Bill Gates, the world’s richest man, said that by 2035 no nation will be as poor as any of the 35 that the World Bank now classifies as low-income, even adjusting for inflation.
Most countries will have higher per-person income by 2035 than China does now, Gates said in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s annual letter published today. He argued against what he called “three myths” that block progress for the poor: poor countries are doomed to stay poor; foreign aid is a big waste; and saving lives leads to over-population.
“The facts are on the side of the optimists,” Gates, 58, said today in a Bloomberg Television interview with Betty Liu. “It’s actually dangerous that people are focusing on the bad news and not seeing the progress we’ve made. It means they don’t look at the best practices, it makes them less generous.”
The Gates Foundation has distributed $28.3 billion in grants since 1997 to fund projects in global health and development and education programs in the U.S., according to the organization’s website.
Almost all countries will be what are now called lower-middle income or richer by 2035, Gates said in the letter. They will learn from their most productive neighbors and benefit from innovations such as new vaccines, better seeds and the digital revolution, he said.
“The belief that the world is getting worse, that we can’t solve extreme poverty and disease, isn’t just mistaken. It is harmful,” Gates wrote. “By almost any measure, the world is better than it has ever been. In two decades it will be better still.”
A few countries will be held back by war and politics, Gates said, citing North Korea, or geography, such as landlocked nations in central Africa. Still, he predicts that more than 70 percent of countries will have a higher per-person income than China now, and almost 90 percent of nations will be above today’s India.
Health aid is a “phenomenal investment,” Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft Corp., said in the letter. Helped by foreign aid, the number of polio-endemic countries was reduced to 3 from 125 since 1988. With the right investments and changes in policies, by 2035, every country will have child-mortality rates that are as low as the rates in the U.S. or the U.K. in 1980, Gates said, citing research by the foundation and economists published in the Lancet last month.
When children survive in greater numbers, parents decide to have smaller families, Melinda Gates wrote in the letter. And the pattern of falling death rates followed by falling birth rates applies for the vast majority of the world, she said.
“Headlines in a way are what mislead you because bad news is a headline and gradual improvement is not,” Bill Gates said in the interview. “We almost have to take a letter like this and speak out and say, ‘Wait a minute, despite how bad we feel about what’s not yet done, we have some approaches that work.’ And the cynicism is holding us back.”