For the second year in a row, Bill Gates has published a rather sprawling annual letter. It is about what the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is seeing in all of the worldwide data they have access to, and the foundation’s activities. Gates is frank, appreciative and optimistic about what we can achieve together with our generosity. In light of the tough problems the foundation is directly confronting, this is inspiring.
Despite the tough economy, I am still very optimistic about the progress we can make in the years ahead. A combination of scientific innovations and great leaders who are working on behalf of the world’s poorest people will continue to improve the human condition.
- Bill Gates
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation takes a more global view than countries or even groups of countries (the European Union or United Nations for instance), so the letter is pretty broad in perspective. The 2010 Annual Letter from Bill Gates covers 12 “chapters”, including of the foundation priority areas. This makes it easy to read the parts that are of most interest to you on the web.
One thing that particularly concerns Gates is the amount of foreign aid given by individual countries. He measures this “generosity” by taking foreign aid as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP). By this measure, the United States, although the largest giver in total dollar amounts, falls far below other industrialized countries.
The United States is the biggest giver in absolute terms, but in percentage terms gives only 0.19 percent. In recent years, a significant portion of this assistance went to reconstruction in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. If Congress passes President Obama’s proposal to double giving, however, the United States will get up into a very respectable range.
- Bill Gates
Here is the chart showing the 2008 figures:
As part of their efforts, Bill and Melinda Gates are working to spread the word about how highly successful aid effort have been. Gates says,
The public may not prioritize keeping foreign aid at high levels because so many of them have not heard how effective it is. Some formed their image of foreign aid during the Cold War, when money was sent to buy the allegiance of a dictator with very little control to make sure it was well spent. We need to get the successes to be far more visible than they are today.
To that end, they created the presentation, Why We are Impatient Optimists. This is available in its entirety on the web, in parts according to topic and there is a highlights video if you want get an idea of what type of information is covered. I have embedded the entire video below but if you click through on the hotlink above, you can select just a potion to watch if you wish. Enjoy!