are thought to have been the source of the outbreak in Wuhan. “On the issue of the wet markets, I just find it baffling. I just don’t get it,” Mr Morrison said. Mr Trump’s decision won favour with Republicans on Capitol Hill, who have repeatedly censured the WHO and questioned its links with China. Jim Risch, the Republican senator from Idaho who chairs the Senate foreign relations committee, said last week that the health body had become a “political puppet of the Chinese government” and called for an independent investigation into the organisation. “The WHO has failed not only the American people, it has failed the world with its flagrant mishandling of the response to Covid-19,” Mr Risch said. Recommended Izabella Kaminska The world needs a new, depoliticised WHO In January, the WHO said there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission of Covid-19. But as China confirmed the first cases of human-to-human transmission, the WHO announced there was “some limited” direct transmission among humans. Later that month, the WHO described the virus as a global emergency, yet recommended countries keep their borders open. That same day, Mr Trump banned most travel from China to the US. Separately on Tuesday, Republican senators Rick Scott, Ron Johnson, Martha McSally, Kevin Cramer, Steve Daines, Todd Young and Joni Ernst sent a letter to the WHO requesting more information on its “role in helping the Chinese Communist party cover up information regarding the threat of the coronavirus”.

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