I enjoyed reading the Bill Gates Annual Letter 2014 and the Myth-busting that they do. The irony is that the Bill and Melinda Gates Letter  is firmly founded on a Myth itself!

The website for the Annual Letter
The website of the Annual Letter

The base of their argument lies on the myth that the singular goal is a world free from financial poverty. But there’s more funny stuff here. Let me just take this opening piece from the website

“By almost any measure, the world is better than it has ever been. People are living longer, healthier lives. Many nations that were aid recipients are now self-sufficient. You might think that such striking progress would be widely celebrated, but in fact, Melinda and I are struck by how many people think the world is getting worse. The belief that the world can’t solve extreme poverty and disease isn’t just mistaken. It is harmful. That’s why in this year’s letter we take apart some of the myths that slow down the work. The next time you hear these myths, we hope you will do the same.”
– Bill Gates

I am sorry Mr. Gates, I don’t work at the Pentagon, so I cannot take it to be sacrosanct. Let me tell you why I don’t agree

  1. The world is better than it has ever been. True if you define the world as all humans living in the United States of America. But if you don’t, then it isn’t.Among humans, ask the Somalians, or the Egyptians, or the inhabitants of Gaza strip would they agree? Would a quarter billion Indians agree? Unlikely. They don’t get unlimited electricity, day long water, ready to eat food, space travel. They barely make it with scraps of food and space on the roads to spend the night.  Not exactly an American dream.Or ask the other inhabitants of the planet. Its not our planet alone remember Mr. Gates? A million other species have an equal right to this planet. Sad that they don’t have a constitution which they can throw on our face. But if they had, I’m not sure everyone would agree with the Letter.
  2. People live longer and healthier lives. Mr. Gates is right.  But are they healthier? In India, healthcare is a booming industry. And this industry feels that a longer a human lives here, more opportunity to sell him healthcare! Return on customer is better!  In the last decade, large hospital chains like Apollo, Fortis, Wockhardt  and others are conspicuous in their advertising spend. The Healthcare industry is prime business for advertising agencies and media. Why? Because healthcare industry is very profitable indeed. I don’t need statistics to prove this.Read here what Economic Times said on 2-Dec 2013The healthcare sector in India will grow to $158.2 billion in 2017 from $78.6 billion in 2012, a report has said. “The healthcare sector is growing at a 15% CAGR and jumped from $45 billion in 2008 to $78.6 billion in 2012 and expected to touch $158.2 billion by 2017,” Equentis Capital said in its report.”The Indian medical tourism market is valued at USD 310 million and was expected to generate USD 2.4 billion by 2013. India’s per capita healthcare spending has increased by 10% compounded annually. What makes you say that we live ‘healthier lives’ Mr. Gates? Healthcare spending increases the GDP, so when there’s an epidemic, its good for the country, and industry is happy.On this very website, you say…of U.S. budget ….. Of that, roughly $11 billion is spent on health: vaccines, bed nets, family planning, drugs to keep people with HIV alive, and so on.

    Pardon my low IQ, but is this proof  that Americans are healthier?

  3. Aids recipients are now self-sufficient. Which nation is really ‘self-sufficient’? India needs to buy fuel from Gulf. Gulf countries need to buy food from others, US buys stuff from China……every country must depend on some other.
    Is this self-sufficiency? Without cheap Indian IT, life in the US would be much more expensive. Without importing drinking water from Malaysia, Singapore citizens will not survive. Without buying arms and ammunition from the US, there’d be no war in many countries.The only ones really self-sufficient are those who don’t need a PC, nor electricity, live off local produce and do not contribute to the GDP. Ironic isn’t it?
  4. Striking progress. There is indeed striking progress. Unfortunately, this striking progress also starkly reveals the striking inequitable distribution of resources. Striking progress in space travel means that we burn millions of kilo calories of fossil fuel for no reason at all. We generate more carbon in a minute that is generated by a village in a year. Striking progress in healthcare reveals the need to invest in new health problems, not seen few years back. Striking progress in IT means more radio waves in the space we live in. Striking progress in automobile industry means more natural resources diverted to making cars, which only a few will afford.  The reader can imagine more striking progresses for him/herself.
  5. …world can’t solve extreme poverty and disease. In so structuring your argument, Mr. Gates, you suggest that extreme poverty can be cured by monetary means. Money is generated only by extraction and conversion of natural resources into industrial goods. So if we make enough money to eradicate poverty and feed the greedy, then we would have depleted our finite natural resources. Ask any economist, he’ll tell us that depleted natural resources spell inflation, which will again generate poverty!! So are we not running on a treadmill here?

Increasingly, people are accepting the view that consumption based growth is not sustainable. In the  last few years, more and more  scientists, environmentalists, social researchers, some governments and common citizen are agreeing to this. GDP cannot capture human development. Nor can eradication of poverty.

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