OPINION

Reassessing social welfare funding

The recently published UNICEF report about the well-being of children across the world highlights some pretty self-evident truths. For example, in countries with a high level of social cohesion, a strong welfare state and a prevailing sense of freedom tempered by social responsibility, children live happier lives. So the UNICEF study shows that children from the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Finland are significantly better off. The USA and Great Britain are at the bottom of the list when it comes to the relative happiness of their children. The indicators used by the authors of the study to draw these conclusions are many and varied. They have considered everything: How often children eat with their parents, whether they are obese, and whether they claim to belong to families living under the poverty threshold. We should note here that the particular indicator used in the study does not measure how many families are actually poor but how many have incomes less than 60 percent of the average national income. In Britain, for example, someone earning less than -1,810 a month is regarded as being below the poverty threshold, whereas in Greece the poverty threshold is -470. Nevertheless, we can safely conclude that it is better for a child to live in a Scandinavian country than in America or Greece, which is ranked 13th out of the 21 countries examined in the report. The fact that Scandinavian countries rank high on the list shows that they are intent on creating a durable safety net to protect vulnerable members of society such as children. Of course these countries have something a lot more crucial: money. Meanwhile in Greece there are plenty of good intentions but we have a shortage of cash and efficiency. One thing is clear: When everything is categorized as social necessities, every sector gets less funding. The -800,000 per day we spend on maintaining ailing state carrier Olympic Airlines is being spent to the detriment of other things – pensioners, schools, creches. The extortionate amount of funds we channel into defense obviously compromises the amount we can spend on social welfare. Unfortunately we cannot have everything – when you try to fund everything, nothing works properly. The debate in our country about state funding always has the same target: more money. Of course, it is always better to have more money than less. But we should also look at the effectiveness of the funding already going into education, health and social welfare. Not because this will save us from having to incur any further expenses – as this is unrealistic – but because the funds already allocated will go some way toward helping the beneficiaries they were destined for.