Bill Gates, the American billionaire philanthropist, said on Wednesday that he hopes to see “a more generous” South Korea in its global aid contribution to help address global health challenges and provide appropriate assistance to those in developing countries.
In addition to its rapid innovation in vaccine development, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, believes that increasing the aid budget is another important role that South Korea can play as a wealthy country.
“I’m very involved in encouraging rich countries to be more generous and to raise their aid budgets,” Gates said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency on the last day of his three-day trip to Seoul.
“You can’t do everything. Even in rich countries, there are some trade-offs that you don’t spend infinite amounts to intervene, but in poor countries, those trade-offs are quite brutal … so we should make sure everything goes to those high-impact interventions,” he said.
Gates praised Seoul’s pledge to increase the aid budget as a percentage of GDP from 0.16 percent to 0.3 percent, calling it a “fantastic” move that could make South Korea the world’s “tenth largest donor.”
South Korea set the aid budget for 2023 at 4.5 trillion won ($3.43 billion) in June, an increase of 502 billion won from this year.
Gates suggested that South Korea contribute to the upcoming replenishment of the Global Fund, an international funding agency for anti-epidemic campaigns.
“If Korea could come in at over the three year period $100 to $150 million, that would be a fantastic contribution and a significant increase,” he said.
Gates suggested that South Korea consider the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Initiative (CEPI), a global partnership for vaccine research and development against infectious diseases such as COVID-19.
When asked if he had presented such proposals to South Korean officials during previous meetings with President Yoon Suk-yeol and National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin-pyo, Gates stated that the “conversation has been ongoing.”
“We do point out that those two groups have actually granted more money into South Korea than the contribution, so South Korea is actually winning the spending on its merit,” Gates said.
“If they choose to give it at those levels, I’ll be the first to thank them for their amazing generosity,” he said.
On the COVID-19 forecast, Gates, author of the latest book, “How to Prevent the Next Pandemic,” said infection numbers continue to be higher than expected and urged the international community to increase budgets for organisations such as the World Health Organization so that they can “fly into crisis situations” with top-notch teams and tools.
“I’m still hopeful that over the next several years that people will decide this is a smart investment to make,” Gates said.