Gates invites Wilders to see aid in Africa


BILLIONAIRE MICROSOFT chairman and philanthropist Bill Gates has intervened in a national debate over the Netherland’s budget deficit, and invited right-wing political leader Geert Wilders to accompany him to Africa to see development aid at work.

Mr Gates, who is also co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has contacted Dutch media outlets to put pressure on the minority coalition government not to cut overseas aid during negotiations aimed at finding €9.6 billion in budget savings.

Amid growing concern that failure to agree the cuts could lead to the collapse of prime minister Mark Rutte’s Liberal-Christian Democrat government and a snap general election, the software magnate said he feared that if Holland cut its aid budget, other European countries might follow.

“Dutch voters should be very proud of their generosity” he told public broadcaster, NOS. “By buying vaccines they are saving lives. They are setting an example to the world that other countries are only moving towards. I have seen on the ground what a real difference aid makes.”

Mr Gates, whose wealth is estimated at $61 billion (€46 billion), added: “That is why I am spending 100 per cent of my own money through the Gates Foundation to help the poorest in the world – in the same way that Dutch people have backed the Global Fund and aid to poor farmers.”

The Netherlands has traditionally been one of Europe’s biggest development aid contributors, with a budget of €5 billion in 2010.

However, as part of the current talks, Mr Wilders and his Freedom Party (PVV), who have supported the minority coalition since 2010, have said they will only agree new tax and pension reforms if development aid is cut significantly – or abolished altogether. When this was put to Mr Gates in De Volkskrant newspaper, he said he would invite Mr Wilders to Africa, as his guest, to see the reality of development aid.

Asked what he would show Mr Wilders, he replied: “Aid is not just a matter of efficiency – it’s a matter of more money.

“We already buy life-saving vaccines at the lowest price. I would show him what you can do with a thousand dollars . . . I would show him how spending a thousand dollars can save a child’s life.”