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Bill Gates Says Charities Can't Make Up for Foreign Aid Cuts

Bill Gates warned Wednesday that charities are "absolutely not" equipped to compensate for lost aid caused by funding cuts, including those proposed by President Trump.
Image: Bill Gates talks to reporters
Bill Gates talks to reporters in New York, on Feb. 22, 2016.Seth Wenig / AP

Charitable organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are “absolutely not” equipped to compensate for lost development aid caused by funding cuts, including those proposed by President Donald Trump, Bill Gates cautioned in an interview published Wednesday.

“There’s no way to balance a cut in [a] rich country’s generosity,” Gates told The Guardian in an interview before the United Nations General Assembly opens next week.

Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, speaks during a discussion on innovation hosted by Reuters in Washington, U.S., April 18, 2016. REUTERS

Gates said his foundation, the largest private philanthropic organization in the world, spends more than $3 billion annually on development assistance. That figure translates to about one-tenth of the U.S. aid budget, and nearly one-fiftieth of the $143 billion global aid budget.

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The U.S. is the largest global aid donor, but Trump wants to cut the foreign aid budget by about 32 percent.

Those cuts include a $1 billion decrease in the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (Pepfar) program, which funds treatment for HIV and AIDS patients, including testing and counseling, for millions across the world. The proposed cut to the Pepfar program could cost about 9 million years of lost life in South Africa and Ivory Coast.

Rather than concentrating on the president, Gates said he has shifted his focus toward members of Congress, "because things very much hang in the balance."

He said he had also talked to members of the Trump administration, including National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Defense Secretary James Mattis, to stress the importance of foreign aid to maintaining global stability and public health.

Gates said his most encouraging conversations have been with members of Congress, who he believes are aware of the value of maintaining the U.S. aid budget.

“I don’t want to create the notion that there’s real certainty here, but the idea that these investments can be defended by the Republican Party is beneficial to American citizens," Gates said. "That’s stronger than people might expect. The legislative view of [development aid] is stronger than you would expect if you just listened to the executive branch.”