Billionaire Bill Gates has defended his philanthropic organisation’s investment choices, arguing that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is just a typical investor when it comes to managing its US$36.4 billion of assets.
The foundation has contributed more than US$26 billion to global health and development and US education to date, but has been criticised for owning stock in companies such as Monsato, Exxon and Shell.
Here’s what Bill Gates told ABC’s Q&A program:
We don’t own tobacco companies, we don’t own weapons companies … There’ve been a few gay rights issues that we’ve voted against management on. But we don’t pretend that the nature of our investments, in and of itself, is the good that we do for the world.
We’re in a world of cause and effect; when we buy vaccines and get them out there, we’re into saving lives. We’re not into patting ourselves on the back that ‘oh, we don’t own shares in that company’.
The most controversial thing that we own are US Government bonds. I disagree with a lot of things that the US Government does. So no, I don’t endorse every action that I own investments in, nor are we a court of justice.
We’re not going to take our 1000 people, malaria experts, TV experts and go around and look at every oil company employee. The general point is we’re about our grants; otherwise, we’re jut a typical investor where the governments are setting the rules.
Gates met Prime Minister Julia Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott in Australia this week to lobby for foreign aid.
The Microsoft co-founder said Abbott “couldn’t have been nicer”.
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