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Thursday, January 23, 2014

An Open Letter From Bill Gates

Melinda and I published our latest Annual Letter this week. It’s a bit of a departure for us. Unlike the past five letters, this one isn’t about the foundation’s work. Instead, we decided to take on some of the myths — about poverty, overpopulation and foreign aid — that are blocking progress for the poor.
For example, many people think development aid is a large part of rich countries’ budgets, which would mean a lot can be saved by cutting back on it. When pollsters ask Americans what share of the budget goes to aid, the average response is 25%. When asked how much the government should spend, people tend to say 10%.
For the United States, the actual number is less than 1%.
One percent of the U.S. budget is about $30 billion per year. Of that, roughly $11 billion is spent on health: vaccines, bed nets, family planning, drugs to keep people with HIV alive, and so on. (The other $19 billion goes to things like building schools, roads and irrigation systems.)

I don’t want to imply that $11 billion per year isn’t a lot of money. But to put it in perspective, it’s about $30 for every American.Imagine your income tax form asked, “Can we use $30 of the taxes you’re already paying to protect 120 children from measles?” Would you check yes or no?
It also helps to look at the overall impact this spending has. To get a rough figure, I added up all the money donors have spent on health-related aid since 1980. Then I divided by the number of children’s deaths that have been prevented in that same time. It comes to less than $5,000 per child saved (and that doesn’t include the improvements in health that go beyond saving the lives of young children).
Five thousand dollars may sound expensive, but keep in mind that U.S. government agencies typically value the life of an American at several million dollars.
Also remember that healthy children do more than merely survive; they go to school and eventually work, and over time they make their countries more self-sufficient. This is why I say aid is such a bargain.

The U.S. government spends more than twice as much on farm subsidies as on health aid. It spends more than 60 times as much on the military. The next time someone tells you we can trim the budget by cutting aid, I hope you will ask whether it will come at the cost of more people dying.

Our Annual Letter addresses some other myths Melinda and I hear a lot, such as, “Aren’t poor countries doomed to stay poor?” “Foreign aid is just a big waste.” And “If fewer poor children die, it will lead to overpopulation.”
These mistaken beliefs block progress for the poor. So, the next time you hear one of these myths, we hope you’ll explain the facts.

Source by:
Bill Gates is an inventor and philanthropist.