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"I was lucky enough to accumulate the wealth that is going into the
foundation because I got a great education and was born in the United
States, where innovation and risk-taking are rewarded," Bill Gates says in his first "annual letter" released this morning by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to where the Microsoft co-founder has semi-retired. "Warren Buffett
is very articulate about how every American, including him, is lucky to
have been born here. He calls us winners of the 'ovarian lottery.'"
But, birthplace aside, the economic downturn hasn't overlooked his multi-billion-dollar foundation. The Gates' charity assets "decreased
value by about 20 percent in 2008. I never thought I would say losing
20 percent is a reasonable result," Gates write, "but it is better than most
endowments because so many asset classes went down by more than 20
percent in 2008..." Gates didn't turn that into dollars, but last June, the foundation reported its endowment was worth $35.9 billion - a $1.4 billion, or 3.75
percent, drop over an earlier period; 20 percent could translate into, what, a $5 billion loss?
But that won't slow the grant-giving, Gates says, targeting global health and in particular childhood death rates.
We thought it would be a shame to help save a child from rotavirus if
she would still be chronically undernourished and never be able to earn
or save money. About 2.5 billion people live on less than $2 a day.
More than 900 million suffer from chronic hunger, and most of them live
in rural areas of developing countries. This is why the foundation
group two years ago. We are working in areas like financial services,
including savings and insurance. Our biggest investment is in improving
agricultural output...Our goal is to help 150 million of the poorest farming households in
sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia triple their incomes by 2025."
before their immune systems become weakened, usually within five years
of becoming infected. In 2003, only 400,000 people were being treated,
and now some 3 million are. That is a phenomenal increase."
The foundation spent $3.3 billion last year, he says. "In 2009, instead of
reducing this amount, we are choosing to increase it to $3.8 billion,
which is about 7 percent of our assets," which will be steadily increased by the $30-plus billion that Berkshire Hathaway chair Buffet is contributing. He adds: "I know the foundation will have its share of setbacks. But I feel sure
I will have lots of success stories to share in the years ahead."