Bill Gates talks about ‘game-changers’ in financing development


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World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Co-Chair Bill Gates, and UK Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening. © Simone McCourtie/World Bank

What would be a game-changer for achieving some of the world’s most difficult goals — such as ending poverty and hunger and making sure every child gets a quality education?

Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates came to the World Bank Group Spring Meetings to answer that question in a thought-provoking conversation about how to finance development for greater impact.

“I think the first thing is to make people know the game is working — that is, development is lifting up lives, and this commitment needs to be maintained,” said Gates at A New Vision for Financing Development, livestreamed in Arabic, English, French, and Spanish on the last day of the Spring Meetings.

“If we had the best tax systems, the best primary health care systems, the best education systems of countries at every level of income adopted by others, then this development game would proceed very, very quickly.”

Gates was on a high-level panel including U.K. Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening, Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan, Ghana Minister for Finance and Economic Planning Seth Terkper, and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim.

The conversation, moderated by BBC correspondent Michelle Fleury, ranged from how to make development less risky so the private sector will invest to the need for strong, transparent tax systems and financial inclusion, to how to fund the Sustainable Development Goals and the power of trade to reduce poverty.

Gates gave a strong endorsement of the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries — known as IDA — mentioning it several times during the discussion. IDA, he said, has been “an absolutely critical element” in development.

The fund provides grants and zero- to low-interest financing to the poorest countries and more rarely is used in middle-income countries. The World Bank recently approved concessional financing for Jordan, for example, to help it host more than a million refugees from Syria — an action many consider a global public service.

Kim said such “concessional financing” can help achieve bigger goals by encouraging the private sector to invest in, for instance, renewable energy rather than coal, thereby reducing its cost.

“We need to have that conversation — what are the most important things we want to accomplish? When we’re close to eradicating polio, for example, we can’t give up on it because the rules won’t allow us to do it.”

Developing countries like Ghana benefit from assistance that enables commercial projects to move forward, said Terkper. He said World Bank Group guarantees helped Ghana attract private sector power producers and move forward with a natural gas project that will help meet the country’s energy needs.

Addressing risk is very important, said Terkper, along with looking for non-traditional ways of doing things.

Panelists agreed that mobilizing domestic resources — in the form of taxes — is a big part of the solution to financing development.

Rajan said developing countries need to improve their ability to mobilize these resources, but the task is difficult when “some of the wealthiest people in our countries have money in places where it’s hard to get it back.”

“I think it’s very important to make sure our money stays onshore, rather than offshore.”

Greening said there should be an international agreement on offshore banking — something the G8 explored in 2013 while under the UK presidency, she said. Efforts to make tax systems more transparent “need to go hand in hand with efforts to tackle corruption,” she said.

For Greening, women’s empowerment would be a development game-changer. “The states in India with the fastest growth are where women can be economically active,” she said.

Kim said countries often don’t want to invest in the “soft things,” such as nutrition and quality education, even though, for growth, “the one thing that you can count on is human capital. “

But overall the world is moving in the right direction, said panelists.

“If you take a 50-year, 25-year perspective, the progress in uplifting countries has been quite phenomenal. If you look at the economic measures, health measures, governance measures, a lot of great things have happened. And you’d expect in the next 25 years, we should be able to do even better,” said Gates.

“We have constant innovation — whether it’s a malaria vaccine, or a new seed that’s drought-resistant. ... All of those tools could be made available to developing countries.”

Join the Conversation

Shahram Zarrinkhat
April 18, 2016

The income inequality around the world need to be corrected with a fair / simple and transparent tax systems ! No wonder US has a national debt of $19 trillions!
I guess Kim Kardashian could live with one less Chanel bag

Dr. Ananh Norasingh
April 17, 2016

Dear Bill, you can not solve this problem when the economic crisis between the Rightwing & Leftwing on power.beside what Kim do about all the trillion USD at Malaysia. it should be for the people not for PM.Also the Panama paper deal? it is better go back to basic & start over. it couls be another year of 1776( the year of fire monkey ).

May 23, 2019

In order to avoid crises,the goverment of the countries concern must put more effort on busness,investments and saving programmes projects.those are only areas that can revamp from crises.

