LONDON: The world’s richest man Bill Gates, who is worth about $65 billion, seems to have seen the futility of his riches as he says that he has no use for money.
“Money has no utility to me beyond a certain point. Its utility is entirely in building an organisation and getting the resources out to the poorest in the world,’’ Gates was quoted as saying by the Telegraph.
“I’m certainly well taken care of in terms of food and clothes,” the Microsoft founder said.
Shouldn’t Gates, whose wealth equals the annual GDP of Ecuador and many other countries and is worth two Kenyas, three Trinidads and a dozen or so Montenegros, be a satisfied and happy man?
But being rich, even on the cosmic scale attained by Bill Gates, is no guarantee of an enduring place in history. The projection of the personal computer into daily life should do the trick for him, but even at the age of 57 he is a restless man and wants something more. The “more” is the eradication of a disease that has blighted untold numbers of lives: polio,’’ the paper wrote.
He and his wife Melinda have so far given away $28 billion via their charitable foundation, more than $8 billion of it to improve global health.
“My wife and I had a long dialogue about how we were going to take the wealth that we’re lucky enough to have and give it back in a way that’s most impactful to the world,” Gates was quoted as saying.
“Both of us (me and my wife) worked at Microsoft and saw that if you take innovation and smart people, the ability to measure what’s working, that you can pull together some pretty dramatic things.
“We’re focused on the help of the poorest in the world, which really drives you into vaccination. You can actually take a disease and get rid of it altogether, like we are doing with polio,’’ Gates adds.
“Polio’s pretty special because once you get an eradication you no longer have to spend money on it; it’s just there as a gift for the rest of time.”
Polio is endemic in Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and killing it off altogether has been likened to squeezing jelly to death. There is another, sinister obstacle: the propagation by Islamist groups of the belief that polio vaccination is a front for covert sterilisation and other western evils. Health workers in Pakistan have paid with their lives for involvement in the programme.
Gates does not usually speak in religious terms, and has traditionally danced around the issue of God. His wife, a Roman Catholic, is less defensive on that topic but ploughs her own furrow, encouraging contraception when necessary, in contradiction to teaching from Rome, according to the Telegraph.
Gates adds, “Melinda and I had been talking about this even before we were married. When I was in my 40s Microsoft was my primary activity. The big switch for me was when I decided to make the foundation my primary purpose. It was a big change, although there are more in common with the two things than you might think – meeting with scientists, taking on tough challenges, people being sceptical that you can get things done.”
According to Gates, “My full-time work for the rest of my life will be at the foundation. I still work part-time for Microsoft. I’ve had two careers and I’m lucky that both of them have been quite amazing.
“I loved my Microsoft: it prepared me for what I’m doing now. In the same way that I got to see the PC and internet revolutions, now I see child death rates coming down. I work very long hours and try to learn as much as I can about these things, but that’s because I enjoy it.’’
The children of Bill and Melinda Gates will never know poverty. They may not become multibillionaires but even the loss to charity of the vast bulk of their parents’ fortune should leave them with a billion or so each.
But Gates has been quoted as saying that “the vast majority’’ of his wealth (over 95 per cent) now goes to the foundation. “The foundation will spend all that money within 20 years after neither of us are around any more.”
He doesn’t ascribe his devotion to philanthropy to some new-found faith?
“It doesn’t relate to any particular religion; it’s about human dignity and equality. The golden rule that all lives have equal value and we should treat people as we would like to be treated,’’ says the multibillionaire.