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Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Bill Gates in the European Parliament

Vaccinations not only help citizens in developing countries to improve their health, but also provide population control. That was one of the main messages that Bill Gates conveyed to Members of the Development Committee in the European Parliament that he visited on Tuesday. The talk was highly attended and clearly MEPs had a very high esteem for the biggest private donor in the world.

“If children become healthier, parents are less likely to have a lot of children,” Gates explained the Gates Foundations’ approach to population control. “Often, they aim at having two children who reach adulthood so that they can support their parents later.” The healthier children are, the less need there is for a family to have five or more children, said Gates. There is a particular need for vaccines, he said, given that a third of children in Africa have had a serious health issue by the time they are five years old. In many cases, this health issues means that their brain will never develop into its full capacity. “We have to be careful and only give those vaccines that work very well,” Gates stressed, “but the prices for vaccines have dropped and it doesn’t necessarily take a fully-educated doctor to give a vaccination. So there is a lot of potential.”

Gates welcomed the efforts of many European countries to increase the share of development aid to 0.7% of GDP. He dismissed the criticism that parts of the population and experts have brought forward against development aid. “Most of the criticism is very global. You have to be more specific. For example, you cannot criticize donations of vaccines. Or budgetary support aid.” Yet, Gates also pointed to the problems encountered in the attribution of aid. “You always know that some of you money will be misused. We try to limit this share to less than 5 percent.” In general, development aid should be spent well. In a speech, he outlines which investments could make it possible to achieve the Millenium Development Goals within the next ten years.

Bill Gates also stressed the importance of technology. Within the next five years, he expects to see some new breakthroughs, in the next ten years a few very important breakthroughs. The possibility of handling virtual money, for example, which could allow governments in the global South to establish a national tax system without incurring high administration costs.

Source: CTA