Alistair leslie
April 18, 2016

Empowerment of women will be the best game changer. Makes no sense to leave them on the touchline

AR inne
May 23, 2019

Indeed Madam. It makes no social, economic, business, etc. sense to leave half of humanity on touchline, simply put.

Phumelele Higgins
May 23, 2019

Yes I agree with you Alistar. Women have and will continue to play a critical role in development. There is a great need to continue supporting them and giving them an opportunity to play in that space.

Dr Alladari TRAORE
April 18, 2016

Dear High-Level Panelist, there is no unique solution indeed for financing development but solutions locally-generated by developing countries themselves.
The game changer would be that World leaders should empowering developing countries governments to better position themselves to identify creative and ground solutions.

Michael P. Walsh
April 20, 2016

It amazes me that simple thought can lead all to greatness when it is reacted on. There are men and women overseas now that are defending those simple freedoms we all can enjoy and partake in. The unfortunate truth is that most human beings react on opinion rather than fact. The simple fact that we all inhabit this planet , should be enuff for us to know that we truly must all work together and accentuate the true value of living in a world that promotes life with positive choices of survival. Choices that effect all in a very positive manner. The comments of some I have read here are somewhat confused. The idea that a person is willing to give of themselves should allow the rest of us to take a better look at ourselves. Instead it seems many are willing to ridicule the actions that will create a better life for many if not all. To live a life that is motivated to better others welfare , is a life well lived. Its with this mind set that I comment here , TEAM - ( TOGETHER - EVERYONE - ACHIEVES - MORE ) Renewable resources create renewed life !

Motheo Dioka
April 19, 2016

I'm glad these discussions are taking place. Very interesting talk. Yet, ACTION wrt funding innovative clean projects much be accelerated!
It's mind-boggling that one could have a game-changing clean technology and still be ignored by major funders.
The global warming stats are out, they are ghastly figures! I guess fossil fuel investors (and those talking & doing nothing) will realize that they can't eat their money when there's global food shortages. Additionally, they will realize that their money won't protect them from a dangerous +2C world!!
A message to investors : Start pouring more $$$ into viable clean technology projects! How long must we wait for green capital???

Mr.Boukari TARE
April 18, 2016

resources mobilization either external or internal would not reduce poverty if there is no accountability between the top rich (authority)and the bottom poor the people. Most of International Non governmental organization (INGO) take back the money mobilized for the developing countries to developed countries. The financial resources they are moving back to developed countries represent 50 to 60% or more of the total resources mobilized. World leaders need to regulate the interventions of INGO in developing countries particularly in development projects where the value added is negative. external and internal financial resources should be used based on rules of transparency by all the stakeholders if we want to make a difference by 2030.

eusebio manuel vestias pecurto
April 21, 2016

I am an optimistic person because I believe in the new globalization will bring new challenges to natural reconciliation between nations cultures within a basic market of human rights and a rule of law

Bartholomew Simiyu
April 20, 2016

The best infrastructure based game changer is de-risking Renewable energy development sector through early stage financing or perhaps Grants to SME's christened worldwide as "Developers" This will be realised as Kim said "via worlbank concessional financing" to enable The private sector participation's"Kenya a good example"

May 23, 2019

I think Bartholomew Simiyu's Input is key as he just nailed it to the point.If indeed theirs need to revamp the RE sector then Bill Gate and the Panelist have been challenged strongly by The Kenyan young Entrepreneur,its simple 'Help de-risk projects to attract Equity and Debt ,either by way of Grant or cost share agreements with selected EPC or Consultants.Martin from NEWYORK

April 21, 2016

The best approach would be to scale up range of Public Private Community Partnerships, where every-party wins. In such arrangement, private businesses have incentives to continue doing their business, while the making their products and services accessible and affordable to the poor in developing countries. Public sector can offer smart incentives to ensure that the bottom of pyramid can benefit from such innovative business solutions.

May 12, 2016

Bill Gates is so passionate about changing the World. Check out this video of him speaking on education — really inspiring:

sam collin
February 06, 2017

Such a amazing personality ,hardworking men.
Mir Muhammad Alikhan

May 23, 2019