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Philanthropy growing in India, world is getting better: Bill and Melinda Gates in 10th annual letter

Philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates talk about their foundation, India and Donald Trump’s policies in the 10th annual letter to the public.

world Updated: Feb 13, 2018 16:16 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Bill Gates,Melinda Gates,Microsoft
File photo of Bill and Melinda Gates, co-founders of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, at a UN event in New York. (Reuters)

Bill Gates believes philanthropy is growing in India — from both people involved in the technology sector (tech entrepreneurs and executives) and those involved in other sectors.

The co-chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the co-founder of Microsoft spoke to Hindustan Times over phone on the occasion of the release of their 10th annual letter to the public on work of their foundation, and, in some ways, on their own philanthropic journey.

“We are outspoken about our optimism,” the two begin their letter. “Despite the headlines, we see a world that’s getting better,” they write. “The world is healthier and safer than ever. The number of children who die every year has been cut in half since 1990. The number of mothers who die has also dropped. …extreme poverty has declined by half in just 20 years.”

A screenshot of the homepage of Bill and Melinda Gates’ website.

Gates also spoke of India’s unique mix of philanthropy, partly brought about by the government mandate that corporations “spend a percentage of their profit on philanthropic-type activities”.

Listing some of the areas where he thinks the foundation’s work has made a difference to India, Gates picked “working with the government to introduce new vaccines for children”; “Avahan — which helped to get the HIV epidemic — getting super large; and “partnerships with Serum Institute of India, Bio-E and Bharat Biotech to make vaccines not only for India, but the world”.

Excerpts from the 10th annual letter of Bill and Melinda Gates:

Why don’t you give more in the US?

Bill: Our foundation spends about $500 million a year in the US, most of it on education.

Why don’t you give money to fight climate change?

Bill: We do. Some of it involves our foundation and some of it involves our own investments. Personally, we are investing in innovations that will cut back on greenhouse gases. The world needs new sources of reliable, affordable clean energy, but it has been dramatically underfunding the research that would produce these breakthroughs.

How are President Trump’s policies affecting your foundation’s work?

Bill: … More broadly, the America First world view concerns me. It’s not that the US shouldn’t look out for its people. The question is how best to do that. My view is that engaging with the world has proven over time to benefit everyone, including Americans, more than withdrawing does. Even if we measured everything the government did only by how much it helped American citizens, global engagement would still be a smart investment.

Is it fair that you have so much influence?

Melinda: No. It’s not fair that we have so much wealth when billions of others have so little. And it’s not fair that our wealth opens doors that are closed to most people. World leaders tend to take our phone calls and seriously consider what we have to say. But there is nothing secret about our objectives as a foundation.

First Published: Feb 13, 2018 16:15 IST