Socialist Worker

Bill Gates' billionaire philanthropy won't solve poverty

by Ken Olende
Issue No. 2256

Billionaire Bill Gates has been praised for his philanthropic acts. Last week he promised $1 billion to pay for vaccinations in poor countries.

Gates set up the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi) in response to outrage that so many children die of preventable diseases.

Children need vaccinations, but it is outrageous that we should have to rely on the mega-rich.

That removes any democratic control that can make sure the best health policies are carried out.

High-profile projects like this are no substitute for the health infrastructure of hospitals and clinics that are needed in poorer countries that have been ravaged by neoliberal policies.

Many children are not immunised simply because the few multinationals that control the pharmaceutical industry, such as Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK), keep the cost of vaccines artificially high.

And these companies, including GSK, are represented on Gavi’s board.

Crucell—a subsidiary of GSK and Johnson & Johnson—sells some vaccines at profits of up to 180 percent. This is a disgrace.

Schemes like this act as cover for the profits of multinational companies and allow them to squirrel away more cash.

A billion dollars sounds like a lot—until you hear that Gates’ firm Microsoft made profits of $4.5 billion in the second quarter of 2010 alone.

Gates is praised by governments for giving his fortune away to charity. But he is still the second richest person on the planet, with an unimaginable fortune of $56 billion.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has set up schemes to avoid paying even the minimal taxes in the state of Washington, where the corporation is based.

But Gavi also actively subsidises drugs firms. Daniel Berman of NGO Médecins Sans Frontières told the Mirror newspaper, “Under the Advance Market Commitment, GSK and Pfizer are selling 30 million doses of pneumococcal vaccine annually to Gavi for £2 each.

“In addition to the per unit price they are each getting a subsidy of

£137 million. I don’t think they ever dreamed they would get it this good but they did.”

We need to outlaw multinationals profiteering from poor people’s misery and tax the smug rich until the people we have elected control their wealth.

We should use that wealth to establish proper health services across the world.

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Tue 14 Jun 2011, 18:17 BST
Issue No. 2256
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