Gates Annual Letter


1. Poor Countries Will Remain Poor

“Poor countries are not doomed to stay poor,” Bill Gates says, “By 2035, there will be almost no poor countries left in the world. Almost all countries will be what we now call lower-middle income or richer”

Botswana, Cape Verde and the Maldive Islands graduated from the UN’s Least Developed Countries (LDC) list in 1994, 2007 and 2011, respectively. Cambodia, Laos and Bangladesh have included graduation from LDC status as a strategic objective in their National Development Plans.

While many poor countries have enjoyed advancements in technology, health and education, there is still a long way to go. The evidence that some developing countries have already developed is enough to prove this myth wrong.

2. Foreign Aid is a Waste of Money

“I worry about the myth that aid doesn’t work,” Gates says. “It gives political leaders an excuse to try to cut back on it—and that would mean fewer lives are saved, and more time before countries can become self-sufficient.”

The U.S. spends less than one percent of its budget on foreign aid – that’s about $30 billion a year. Of that, about $11 billion is spent on health, with the remainder going to education and infrastructure.

If children are healthy, they can go to school and eventually work and even give back to their society, making their country more self-sufficient.

The myth that “aid fosters dependence” can be quickly put to rest by examining the countries who formerly received aid but have grown so much that they hardly receive aid today: Botswana, Morocco, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica, Peru, Thailand, Mauritius, Singapore and Malaysia. In his letter, Gates also states that even in Sub-Saharan Africa, the share of the economy that comes from aid a third lower now than it was 20 years ago.

“Broadly speaking, aid is a fantastic investment, and we should be doing more,” Gates says. “It saves and improves lives very effectively, laying the groundwork for long-term economic progress.”

3. Saving Lives Leads to Overpopulation

Gates argues that as child mortality rates decline, so does birth rate. When children survive in higher numbers, families decide to have smaller families. If mothers are not sure whether their children will live, they tend to have more children. However, when children are well-nourished, fully vaccinated and treated for diseases, their future becomes more predictable and parents begin to make decisions based on the assumption that their child will live.

“We all have the chance to create a world where extreme poverty is the exception rather than the rule, and where all children have the same chance to thrive, no matter where they’re born. For those of us who believe in the value of every human life, there isn’t any more inspiring work under way in the world today.”

– Haley Sklut

Sources: Gates Foundation, The UN
Photo: Gates Foundation