Billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates cautioned the British government at a charity event in London on April 19 that cutting foreign aid will weaken its influence and put the safety of British citizens at risk.
"Investing in the health and well-being of people in a poor country pays dividends far beyond that country's borders," Gates said. "Foreign aid investments are in fact long-term investments in health and security even of British citizens here at home."
Gates has delivered similar warnings to politicians, both at abroad and at home. When he met with President Donald Trump in March after the Trump administration proposed U.S. foreign aid budget reductions, Gates told him spending money on other countries keeps Americans safe because it stabilizes unstable parts of the world and helps combat epidemic outbreaks.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has been pressured by some Conservative lawmakers to reduce or entirely cut foreign spending as the country prepares to leave the European Union. The U.K. currently spends 0.7% of its GDP on foreign aid. May declined to comment at the charity event on whether or not that will change after the general election in June, in which she is up for re-election. However, on April 21, May vowed foreign aid in Britain "remains and will remain" if she is re-elected.
"It concerns me that some world leaders are interpreting recent events as reasons to turn inward, instead of seeing them for what they are: problems that although they are difficult and will take time, can be solved if we invest in the long term solutions that are necessary," Gates said.
However, there are concerns that without proper rules and regulations, philanthropic donations and foreign aid in general could continue causing problems in countries that need help.
“If we’re not putting restrictions in place for how the funding is used and how it’s allocated, in the end we’re not really doing the people that it’s supposed to serve any service. Ultimately it ends up in corrupt hands,” Saran Kaba Jones, founder FACE Africa, a clean-water initiative based in Liberia, told Salon’s Carrie Sheffield.
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“Also I strongly believe that it does create this culture of dependency as well, both from the government and also from the population, because they tend to rely too much on outside assistance without really putting in the effort to solve problems for themselves.”
Watch the Salon Talks interview with Saran Kaba Jones, founder FACE Africa, for more.