In an interview with Spain’s El Pais, the founder of Microsoft and well-known philanthropist said that one of the main challenges during Europe’s debt crisis is that “the poor are not forgotten due to the financial difficulties.”
“The money that allows them to live is less than 1 percent of our budgets,” Gates said. “And the danger is that this becomes cut even more than other parts of the budget.”
Gates has been in Spain this week to meet the Government head, Mariano Rajoy, for talks on global poverty, and took time to join many Spanish non-governmental organizations gathered in the Plaza Mayor to call for the government’s continued financial support in aid programs.
Gates said that Spain and other developed countries should focus their aid on countries where “children die of malaria and people don’t receive medicine for AIDS,” rather than on middle-income countries like Peru.
“When you help these types of countries with a sufficient level of wealth you should ask yourself why, why do you help them?” Gates said. “The help should be for the poorest.”
Gates added that: “We can change a lot more things in poor countries than when you help a country like Peru, with a mid-level income, which has resources to exploit and that could be as rich as a European country.”
Poverty in Peru has decreased steadily over the past several years —as a result of the country’s sustained economic growth— from about 50 percent of the population to just over 30 percent today, according to government figures.
The country still has large pockets of poverty in rural areas —which contrast sharply to extreme wealth in coastal cities— particularly in the southern highlands and jungle regions, as well as in the outskirts surrounding urban centers.
Peruvian economists point out that in fact the level of aid to Peru has been slowly decreasing as poverty levels have fallen.
“Money here is not the problem, but rather skills,” said Eduardo Moron, an economist at Lima’s Pacifico University and former deputy economy minister.
“What we don’t need is cash,” added Elmer Cuba, an economist at Macroconsult. He added: “What we need is help with ‘know-how’, human rights, democracy and gender issues.”
Newspaper El Comercio said that Peru received $112 million in aid from Spain in 2010.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has funded specific immunization and education programs in Peru for many years.