Photo: Bill Gates
U.S. billionaire Bill Gates predicted Tuesday that by 2035 there will be almost no poor countries left in the world, a forecast based on the progress that he says has been made in the fight against extreme poverty in recent decades.
The Microsoft founder turned philanthropist said, in an interview with Efe, that the objective of having no poor countries - that is, by our current definition of “poor” - is “absolutely” feasible, and noted in particular the progress in Latin America, where he believes that in two decades there will be no more poor countries at all, with the possible exception of Haiti.
The tycoon, whose fortune is estimated at $78.5 billion, detailed his bold prediction in the annual letter of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, released Tuesday, in which he attempts to debunk three common myths about development aid: that poor countries are condemned to continue being poor, that aid is squandered due to bad management and corruption and that saving lives in the poorest countries results in overpopulation.
In the letter, the world’s richest man uses arguments and facts to reject all those myths and says, in contrast, that “the world is improving” albeit at a “slow” pace, with the world image of poverty having changed completely during the course of his life.
He notes that extreme poverty has, in just a few decades, fallen from 35 percent to 15 percent of the world’s population, adding that “it’s more important than ever to measure the results and explain the good news.”
Gates says that in Latin America countries like Mexico and Brazil already consider themselves to be “middle income” nations, although plenty of “work still needs to be done” in the fight against poverty.
He also says that countries that are today considered to be in the “low income” category, including Bolivia, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala, could attain the current per capita income levels of Mexico and Brazil by 2035.
The 58-year-old Gates acknowledged that pulling the 1 billion people worldwide who still find themselves in extreme poverty up into the middle income bracket will increase energy consumption and the risk of climate change, which he says is “one of the problems of success” along with an increase in obesity as diets improve.
However, he emphasized that the main responsibility for reducing carbon emissions that add to the so-called “greenhouse effect” lies with the world’s richer countries, although they must continue fighting against that while they also work to reduce poverty.
Gates, who has donated some $28 billion to fund global health, education and agriculture projects, says that the main aim of the letter is to get governments to maintain or increase their levels of development aid, since private philanthropy “cannot fill the gaps.”
Gates has not carried out any executive duties at Microsoft since 2008 to devote himself fully to his foundation.
“It’s what I’m going to do for the rest of my life and I couldn’t enjoy it more,” he said.