"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


Gates Foundation Lost Billions in 2008

"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

added our Global Development Program to complement the Global Health

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."

The foundation's money is also helping make advances against polio, malaria and AIDS, he notes. "To stay alive, people with HIV need to start using anti-retroviral drugs

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." 

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