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Questions on global aid

A Conversation with Bill Gates: Why Focus on Global Aid?


A Conversation with Bill Gates: Global Development Opportunities
Thursday, February 2, 2012
Question excerpt from Transcript of Q & A Session with Larry Cohen

LARRY COHEN:
A question that we got from a number of people deals with how times are tough in the countries that they live in. So they want to know-- how do you balance the desire to help those in other countries, when things are so tough in the country that I live in?
  
BILL GATES:
Well, there's a huge disparity of levels of wealth between the poorest countries and the richest. And its unfortunate people can't get out and see these basic needs that aren't met. You know, a child starving to death, a child dying because of lack of a bed net. The way I think of it is that you can only justify taking money from a rich country and sending it elsewhere, if you have a very high confidence that that money is far more effective than what you're doing in the rich country itself.

That is the impact of $100-- is huge, like saving a life, in the poor country. Whereas it couldn't do anywhere near that much in the rich country. The most generous countries in the world spend a few percent of their government budget-- which is about 1% of their economy, to the poorest countries. And so we're not talking about some gigantic amount, 5%, 10%, which people often guess before they're asked-- told what portion of the government budget goes there.

So it's got to have huge impact-- like 50 times more effective, and it's got to be a modest percentage. With that in mind, my view is that even the tough times we're experiencing; those are even tougher for people who don't have enough to eat. And so that as we balance budgets, we should not go after this piece, the small, small piece that's there to provide aid to the poorest. Because after all, we're getting better every year at making sure that money is very well spent.


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