World’s richest man, critic of philanthropy, moves into global health

Carlos Slim is the richest man in the world, for the moment anyway, with a net worth of something like $60 billion. He’s from Mexico, a country where half the population lives in poverty.

Carlos Slim Helú

Slim, who amassed his fortune in the telecom industry, has long been a skeptic, a critic even, of philanthropy.

Just last spring, he was quoted by the BBC saying that “poverty is not fought with donations, charity or even public spending” but by promoting business development and free enterprise.

Slim said Bill Gates should work through Microsoft, not philanthropy, to help poor countries.

And yet now, as the Seattle Times reports, Slim is teaming up with Gates and the government of Spain to engage in philanthropy — getting poor kids vaccinated, improving maternal health — in a $150 million project called the 2015 Mesoamerican Health Initiative.

As the Times’ story reports, the Gates Foundation was initially hostile to Slim’s initiative — just as Slim was initially skeptical of doing philanthropy.

I’d be interested in learning more about what finally caused these two billionaires to find common ground. Did Gates convert Slim to the philanthropic mindset? Or does the Mexican billionaire prefer to see this as just another way to promote economic development?

Curious.

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Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom-at-humanosphere.org, follow him on Twitter @tompaulson and/or send a comment below.