Thursday, 3 November 2011

Gates Report highlights role of innovation in expanding development resources

In a report about financing for development delivered today at the G20 Summit, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, urged leaders to commit to increasing the pool of resources dedicated to development or risk causing irreparable damage to the livelihoods of millions of the poorest people. Underlying these recommendations is the idea that innovation can multiply the impact of the resources devoted to development. Gates’ report, Innovation with Impact: Financing 21st Century Development, was presented to heads of State and Governments in Cannes, France, at the request of G20 chairman French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

In his report, Gates stresses the need for rich countries to continue their generosity and meet their foreign aid commitments – which are generally between one and two percent of government’s budgets – while ensuring that aid is spent effectively in areas such as health and agriculture. Beyond rich countries’ responsibility, Gates says rapidly emerging economies represented in the G20 also play a growing role in driving progress in development. In his report, he proposes ideas for enabling speedier transfer of the innovations these countries are pioneering – particularly in the areas of health and agriculture, such as vaccines and seeds – to transform the lives of poor people in Africa and beyond. “I am particularly excited about the possibility of ‘triangular partnerships’ among rapidly growing countries, traditional donors, and poor countries, because they exploit the comparative advantages of many different countries,” Gates says in his report.

“Ultimately, developing countries’ domestic resources will be the largest source of funds for development,” according to Gates, who recommends measures the G20 could take to help poor countries’ maximize their own resources to reduce poverty. Ideas include directing foreign aid at helping developing countries better collect tax revenue, which could raise approximately $20bn a year at today’s GDP, and increasing transparency requirements for mining and oil companies. Gates calls on poor countries to focus resources on priorities which directly benefit poor people, like health and agriculture, and urged African leaders to meet the targets they had set in the Abuja Declaration to devote at least 15% of their budgets to improving health, and in the Maputo Declaration, which calls for devoting 10% of budgets on agriculture.

The report to G20 leaders also calls for adopting innovative ways to mobilize private sector finance and encourage private sector growth as a way to raise funds for development. Recommendations include making sovereign wealth funds available for infrastructure investments in poor countries, continuing to lower transaction costs of remittances by diaspora communities, and using pull mechanisms in agriculture to encourage innovation in agricultural technologies.

Gates also uses the report to identify new streams of funding, by directing a percentage of funds from a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT), Solidarity Tobacco Contribution, and an aviation and bunker fuel tax, to fund development and climate change. Concerning the FTT the report says: “Some modelling suggests that even a small tax of ten basis points on equities and two basis points on bonds would yields about $48bn on a G20-wide basis, or $9bn if it were confined to larger European economies. Other FTT proposals offer substantially larger estimates, in the S100bn to $250bn range, especially if derivatives are included.”

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