NI must not be afraid of Profit

Responding to the idea that private companies should be involved in delivery of health services or employment programmes, it is not unusual to hear people – not just trades unionists but politicians, commentators, civic representatives – say that “We should not be giving people money to make a profit”.

Reacting even to Derry’s Leah Totton winning the BBC’s Apprentice series, many suggested they didn’t like her – essentially because she was ambitious to make money.

What a laughable, unreal attitude!

From kids selling sweets at a 1p profit to people seeking out new ways to get benefits to people running a cosmetics firm with a turnover in the millions, everyone is ambitious to make money. It isn’t everyone’s or even most people’s main driver, but it is there in each and every one of us. And on balance it is a good thing – ambition, including for money, is what delivers new inventions, delivers improved services, delivers better products.

Why on earth would people in Northern Ireland not want to be part of that?

In fact, they do. But unfortunately many of them – like Leah Totton or indeed established businesspeople like Nicky Kinnaird before her – have to emigrate. When they emigrate, they rarely go to poorer places where it is harder to make money – the usual destinations are London (the richest and biggest city in the EU), Australia (riding high on the back of a commodity boom), the United States (with its ‘Dream’), or perhaps somewhere like Geneva (a hugely prosperous place). As discussed before, these (or at least the prosperous parts of them) are diverse places which promote that diversity (promoting immigration, legislating for gay marriage, and so on) – but they are also united by not fearing profit and not detesting those who admit they want to make money (the way, frankly, we all do).

Leah Totton admitted she likes to look good and admitted she wants to make millions. Good luck to her. Back at home we need more like her, not fewer.

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5 thoughts on “NI must not be afraid of Profit

  1. Private companies are already involved in the delivery of health services in Northern Ireland. And this is inevitable, in that the private market can bring competitive benefits.

    However, from my firsthand experience, there is most definitely a need for better regulation and accountability of those private companies. It is our own money being spent (through taxation) for these services, and I’ve discovered how many companies greed/strive for survival is jeopardising a key dimension of the service — social care.

    I’m all for the profit motive and efficiency, but we mustn’t erode the quality of public service to a cold transaction between a supplier and consumer.

  2. I work for a local company that delivers software to the health services. It turns a profit, but crucially, it makes life easier for the actual end users; the doctors/consultants who need to access patient records swiftly without requesting a file from medical records.

    Experience in the past has shown that big private tenders have not delivered value, but I believe lessons have been learned and the public sector is now starting to engage SME’s in their particular area to make improvements without the massive costs previously associated.

    Having said that, I’ve worked closely with the public sector for the last few years, and the levels of incompetence and wastage are staggering. I’m all for privatising if it means my taxes aren’t spent on paying for civil servants to spend their days in meetings.

    • Great point.

      It isn’t necessarily a problem that people seek profit, provided they seek to provide a product or service of genuine benefit in doing so. Indeed, where the motivation does *not* exist can be where the problem lies.

  3. Quite right Ian. In fact I think many people miss the economic and moral imperative to make profit. Profit is the only “created” money in our economy and therefore the only “original” source of tax revenue. If you want any sort of public services at all, you need someone to make profit to pay the tax to pay for the service! Unless of course you receive a huge grant from another group of taxpayers which divorces your tax/spend policy.

  4. harryaswell says:

    I have to agree with all thoughts here. For a successfull company, profit is all important if they are to provide a good service. However, excessive greed has the opposite effect. It is sad that the NHS in England is in a sorry and parlous state due to this. Mercifully, and I speak from recent experiences with the NI NHS, our system, with all all it’s undoubted faults, really does do not so badly at all. In fact most hospitals deserve complimenting on services well delivered. Perhaps with privatiseation it will not be necessary to cut back so much on the Emergency departments after all.

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