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World Health Organization


Another item that is worth exploring is what all this money is spent on. We sincerely doubt that the WHO abides by the US military myth of the 20,000 dollars toilet and the 5,000 dollars hammer price tags. WHO's spending practices can be illuminating and luckily enough its financial reports shed some light. Let's take a peek.

Staff and personnel

As you can see, WHO's principal expenditure is, well, bureaucrats! About 50% of WHO's budget (or 1 billion USD) is spent on salaries. Which is kind of odd considering that it is supposed to be a health organization. We would expect… uh… we don't know but perhaps medical supplies and services be the largest expense? Well, apparently not. It is obvious that bureaucrats come first.

Contractual services

The second biggest expense is also related to bureaucrats, but this time under contract. According to their document these are "agreements for performance of work or consulting contracts". Humm… consultants…right! Strange, considering that WHO is supposed to be able to provide "Technical Support", but we guess that the WHO cannot do so to itself. Must be one of those conundrums that we are not supposed to ask about. Let's classify it under "not for public disclosure" and move on. And then we have "Medical research". But what kind of research is WHO paying for if none of the WHOCC's is receiving a dime from WHO? We strongly suspect that this "research" is mostly paper based, this is, more bureaucrats. If we add this item (17% of expenditures) to the previous one, we are up to 67% of expenditures spent in bureaucrats.

Transfers and grants

These are "direct financial contributions" (i.e. non-exchange contract) to "national counterparts" (i.e. health ministries) "to perform activities that are in line with the Organization’s Programme budget" for which the WHO "has no continuing involvement". Let's clarify. These are lump sums of money that the WHO gifts to government bureaucrats in different countries without any oversight as to how this money is spent. And of course this money will be spent wisely on health issues directly affecting the population of said countries. Because, you know, corruption is not rampant in under-developed countries. Particularly where there is no oversight, right? Let's take a leap of faith here and add this piece to the bureaucratic salary pile (11% of expenditures). If we add all up, we are up to 78% of expenditures spent on bureaucrats.

General operating expenses

These are classic expenses to support organizations (offices, utilities, communications and rents). To a degree these expenses are to be expected and although they are high (10%) they are unavoidable and we won't count them against the WHO.


Travel is yet another one of those items that is highly suspicious. To further enlighten this item the report points out that staff travel accounts by 43% of it while the rest was spent by "participants in meetings and advisors (delegates of Member States and non-Secretariat personnel)". In other words, low level bureaucrats (high in numbers) spent far less that high level bureaucrats (low in numbers). In other words, the higher the bureaucratic position the higher the travel waste expense. Considering that we are talking about 2012 where videoconferences are all the rage, dirt cheap and effective, travel should have been cut down to almost zero. At least this is what most companies do nowadays and there is no logical reason why the WHO can't do the same. It is true that all travel cannot be avoided but considering that the WHO very seldom gets involved in any direct action (truly requiring travel) and it has centers all over the world, travel necessity is minimum. Yet, it represents about 8% of expenditures. We are going to be overly generous and estimate that 25% of those travel expenses are actually necessary. This leaves us with 6% of expenditures spent on bureaucrats traveling for no compelling and unavoidable reason. And the total now reaches 84% of expenditures spent on bureaucrats.

Supplies and material

"Medical supplies and material related primarily to medical supplies purchased and distributed by the Organization for programme implementation" is about 4% of expenditures. WOW! And there you have it folks! The World Health Organization spends a grand total of 4%!!!! of all expenditures in actual -let's be magnanimous and assume useful- medical supplies.

The bottom line

If we now compare the amount of money spent in bureaucracy (84%) versus the amount of money spent on actual medical supplies (4%) we come to the inevitable and staggering conclusion that the WHO is just another government-sponsored boondoggle. Let's make this even more plain and simple: for every cent spent on supplies, the WHO spends 21 on bureaucrats. In yet another words, bureaucrats are worth 21 times more than peoples' health! How about that!?

And for those of you who believe that bureaucracies are necessary to achieve results, we refer you to many non-profit organizations (as the WHO claims to be) whose efficiency level is in the order of 96%. This is, for every cent they spent on bureaucrats, they spend 24 on actual help for people. But let's be magnanimous. Those organizations are super-efficient. How about other organizations, even commercial ones? They average in the order of 60%. But let's push even harder. In commercial enterprises, what's the highest labour cost? About 80% of revenue. This means that every employee is only worth 4 times the remaining of the revenue (80% divided by 20%). The ratio is 1 to 4 while in the WHO the ratio is 1 to 21!

And so even from a commercial point of view, the WHO is a super-inefficient organization. Surprised yet? You shouldn't be. It's a government organization.

WHO Expenditures


The WHO organization is supposed to be all about programs. If you go to their website, there is a long list of programs which we will analyze summarily. What we are interested in is in tangible results that provide direct, concrete benefits to people in health matters, for example vaccines or sanitation. We will consider direct medical research and practical training also being tangible. When in doubt, we will side with WHO. We will consider "fluff" or "politician's fodder" other kinds of reports and studies and recommendations and suggestions that have no direct impact on peoples' lives. Let's perform a cursory review.

If our math is correct there are 200 such programs listed. Of those programs only about 40% have some direct impact on peoples' lives, however most of them are of the research or standardization type (in other words, their impact is direct but spread out over very long periods of time or it is a one-time effort). On the other hand, 60% of them can be qualified as "fluff". This is, programs that are many steps removed from having any direct impact on peoples' health, if any. This is more or less in synchronism with the fact that only 4% of WHO's expenditures are used for medical supplies and materials. What this indicates is that the WHO is primarily a paper-generating organization with little impact on peoples' lives. Should this be a surprise? Of course not. Bureaucracies generate paper and government bureaucracies generate the most. In commercial environments (i.e. where time and money matters) there is an aversion to paperwork because it is recognized for what it truly is: waste. In government bureaucratic organizations it is just the opposite. This is so because bureaucratic organizations produce only one key product: paperwork. Without paperwork bureaucrats cannot justify their jobs.

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

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