Wed, Jan 28, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Gates sees a 10-year downturn

PREDICTIONS In his first letter since he quit his job to focus on philanthropy, Bill Gates said technology and science would be key to ending the current downturn

AFP , WASHINGTON

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates predicted on Monday that it will take up to 10 years to weather the current global economic storm.

“The financial market and economic conditions that have developed this past year are truly unprecedented,” Gates wrote in his first annual letter about his work at the philanthropic foundation that bears his name.

“I hope two years from now when I write this letter I can look at this section as a reflection of something that was short-term and that has passed,” wrote Gates in a section of the 20-page letter devoted to the economic slump.

“But I think the effects of the crisis will last beyond that,” added Gates, who retired from Microsoft last year to devote himself to his foundation.

“If you take a longer timeframe, such as five to 10 years, I am very optimistic that these problems will be behind us,” he said, citing fast-moving technological and scientific innovations as primary drivers in the recovery.

Innovations are “moving forward at a pace that can bring real progress in solving big problems” and “will help improve the world and reinvigorate the world economy,” Gates said.

The multi-millionaire said he was inspired to write the annual letter for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which he founded in 1994, by investment guru and philanthropist Warren Buffett, who in 2006 pledged to give 85 percent of his massive fortune to the foundation.

Three installments totaling US$5.16 billion of the Buffett gift, which at the time it was pledged was worth US$31 billion, have been paid to the Gates Foundation.

“Soon after Warren Buffett made his incredible gift, which doubled the resources of the foundation, he encouraged me to follow his lead by writing an annual letter,” Gates said.

Buffett is cited repeatedly in the annual letter, in which Gates addresses his foundation’s work in combating childhood deaths, improving global agriculture and education in the US, and fighting polio, AIDS and malaria.

“I was lucky enough to accumulate the wealth that is going into the foundation because I got a great education and was born in the United States, where innovation and risk-taking are rewarded,” Gates said in the section of the letter about education in the US.

“Warren Buffett is very articulate about how every American, including him, is lucky to have been born here. He calls us winners of the ‘ovarian lottery,’” Gates said before highlighting the gap “between people who get the chance to make the most of their talents and those who don’t” and how the foundation is fighting it by striving to make quality education available to all.

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