Mar 17 2013
Yes, I get furious when foreign aid is wasted. But Britons are saving lives… and are leading the world, says Bill Gates
The Daily Mail
One word: CUNT. Nuff said.
By BILL GATES
PUBLISHED: 03:32, 17 March 2013 | UPDATED: 03:33, 17 March 2013
I have been following the debate over the Government’s decision to protect foreign aid from budget cuts, including newspaper editorials arguing that it is ‘morally unsustainable’.
I take a different view. To me, your country’s steadfast decision to stick with an investment that saves more children’s lives than any other possibly could is the very definition of morality. It can be hard to have a constructive conversation on the topic because it’s not always clear how development assistance actually works.
We hear about large sums of money, organisations with unfamiliar acronyms, and a few facts and stories about what’s happening in the countries that are supposed to be benefiting. Who knows what it all adds up to?
Those of us who advocate for foreign aid could do a better job of explaining where the money goes. Take the example of the £800 million the UK donated to the GAVI Alliance. This is a terrific investment, which is why my foundation also contributed £600 million. I assure you I would not have approved that grant without a lot of due diligence and the utmost confidence in the results it would achieve.
Virtually all that money will go directly to the purchase of vaccines. GAVI doesn’t send cash to countries. It buys vaccines in bulk to lower the price, and then, with help from the World Health Organisation and Unicef, sends them to the poor countries where they’re needed.
GAVI works only with countries that have applied for support and proved their immunisation system is strong enough to reach the vast majority of children. It also insists countries pay a portion of the costs of the vaccines.
Over time, each country’s share gets larger (and the donors’ share gets smaller), until it foots the entire bill for its immunisation programme. China once received GAVI support – it is now paying for its own vaccines.
It’s easy to count vaccines, so I can tell you that since GAVI was created in 2000, it has protected more than 370 million children from life-threatening diseases. Over the same period, the number of children dying every year has gone down by one quarter.
That’s 2.4 million fewer children dying today than a decade ago. To put that kind of human potential in perspective, that’s the total number of babies expected to be born in the UK between 2012 and 2014.
I wish I could provide an example as titillating as lavish spending sprees by warlords, but dictators don’t tend to stockpile vaccines. Preventive health is mundane when it works. Stories of nations full of children who never get sick are mercifully boring.
There is one important element of truth in the opponents’ critique of aid. In development, as in all enterprises, a small percentage of money is wasted, and a percentage of that percentage is lost to corruption. Taxpayers have every right to be angry – I am furious – because when the goal is saving lives, any misspent money costs lives.
However, with leadership from the UK, donors are focusing more on accountability and effectiveness. During the Cold War, aid was as much about currying favour with key governments as it was about improving lives. Donors didn’t always measure the results on the ground very closely, because the results they cared about had to do with geopolitical alignments. But this has changed dramatically.
Our ability to measure the results of our work is improving. Due to advances in how we collect and analyse data, we know with greater accuracy and speed what’s working. For example, Nigeria can now track which houses polio vaccinators visit each day, decreasing the likelihood children will be missed.
Two years ago, the UK conducted a review of its aid programmes, ranking the effectiveness of organisations and countries receiving assistance. This was not just an academic exercise. As a result of the review, aid to 16 countries is being phased out.
UK business leaders and politicians have repeatedly said that aid ‘is not only the right thing to do, but a smart investment’. As a business leader, I agree, and I have made the same argument to the US Government.
In the next five years, seven of the ten fastest-growing economies will be in Africa.
Part of the reason is that many African governments are now adopting stronger economic policies to capitalise on the recent commodity boom. However, to spur steady growth in the long term, countries need to invest in the productivity of their citizens. Disease saps young people’s strength. Illiteracy narrows their horizons. Malnutrition stunts their neurological development.
Once these economies are thriving, two things will happen: they will stop requiring aid, and become drivers of global growth. South Korea, a former aid recipient, proves not only that aid doesn’t last for ever, but also that aid graduates can become dynamos.
As the UK reaches the internationally recognised target of spending 0.7 per cent of national income on foreign assistance, it is worth noting the special place you have earned in world affairs as a result of your approach to helping the poorest. Quality of life is improving worldwide, and British taxpayers (not to mention Red Nose Day participants) deserve a disproportionate share of the credit.
Critics argue it’s immoral to spend money abroad when the domestic economy is slumping. I see it differently. By taking a methodical approach to saving lives, you’re displaying moral leadership in front of the world. This will be a source of British influence around the globe for years to come.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2294674/Yes-I-furious-foreign-aid-wasted-But-Britons-saving-lives–leading-world-says-Bill-Gates.html#ixzz2Nm1cJT3B
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