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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation CEO calls for billionaires to give away more and soon

Yoopya with Associated Press

The CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has a message: Hey billionaires, give away more of your money to address inequality and do it soon.

Mark Suzman made the call in his annual letter released Thursday that led with the story of Chuck Feeney, a billionaire whose philanthropy inspired Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Melinda French-Gates. Feeney, who died in October, made a fortune through duty free stores and gave away $8 billion during his life, much of it anonymously.

“He showed us all how the actions of one generous person can set the wheels in motion for generations of progress,” Suzman wrote of Feeney.

The message is a familiar one from the Gates Foundation, one of the largest global health funders in the world. The foundation recently announced it would spend $8.6 billion in 2024, its largest budget to date, aided by a $20 billion donation by Gates in 2022.

The message is a familiar one from the Gates Foundation, one of the largest global health funders in the world. The foundation recently announced it would spend $8.6 billion in 2024, its largest budget to date, aided by a $20 billion donation by Gates in 2022.

At least one pledger, the billionaire investor Leon Cooperman, would like to see the pledge go further. In an interview in December, Cooperman told Ari Melber, MSNBC’s chief legal correspondent, that “the Giving Pledge is a notable idea, it makes sense but it’s not asking for enough.”

The foundation and Suzman lean toward optimism, pointing toward research and programs they’ve helped develop such as low-cost interventions that could decrease maternal and infant mortality and a global agricultural information system that would serve the world’s poorest farmers.

The Gates Foundation itself plans to increase its annual budget to $9 billion next year, and then hold at that level. The foundation board approved this year’s budget but asked the foundation to consider how to sustainably fund its work when the budget stops expanding, Suzman said.

“They’re pushing us to say, ‘Would you actually potentially sunset or shift some programs and what does it look like to keep more powder dry against potential opportunities?’” he said.

The Associated Press receives financial support for news coverage in Africa from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Associated Press receives financial support for news coverage in Africa from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Complicating the billionaires’ task is the fact that many keep getting richer. A report from Oxfam International, released during the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, this month found that the fortunes of the world’s five richest men have doubled since 2020 and that the increasing concentration of wealth could yield the first trillionaire in the next decade.

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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation CEO calls for billionaires to give away more and soon