Answer to a Whole Nation's Poverty? Its Richest Person

Top billionaire could end poverty in 3 countries, make inroads in others
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 25, 2016 4:30 PM CST
Answer to a Whole Nation's Poverty? Its Richest Person
Philanthropist and co-founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates attends a panel "Preparing for the Next Pandemic" at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Friday, Jan. 22, 2016.   (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

As the world's richest and most powerful people leave the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, there was growing discussion about the impact the world's wealthiest could have, single-handedly, on the poverty rates of entire nations. One analyst at the Brookings Institution crunched some numbers and found that, if the richest resident of three countries—Swaziland, Colombia, and Georgia—distributed half their wealth over the next 15 years to those who live below the poverty line according to how far below it they reside, no one would live below the poverty line in that time. Ditto if multiple billionaires (as opposed to just one) in each of six other countries pool their resources. "This might all seem far-fetched," notes Quartz, "but some of the world’s richest people are already giving their money away."

There's the example of Bill and Melinda Gates—who have given away $30 billion and have 100 others signed on to donate the majority of their wealth through the Giving Pledge. Similarly, Mark Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan greeted the birth of their daughter with an open letter vowing to give away 99% of their Facebook shares, currently valued at $45 billion. The Brookings analyst hopes activity like this "could trigger a powerful demonstration effect of innovative solutions—not just for other billionaires, but for countries that are currently at risk of being left behind." The news comes as Oxfam International finds that the richest 1% of the world is just 62 people, and that their combined wealth equals that of the entire bottom half of the rest of the world (3.7 billion people and growing). (There are now more billionaires in this country than in the US.)

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