Candidate for U.N. Health Chief Eyes Worldwide Tax to Help WHO

PARIS (AP) -
Former French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy and candidate for the upcoming election for the new United Nations Health Organization Director General, gestures as he speaks to the media during a press conference in Paris, France, Wednesday, May 18, 2016. The WHO will elect the new general-director from a list of three at the May 2017 World Health Assembly. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Former French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy and candidate for the upcoming election for the new U.N. Health Organization Director General. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

A French diplomat competing to be the world’s top health official says a global tax can help fill the World Health Organization’s coffers.

Dr. Philippe Douste-Blazy told journalists at the French Foreign Ministry in Paris that “micropayments” tacked on to as yet undetermined international business operations could support WHO’s budget.

The U.N. health agency, which was widely criticized for its response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak, faces chronic funding problems even as viruses spread faster in an evermore connected world.

Douste-Blazy, a cardiologist who once served as France’s foreign minister, declined to be drawn Wednesday into discussing what could be taxed, but the idea isn’t unprecedented. UNITAID, where Douste-Blazy served as executive chair, is partly funded through an air ticket levy imposed in 10 countries, including South Korea and France.