India up six places to rank 123 for reducing inequality, still among lowest performers in health spending: Report

New Delhi, Oct 11: India has moved up six places to rank 123 out of 161 countries for reducing inequality but continues to be among the lowest performers in health spending, according to the latest Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index (CRII).

The 2022 CRII looks at government policies and actions in 161 countries to fight inequality during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Norway leads the CRII followed by Germany and Australia.

India’s overall rank has improved by six points from 129 in 2020 to 123 in 2022. It has moved up 12 places to rank 129 for reducing inequality through progressive spending.

The country ranks 16 for progressive taxation, up by three.

Under ranking for minimum wage, India has fallen 73 places due to the counttry being reclassified as not having a national minimum wage.

Under the ‘Impact of public spending on reducing inequality indicator’, India has moved up 27 places and under ‘Impact of tax on reducing inequality indicator’, India has moved up 33 places.

The Index which is prepared by Oxfam International and Development Finance International (DFI) measures governments policies and actions in three areas proven to have a major impact on reducing inequality.

The three areas are public services (health, education, and social protection), taxation and workers’ rights.

The Oxfam report based on the index said India features among the lowest performers on health spending again. The index showed that it has dropped a further two places in the rankings, to 157th, the 5th lowest in the world.

“The 2022 CRII report shows India making marginal gains when it comes to reducing inequality during the COVID-19 pandemic. India which was ranked 129 in the previous index in 2020 has moved up six places mainly due to indicators quantifying impact of public spending and impact of tax on reducing inequality,” said Amitabh Behar, CEO of Oxfam India.

“These are the positives from the report but what’s worrying is that India is still lagging when it comes to spending on health, education and social security” added Behar.

He pointed out that India unfortunately features among the lowest performers on health spending again.

“India has dropped a further two places in the rankings, to 157th (or 5th lowest in the world). India even made small cuts on health spending between 2019 and 2021 – at a time of unprecedented health need and crisis. Given the wide criticism of the government’s response to COVID-19 and the great need for healthcare improvements, it is disappointing to see that things are still moving in the wrong direction”, said Behar.

India’s health spending is 3.64 per cent of total spending. This is the lowest out of all BRICS and neighbouring countries, the report said.

While China and Russia are spending 10 per cent, Brazil is at 7.7 per cent and South Africa is highest at 12.9 per cent

“Even in neighbouring countries, Pakistan is at 4.3 per cent, Bangladesh at 5.19 per cent, Sri Lanka at 5.88 per cent and Nepal at 7.8 per cent,” the report said.

The 2022 CRII shows that despite the worst health crisis in a century, half of low and lower middle-income countries in the Index, cut the share of health spending of their budgets.

“Half of all countries (77) cut the share going to social protection, while 70 per cent cut the share going to education. While poverty levels increased to record levels and workers struggle with decades-high prices, two thirds of countries failed to raise their minimum wages in line with economic growth during the pandemic,” the report said.

Twelve countries in the Index have no national minimum wage – with India joining this list since 2020.

“India has been reclassified as not having a minimum wage, given that a large number of workers, like domestic workers in many states, are not covered by minimum wages,” it said

Despite huge pressure on government finances, 143 of 161 countries froze the tax rates on their richest citizens, and 11 countries even lowered them.

“Our index shows that most governments have completely failed to take the steps needed to counter the inequality explosion created by COVID-19. They ripped away public services when people needed them most, and let billionaires and big corporations off the hook as they reap profits at record number” said Gabriela Bucher, Oxfam International’s Executive Director. (PTI)