Gates Foundation’s Approach To ‘Focus On Best Investments First’ Serves As Lesson For Governments

Project Syndicate: Learning from Bill Gates
Bjørn Lomborg, visiting professor at the Copenhagen Business School and director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center

“…[An] analysis for Copenhagen Consensus shows that each dollar of Warren Buffett’s money spent by the Gates Foundation on vaccination, contraception, and nutrition is generating a return worth $45-120. Buffett is famous for his canny investments, but such a return — in development terms — is as phenomenal as any business achievement. Herein lies the lesson for governments. The Gates Foundation has a sharp-eyed focus on powerful investments that can achieve astounding results at low cost. If we can’t fix everything at once, we should start where we can do the most good. Contrast this with the United Nations’ approach to development. Its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) — the important agenda that will shape the allocation of trillions of dollars of spending on government aid over the next 15 years — include an unmanageable 169 complex development targets. … The SDGs replaced the Millennium Development Goals, which comprised eight clear, simple promises such as halving global poverty, reducing child mortality, and getting children into school. The MDGs saved at least 21 million lives. It would be reductionist and wrong to suggest that the private sector succeeds at development aid and the public sector fails; many of the Gates Foundation’s greatest successes have resulted from partnerships with governments. But the most compelling argument for sustaining and increasing spending on development aid is to focus on the best investments first. The Gates Foundation’s approach should be an inspiration” (2/14).

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