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Thursday, 23 January 2014 13:57

Gates on poverty: more hot air like the 640k nonsense


Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is famous for making sweeping statements about things of which he knows very little.

As he is rich — having made a pile by unloading mediocre software on an unsuspecting world — the mainstream media reports whatever he says, without even the hint of a question.

Gates' latest utterances are about poverty — that by 2035, there will be no poor countries, that saving children's lives does not increase the world's population and that foreign aid is not a waste.

Before going any further, let's remember that this is the same man who predicted that nobody would need more than 640K of RAM on a personal computer. I must be a crazy type because I have two machines running different versions of operating systems from Microsoft; each has 16 GB of RAM and yet often they seem as though they could use more.

And if one cares to leaf through a book titled The Road Ahead, published by one Bill Gates in 1995, one will find many more "predictions" that came to naught. Not the best pedigree for one who predicts things on a global scale.

Gates' pronouncements come at the time when the annual global economic summit is being held in Davos, Switzerland. As one of the world's billionaires, he is a regular attendee.

To coincide with this meeting, Oxfam issued some findings which would make people like Gates feel a bit uncomfortable, especially since he now styles himself as a philanthropist. According to Oxfam, the 85 wealthiest people on the globe — and Gates is high on that list — have as much wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion, or half the earth's population.

And another telling statistic is that the wealthiest one per cent — once again Gates is safely ensconced within this elite clique — has $US110 trillion or 65 times the total wealth of those 3.5 billion I referred to above. I doubt however that the one per cent would lose any sleep over it.

Statements like those which Gates has made tend to salve the conscience a bit; after all, one may be wealthy, even filthy rich, but one is a do-gooder, so one has done one's bit.

And the way his silly pronouncements have been reported tend to raise one's hackles: Gates debunks three myths about poverty, Gates destroys myths about poverty, Gates predicts end to poverty in 20 years... just do a search for "gates on poverty" using your choice of search engine. None of the august outlets which come up with such brilliant headlines will, of course, ask why a philanthropist is investing so much in Monsanto, a company that does not exactly stand out for its ethics.

Perhaps the Microsoft co-founder is unaware of the fact that 16 per cent of his own countrymen, yes Americans, are now officially living below the poverty line. While Gates is busy investing in companies that make vaccines that are used in programs that his foundation supports in poor countries, the US of A is doing it real tough.

Gates might also like to pay a visit to Detroit and see if he can differentiate it from a slum in India. If truth be told, that slum in India might look like a conclave for the rich in comparison.

You can use statistics like the state of the stock market or GDP to pretend that countries are rich but that would be deception of the most elementary kind. The truth is that the rich are getting richer and the poor are losing what little they have.

Treaties like the Trans Pacific Partnership, being foisted by the US on 10 countries, including Australia and New Zealand, will make the rich in the US even richer by forcing unfair terms of trade on these countries. I'm sure that Gates must be passionately against such treaties. What, he isn't campaigning against the TPPA?

Putting one's money where one's mouth is is a difficult feat, especially when there is a lot of that money. For Gates, it is particularly difficult given that his mission while at Microsoft was to take every pound, rupee, kopek, dollar, dirham, ringgit, rouble or taka from every pocket worldwide by selling third-rate software. Holding one's peace is advisable.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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