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Food prices should be next

Jun 13,2019 - Last updated at Jun 13,2019

The timely intervention of His Majesty King Abdullah to protect the people’s right to health in its widest dimension by instructing the government to lower prices of medicines enjoys wide praise and appreciation, especially by the middle and lower classes of society.

The King’s intervention shows that he is fully aware of the hardships that most of the people in the country are facing, which go beyond prices of medicines but extend to other basic commodities and necessities of life.

Instructing the government to lower the prices of medicines to the extent that they become affordable is a basic principle of the right to health as established by international human rights norms, including Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which stipulates that states party to this covenant are called upon to recognise the right of everyone to the “enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”.

It is being taken for granted that making medicines accessible and affordable is a basic feature of the enjoyment of the right to health. There are voices, and rightly so, calling for the cancellation of taxes on medicines as a proven way to lower their prices. This is certainly a prudent recommendation that the government may wish to entertain, especially with regards to certain categories of medicine.

That said, the policy of making medicine accessible and affordable should be expanded to cover other necessities of life. Surely the government knows only too well the list of goods, services and foodstuffs that should also be included in the decision of making of medicine prices accessible and affordable.

Man does not live by bread or medicine alone, as other necessities of life are also basic to sustain a normal standard of living.

It is imperative to form a ministerial committee to examine the wider dimension of the decision of making medicines affordable to the poor, with a view to taking the appropriate decision for making life for the poor especially affordable. Short of that, making only the prices of medicines affordable would not solve the plight of poverty-stricken people.

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