Questions are being raised about the sketchily secretive nature of the world’s largest private charity, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The questions are being raised by investigative journalist Tim Schwab, who this week published a new book, “The Bill Gates Problem,” that takes issue with the charity.
In the book, he specifically “argues that the charity doesn’t merit its high esteem” and that “the foundation is steered by the whims of its male founder, and though it operates at the scale of a nation state, it does so with limited transparency,” according to The Daily Beast.
“The foundation, as a rule, does not put itself or its leaders in a position where they might be pushed to explain contradictions in its work or forced to answer critical questions,” Schwab writes in the book.
He adds that none of the charity’s officials were willing to speak with him.
Speaking with The Daily Beast for an interview, he expounded further on the book by first explaining why he chose to write it.
“I looked across the media landscape of big missed topics by other journalists, and the Gates Foundation was just this kind of flashing siren. It has so much money, and it has so much influence on the world stage,” he said.
“Journalists write about it all the time, but it’s almost always in this kind of one-sided fashion, just describing what the Gates Foundation is doing, its big donations and ambitious goals. It’s not really understanding it as a structure of power that we should challenge or scrutinize,” he added.
He also scrutinized the phenomenon of all the charity’s officials and allies refusing to speak with him.
“Researchers talk about the ‘Bill Chill,’ which is this chilling effect wherein people are afraid to bite the hand that feeds them. And because Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation fund so many groups, many of the people and institutions that know the Gates Foundation best are afraid to speak out for fear of losing funding or some kind of professional consequences,” he said.
“I reached out to a lot of current and former employees. Probably the most common response I got from people was along the lines of ‘Sorry Tim, I signed an NDA,’ which was just astonishing to me. This is a humanitarian body that gets all kinds of tax benefits. Why would it have this culture of secrecy that some employees as they leave the foundation are required to sign NDAs?” he added.
It appears that even some media outlets are also beholden to the foundation:
The @Telegraph calls my book an “extraordinary and detailed work of investigative journalism” (thank you!)…but also “doomed to fail” (huh?).
— Tim Schwab (@TimothyWSchwab) November 16, 2023
Among Schwab’s many findings while conducting his research was that much of the foundation’s money is going to rich countries, not poor ones. Seems kind of odd.
“It turns out the Gates Foundation gives very little money to these poor nations, almost all of its funding—almost 90 percent of it—is actually going to wealthy nations. This is sort of a quintessentially colonial model, where it’s funding the rich to help the poor,” Schwab explained.
Asked by The Daily Beast to explain what he meant by “the rich,” he pointed to Western universities and think tanks.
“The Gates Foundation is funding universities, think tanks, NGOs, news, media, even governments. And most of that funding is going into wealthy nations, mostly to the United States, Switzerland and the United Kingdom,” he said.
“For example, I looked at the Gates Foundation’s work in India, where it has a sprawling group of public health initiatives in two of the poorest states. But much of the work it’s doing there is organized through a Canadian university and through an American aid group,” he added.
Wow, amazing—my book is finally out!!!
We are long overdue to have an open, honest debate about the Gates Foundation. Let’s show the world–and the marketplace–that there is a real appetite for critical reporting on the ‘good billionaires!’ https://t.co/zFuUXyVwER pic.twitter.com/YAxkXBCK9O
— Tim Schwab (@TimothyWSchwab) November 14, 2023
Despite these intense criticisms of the foundation, Schwab’s sources did have some positives to say.
“One of the questions I asked a lot of sources is what they thought the biggest accomplishments of the Gates Foundation are, and almost everyone just kind of gestured generally to the money they’re giving away, or how they’re making the world pay attention to poverty—that Bill Gates is putting his celebrity, his bully pulpit, behind these diseases,” he said.
And so, he continued, it’s not like the charity is evil or worthless.
“It’s not that the Gates Foundation has never done anything good or has never helped people. It’s not even that the Gates Foundation has never saved lives. It’s that the Gates Foundation is operating in a totally unaccountable, undemocratic, and non-transparent manner,” he explained.
Concluding the interview, Schwab said the biggest “trigger for accountability” are all the tax breaks the foundation receives.
“We give billions of dollars in tax breaks to Bill and Melinda French Gates because they donate money to their private foundation. At the same time, governments around the world are contributing billions of dollars to help support some of the Gates Foundation’s largest charitable projects,” he said.
“These massive public-private partnerships do things like distribute vaccines and medicines to poor people. So all of us taxpayers are really on the hook. Bill Gates, in a sense, is spending our money. And to me, that’s a real trigger for accountability. If he’s spending our money, we should have a say,” he added.