Robin Hood tax

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Bill Gates hands in his foreign aid report to G20. Gets a B+ | 

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Bill Gates at World Health Assembly

Bill Gates, who according to Forbes is the fifth most powerful person in the world, today made his case for boosting foreign aid and development to the G20 meeting of the world’s richest countries, which is held in France this year

It’s a compelling case. Unfortunately, it may be Greek to the rest of the world’s powerful.

As The Guardian’s live G20 website indicates, the meltdown of Greece’s economy — and its potential adverse impact on the global economy — is going to suck the air out of any attempt to float any other issue at this posh meeting in Cannes.

To paraphrase: When the going gets tough for the rich, it’s tough luck for the poor.

So what did Gates say? A lot actually.

He proposed, and handed in, a specific Plan to Assist the World’s Poor, which included his support for the idea of imposing a small “Robin Hood tax” on the financial industry and other select transaction. He also wants to encourage private investments in what has typically been viewed as the purview of government or humanitarian organizations. Says Gates:

The private sector hasn’t always invested as much in development as it should because the market incentives haven’t always been clear, but there are ways to encourage involvement. In my report to the G-20, I’ll make half a dozen recommendations for mobilizing tens of billions of dollars annually from private sources. The African diaspora is sitting on $50 billion in savings that could fund development in their home countries if it were captured through diaspora bonds.

Here’s a video from the Gates Foundation in which Bill says what he’s trying to do:

As this story from Reuters notes, Gates is the first businessman ever to be invited to address the G20 meeting. Many humanitarian groups lauded Gates’ call for the richest countries to not neglect the poor and to remain true to past aid and development commitments.

In response to Gates’ participation at the G20, Oxfam‘s Luc Lampriere said:

Gates’ timely message is that there will be no lasting global economic recovery without tackling poverty. He brings much needed impetus and ambition to a Summit nearly paralyzed by Europe’s woes.

World Vision issued a release, praising Gates’ advocacy on behalf of the poor as well — but suggesting he tone down the ‘innovation’ pitch a bit and crack some heads on the chronic failure of the G20 to live up to its promises.

What we need most is for the G20 countries to spend the money they promised to spend. There is no doubt that innovation will improve our ability to meet global poverty reduction commitments, but innovative financing would make more sense if the G20 were already doing their part.