Atlanta There’s no question that Bill Gates and his ex-wife, Melinda, along with their foundation have, as the saying goes, “more money than God.” It seems that Mr. Gates sometimes gets confused on whether it’s just about the money or that he can act like his own little version of a god.
The news of the world today was that before Gates left full-time employment at Microsoft in 2008, he had to be cautioned by other executives and apologize to the board for sending inappropriate emails to junior female staff and trainees suggesting dinner and desert or whatever. He apologized to the board, admitting the inappropriateness according to reports in the Times and Journal, and there were no adverse consequences for him of course. He left employment shortly after, went on for another dozen years to serve as Chairmen of the Board there, and of course grand poohbah of the Gates Foundation from then on.
No question. The foundation is big business. A report in The Economist says, “In 2019 it gave out $4.1bn, according to the OECD, a club of rich countries, more than 11 times as much as the next-largest private American development foundation. If it were a government, it would be the 12th-biggest disburser of foreign aid, between Italy and Switzerland.” To tell the truth, reading the report made me as uneasy as getting to know that Gates was a bit pervy with his female staff and even more than a bit in hanging out with the notorious Epstein, child molester and pimp to royalty and the rich.
Sitting fat with over 1700 staffers most of their granting seems data-driven and tech-biased, which is disappointing to read, given the amount of money they could spend and complex subtlety of most of the world’s issues. Their view of public health as only focused on the headline diseases rather than root causes has long been controversial in the global development field. The grant application and evaluation process seem almost impossibly burdensome in time, energy, and paper exhausted. There’s also a bias it seems to dealing with big NGO’s speaking their language that are based in the US or Europe. It’s troubling for example when “ a professor of global public health at Queen Mary University of London, suggests that grantees with headquarters in Africa and Asia have received just 5.3% and 5.6% of its grants respectively since 1999.”
My only experience with the Gates Foundation was in the aftermath of Katrina, when they had a staffer meet with us and others throughout the city. It came to naught. They put some antes on the table in very traditional grants so that they could say they had been there, but nothing much. We’re not in any danger of being on the receiving end of Gates money, but given all of this, it’s worth remembering that you are known for the money you take and sometimes it’s worth also remembering that you are also known for the money you refuse to take.