The return of austerity imperils global health

Thomas Stubbs, Alexander Kentikelenis, Daniela Gabor, Jayati Ghosh, Martin McKee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recognizing the world’s lack of preparedness for the COVID-19 pandemic, international organizations like the World Health Organization, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are calling for extensive additional funding to strengthen pandemic preparedness and response systems in low- and middle-income countries, including through domestic resource mobilization. This article examines the prospects of national health budgets increasing in such a context, drawing on new International Monetary Fund projections on public spending around the world. We show that by 2024 public spending will be lower than the 2010s average for almost half of all low- and middle-income countries. A common driver of this new wave of austerity is the dramatic increase in public spending dedicated to repaying external debt—underpinned by growing debt stocks, US interest rates rises, and commodity price hikes. As in earlier crises, the stage is set for a situation where population health deteriorates—via compound effects of the pandemic and widespread economic hardship—while public health services required to tackle increased need are facing steep cuts. We conclude by considering what can be done to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere011620
Number of pages5
JournalBMJ Global Health
Issue number2
Early online date20 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2023

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