Gates Foundation To Increase Spending in 2009 Despite Economic Crisis, Bill Gates Says
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will increase spending from $3.3 billion in 2008 to $3.8 billion in 2009 despite a 20% decrease in its endowment value last year, Bill Gates, co-founder of the Gates Foundation, said Monday in an open letter highlighting the organization's progress, goals and challenges, the New York Times reports (Strom, New York Times, 1/27). According to AFP/Google.com, the value of the Gates Foundation's endowment was $35.1 billion as of Oct. 1, 2008 (AFP/Google.com, 1/26).
In recent years, the Gates Foundation has spent "a bit over 5%" of its assets annually on global health, education and other initiatives, Gates said, adding that the foundation will spend about 7% of its assets in 2009 (Fox, Reuters, 1/26). The letter did not mention any new programs or initiatives, according to the AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Gordon Blankinship, AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1/26). According to AFP/Google.com, about half of the Gates Foundation spending goes toward its Global Health Program (AFP/Google.com, 1/26).
Gates in the letter said that although the increased spending "will reduce the assets more quickly, the goal of our foundation is to make investments whose payback to society is very high rather than to pay out the minimum to make the endowment last as long as possible" (New York Times, 1/27). Gates added that maintaining spending is important, "otherwise we will come out of the economic downturn in a world that is even more unequal, with greater inequities in health and education and fewer opportunities for people to improve their lives." According to the Wall Street Journal, "the Gates foundation is closely watched by other nonprofits as well as governments and workers in the sectors where it issues grants" (Guth, Wall Street Journal, 1/27).
On a conference call to reporters, Gates said charitable groups should consider spending more money despite economic concerns. "When a million children die of malaria a year and you say you want to get rid of that, I don't think the economic crisis changes the moral value of those lives being worth saving," he said. Gates also noted, "We really haven't seen foreign assistance cut by most of the countries" (Reuters, 1/26). According to the Journal, Gates was optimistic throughout the letter. "I don't see the economic recession changing the foundation's goals, just making them significantly harder to achieve in a particular time frame," Gates said Monday on the conference call (Wall Street Journal, 1/27). Gates said when he attends the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland later this week, he will encourage governments and businesses to continue funding initiatives in developing countries (AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1/26).
Gates' letter is available online.
Columnist Nicholas Kristof discussed Gates' letter in a New York Times opinion piece.