Interview: Bill Gates urges G20 to aid poor nations
(AP) New recession or no, rich countries need to keep helping poorer nations. And countries that have pulled themselves out of poverty — like China and Brazil — should do more to help, too, according to Microsoft founder and global philanthropist Bill Gates.
Gates came to a summit of the world's most influential economies on the French Riviera urging their leaders to keep their eyes trained on the longer term despite a huge spotlight on the immediate drama unfolding in Greece.
In an interview with The Associated Press, he championed taxes on financial activity as a way to get the private sector to contribute to helping the poor — a tax that activists hail as long overdue and some European countries are championing.
He acknowledged, however, that countries are unlikely to agree on a blanket worldwide tax.
"The world doesn't have one government, so you're just not going to have complete alignment on how tax structures work in all the different countries. I hope some countries look at the tax ideas in the report and consider those," he said.
"The key point is that money makes a huge difference. The way aid is being spent nowadays — focused on innovation, on measurement — means that the impact per dollar of aid is much higher than in the past," he said.
He presented an ambitious and unusual report to the G-20 leaders at the request of summit host Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president. But the report, like all talk of world woes other than Greece, was overshadowed by worries about the future of the eurozone.
European leaders need to restore stability, Gates told the AP, "but in doing so, they do need to keep in mind the 1 percent or so of government budgets that go to helping the poorest. I think that should be maintained, or even grown."
Gates' report outlines where G-20 economies should focus their money and policies to get the most return on investment in aid.
"Budgets are tight," he said. "So, I think it is a time where we need to make sure every dollar is spent well."
He notably urges rapidly growing economies such as China and Brazil to do more to apply their success stories in bringing millions out of poverty to poorer nations, through cooperation in health and farming technology.
Activist groups largely welcomed the Gates report though some said he could have been bolder in pushing for more transparency from all multinational companies operating in poor countries.
The group ONE, co-founded by U2 frontman Bono and focusing on aid to Africa, welcomed the stress on getting developing countries themselves to pitch in more. It said in a statement that Gates' report "shows that a global agreement on investment, aid and innovative taxes is not only desirable but realistic."
Gates said that "the pieces are coming together" for a concerted push by rich countries to ensure that oil companies disclose more information about their activities in poor countries to ensure that more proceeds from the resources go to the needy.
But he noted that some leaders at the G-20 summit were "uncomfortable" with the presence of the president of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema — Africa's longest-serving dictator.
Obiang was invited because he has the rotating presidency of the African Union. Authorities in the U.S. and France are investigating his son, accused of looting the country's resource wealth to buy sports cars and luxury homes.