Friday, July 01, 2011

Bill Gates At The USGLC Tribute Dinner: Why Give Aid?

Many people debate whether the US should provide foreign aid for low income, developing countries. They wonder whether it is useful, a waste of money, or even effective.

Bill Gates in his address to the US Global Leadership Coalition gives important reasons for why the US provides and needs to continue providing aid. The benefits far outweigh the costs, not only for the poor, but for the United States as well.

Below I outline briefly the points of his address:

1). The economic importance of developing countries to global markets.

Exports to developing countries have grown 6 times faster than exports to major economies in last decade. In fact, half our exports now go to developing markets (1/2 trillion dollars a year).

The book Emerging Africa, demonstrates how the developing world is growing at very high speeds. For example, Mozambique has grown drastically since the 1990's due to the steady flow of reliable aid.

"Growth for this country in the future is going to be overwhelmingly dependent on our ability to seek faster income growth in the most populous places of the world." --Obama

"The growth of these developing economies are engines for our own economy. Our success is dependent on those around us, and the investments we make today will help create the jobs of tomorrow." -- Bill Gates

2). The world will be a safer and more stable place if people are able to have enough to eat and have opportunities.

3). The US is one of the largest givers to protects to support the poor. If we continue to give, our generosity will motivate others to do the same. We set the example for the developing world.

4). Many claim that most of foreign assistance does not actually reach the poor due to corruption. But in the past decade, there has been a major change. Donors have come to understand the system and created new programs focused on investments that have proven to have a beneficial impact. Mechanisms are also in place to track how funds are being used.

As Bill Gates rightly argues, "The statement that foreign aid is a waste of money, does not stand up to scrutiny."

Because of foreign assistance, small pox was eradicated 30 years ago and global organizations are on the brink of eliminating polio. The number of cases is down to less than 2,000 from more than 30,000. Five million people with aids are receiving treatment, and millions of children are able to sleep under mosquito nets at nigh protecting them from malaria.

Foreign assistance is responsible for the incredible reduction of childhood deaths. In 1960, over twenty million children died before reaching the age of five years. Last year, 8.1 million died. That is a 60% decline even with the enormous increase in the global population.

5). Saving children's lives helps build sustainable population growth. As child mortality rate goes down, and parents know that their children are likely to survive, they have less children. This could help limit the major population that has been taking place.

6). Investment in the agriculture not only cuts hunger, but builds up a countries wealth. As farmers improve productivity and access new markets, they become self-sufficient.

"A poor country with a sustainable, healthy population and a thriving agricultural system will not remain poor for long."

Wisely, Gates concludes the speech by asking whether the US truly has the money to spend on aid and spend it now?

Yes, he says, and recognizes David Cameron's initiative to give 7% of GDP in aid. The 1% that the US spends on aid has an enormous impact on the lives of the poor and developing economies, which positively affects the United States.

-Gabrielle Gurian