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Bill Gates (and Other Insects)

November 1st, 2005 Leave a comment Go to comments

Bill Gates is one of the most powerful individuals on this planet. He is donating $200 million to help stop Malaria. This is good news. It’s a bit tiny though Bill – in all honesty – like the mosquito’s who carry the parasite.

According to Bill Gates Wealth Clock he is worth around $61.4 billion today. 0.003% of Bill’s personal wealth may make quite an impact on Malaria transmission in Africa but if Bill lived on the 0.003% and donated the rest to help find soutions to the seemingly intractable problems of the continent I would be impressed. And Bill would, after all, still have $200 million to play with.

Come to think of it, he could live on 0.003% of the $200 million, which would leave him $655,737. According to the World Bank, Gross National Income per Capita for the world’s poorest countries averaged $510 per annum in 2004. Bill was born in 1955 which makes him 50 this year. If we assumed he were to live another 50 years and spend all that cash he would have an annual expenditure of around $13,100.

This would still be 26 times the spending power of the poorest. A lot of money perhaps but nothing compared to the 120,264,682 people who will survive this year collectively on income to the value of Mr Gates wealth (yes one hundred and twenty million). And this shows the real problem. “Personal” wealth is never personal, it is always a collective effort channelled by our economic systems into a smaller number of hands than creates the wealth. And until we change that, a few hundred million here or there will not solve any long term problems.

And before I get whinging complaints from free marketeers, I know Mr Gates has funded his charitable trust to the tune opf $37 billion but only $3 billion of this has been apportioned, let alone the value actually spent. And don’t send your whinges anyway because I am not a free marketeer. Markets are a game set up by humans: They have rules and are never “free”: The rules dictate who can play, how and when.

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