Nearly 200 wealthy individuals
have joined the Giving Pledge over the past eight years, fewer than 10% of the billionaires. Moreover, there is no reporting or accountability of their actual giving. All in all, most of the world's richest people have not yet joined the battle to end poverty. Yet their wealth is so vast that these few individuals could dramatically improve the lives of hundreds of millions of people.
Hundreds of millions of impoverished children live without access to basic health care or schooling. Around 5.6 million children under the age of five
die each year because there is no clinic to safeguard their births, help them, if necessary, to take their first breath, provide life-saving antibiotics to fend off respiratory infections, or ensure timely access to a $1 dose of life-saving anti-malaria medicine in the event of an infective mosquito bite.
Hundreds of millions of children lack access to adequate public schools with trained teachers, electricity, books, and hygienic facilities. The result is that kids leave school after a few years without basic skills needed for the 21st century.
These debilitating conditions could be overcome for a tiny fraction of the vast wealth of the billionaires. A mere 1% of the billionaires' net worth each year would amount to around $91 billion, a sum that could ensure access to health care and education for the poorest children across the globe. (UNESCO estimates a global financing gap for education of $39 billion per year
; WHO professionals estimate a global financing gap for health of $20-$54 billion per yea
The billionaires should give this sum voluntarily, but when they don't, governments should put on a 1% net worth levy to fund the basic health and education needs of the world's poorest people.
When I led a commission 17 years ago that pointed out how modest levels of aid
could make great strides against killer diseases like AIDS, TB, and malaria, I was told that the aid would be stolen, the poor would not adhere to the drug regimens, and so on. This is the blather of rich people.
In fact, when new institutions were established, including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria and the US Government's PEPFAR program to fight AIDS, the programs saved millions of lives
. Even so, despite the overwhelming evidence of their success, these worthy life-saving organizations remain bereft of adequate funding.
The mega-rich expect the adulation of the masses and often get it. Yet the forbearance of society for the antics of the mega-rich will soon wear thin. Too many people are suffering, too many lower-skilled workers are losing their jobs and earnings, too much wealth is being frivolously squandered, and too much power over our lives is being asserted by big tech and other corporate giants.
Donald Trump channeled the rising unhappiness into his electoral victory, but his trade wars and tax cuts for the rich only widen the divide. Real answers depend on redirecting the mega-wealth towards those in urgent need.