Philanthropy Annual letter from Gates Microsoft co-founder: Helping world's poor is a good investment

By Donna Gordon Blankinship

Associated Press

SEATTLE (AP) -- Bill Gates says he feels a responsibility to speak up for the world's poorest because they're likely to be hit hard as economic woes force governments to reduce contributions to foreign aid.

In his third annual letter, issued Monday, the co-chairman of the world's largest charitable foundation expressed concern about budget cuts to the programs that transfer dollars from rich nations to poor ones, providing medical assistance, food aid, vaccines and other help.

The Microsoft co-founder and chairman says in the 24-page letter that not only is helping the poor with their medical needs and giving them the tools to be self-sufficient the right thing to do, it's also a good investment.

"Securing the conditions that will lead to a healthy, prosperous future for everyone is a goal I believe we all share," wrote the co-chair of the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In the letter, Gates outlines the ways helping people saves money over the long term: From cutting the cost to treat the sick by preventing their illnesses to increasing a child's earning potential and future contribution to society through education.

A large chunk of his letter this year focuses on one disease -- polio -- an illness many people thought had been eradicated. The disease did disappear from most developed nations decades ago, but it still exists in more than a dozen countries. Late last week, the foundation announced a new financial commitment of $102 million toward the goal of worldwide eradication.

The foundation, which has an endowment of $36.4 billion, made grants totaling $3 billion in 2009.

Published: Tue, Feb 1, 2011