The Good Billionaire: Corporate Solutions Only

This is Section F of IWNSPTB XI: The Good Billionaire.


“The dilemma of the poor is not about resources. It is about power. If the poor have power, they will leverage the resources needed”

Mahomed and Mayo, 2013

Gates ensures private capital’s supremacy over public affairs.

Health

BMGF pushing dangerous products onto poor countries stunts improvements to public health systems and access to healthcare. Changes in social and economic conditions take a backseat to “more profitable, technology-centric solutions.” Global Justice Now says that BMGF’s heavy focus on developing new vaccines detracts from other, more vital health priorities such as building resilient health systems. Legge explains that Gates has a mechanistic view of global health, simply looking for “silver bullets” and supporting efforts framed as such. In 2011, Gates spoke at WHO, saying that all 193 member states must make vaccines a central focus of their health systems. Thus major social issues identified by the World Health Assembly do not get addressed.

A GAVI senior representative is on record as saying that Gates is “vehemently against health systems because it is a complete waste of money.” Social and Behavioural Health Sciences professor Anne Emanuelle Birn says that BMGF has a “narrowly conceived understanding of health as the product of technical interventions divorced from economic, social, and political contexts.” Birn says that the foundation has long championed private sector involvement and profit-making from global health. An author in Global Public Health, Katerini Storeng, points to GAVI as an example of how “global health initiatives have come to capture the global health debate about health systems strengthening in favour of their disease-specific approach and ethos.” Former GAVI CEO Julian Lob-Levitt was said to be aware of the “absurdity of vaccine campaigns that consume four weeks to plan, implement and clean up and that, when repeated eight times a year, totally paralyze the health system.” Commissions to strengthen identified weaknesses in health systems was “strongly resisted by powerful actors.” BMGF is said to be a very loud, vocal voice saying that they do not believe in the strengthening of health systems. GAVI employees speak of how they roll down Health Systems Strengthening (HSS) posters when Gates visits because he is known to hate that part of GAVI’s work.

The Huffington Post found that BMGF’s “outsize funding of global health initiatives has steered the world’s aid agenda toward the foundation’s own goals (like polio eradication) and away from issues such as emergency preparedness to respond to disease outbreaks, like the Ebola crisis.” Experts say that Gates may actually be introducing harm, or distracting us from more important, lifesaving public health projects. Overall BMGF demonstrates a preference for weak public health systems and techno-centric solutions in partnership with the drug industry.

BMGF is said to exercise power through an elaborate network of partner organizations including nonprofits, government agencies, and private corporations. And “the chief beneficiary of BMGF’s activities is not the people of the Global South but the Western pharmaceutical industry.” BMGF’s ties with the pharmaceutical industry are intimate, complex, and long-standing. Soon after its founding, BMGF invested 205 million dollars to purchase stakes in major pharmaceutical companies, including Merck & Co., Pfizer Inc., Johnson & Johnson, and GlaxoSmithKline. BMGF’s interventions are designed to create lucrative markets for surplus pharmaceutical products, especially vaccines.

Dr Romeo F. Quijano writes, “Bill Gates was able to initiate an elaborate neoliberal financing scheme for vaccines that inevitably transfers public funds to private coffers. Ostensibly, the scheme is designed to help developing countries to fund their vaccination programs but in reality, these countries are caught in a debt-trap. GAVI floats bonds which are secured by the promise of government donors to buy millions of doses of vaccines at a set price over periods as long as 20 years. Capitalists take a cut at every stage of the value chain while poor countries are supposed to benefit from access to vaccines that might not otherwise be affordable. Bondholders receive a tax-free guaranteed return on investment, suited to an era of ultra-low interest rates. Pharmaceutical firms, meanwhile, are able to peddle expensive vaccines at subsidized prices in a cash-poor but vast and risk-free market.” What BMGF is said to have achieved is a “functional monopoly in the field of public health.”

Quijano goes on to report BMGF/GAVI activities in Sri Lanka highlighting a phenomenon called “pharmaceutical colonialism.” GAVI is said to have targeted the country in 2002, offering to subsidize a high priced, patented pentavalent DtwP-hepB-Hib vaccine. In exchange for GAVI’s support, the country agreed to add the vaccine to its national immunization schedule. The story goes: “Within three months of the vaccine’s introduction, 24 adverse reactions including 4 deaths were reported, leading Sri Lanka to suspend use of the vaccine. Subsequently, 21 infants died from adverse reactions in India.” While Quijano writes, “The real underlying cause of deaths in epidemics is the dysfunctional health care system brought about by chronic socio-economic underdevelopment characteristic of a semi-feudal and semi-colonial society victimized by imperialism. Corporate hijacking of the health care system with the complicity of government, international institutions, mainstream medicine and various cohorts deprived the people of their right to health. Profit has become the primary driving factor in addressing a public health problem, not public welfare. Deregulation, privatization and liberalization, the hallmarks of corporate globalization, the new face of imperialism, have practically wiped-out whatever remaining affordable basic needs and social services, especially health services, are available to the majority of the population. Under these circumstances, infectious disease epidemics and other serious health problems are bound to arise and worsen. The root cause of epidemics in this country is imperialism. Liberation is the answer, not vaccination.”

Agriculture

BMGF has worked to ensure that the Global South is dependent on Western industry, whether for drugs or high-tech seeds and agrochemicals. BMGF, in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation, created the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). The misplaced philosophy of AGRA is that world hunger is due to a lack of Western technology, instead of the result of inequality and exploitation. The African Center for Biosafety comments that it is striking that no African is at the forefront of this revolution: “No different from the colonial project in Africa, this new revolution is created and most ardently advocated by white men claiming to fight for the emancipation of Africans from the clutches of hunger and poverty.” BMGF helped highly controversial pharmaceutical and chemical giant Monsanto Corporation gain a strong foothold in Africa. BMGF pushes for patented, genetically modified (GM) seeds and fertilizers, which help corporations like Monsanto but often undermines food security. The Ecologist asserts that Gates and Monsanto partner in the “inappropriate and fraudulent GMO project which promotes a technical quick fix ahead of tackling the structural issues that create hunger, poverty and food insecurity.”

Many social movements, experts, and NGOs agree that international agribusiness – boosting agricultural productivity through the use of pesticides, hybrid seeds, and other external inputs – is not the key to ending global hunger. BMGF’s “Green Revolution” has failed, but it has upped corporate agriculture’s profits. The myth that the answers come from the Global North, that hunger is a problem of production, and not an unequal distribution of power, resources and control, has left farmers empty-handed while hunger increases. Governments in the Global South – especially Africa – are pressured to modify their agricultural sectors to favor Western agribusiness. It said that the “particularly prominent initiative driving corporate agriculture’s agenda” is AGRA. In AGRA focus countries, hunger has actually increased by 30 percent – that’s 30 million more people hungry. Statistics from these countries show that cereal production is down 21 percent. Likewise there has been a yield decline of 7 percent for root and tuber crops. AGRA created a framework to privatize plant resources (and thus generate profits). The effects of the framework restricts farmers’ right to store, exchange, and sell the seed they save from cultivating their own farms. The rules strengthen corporate seed while farmers’ own seeds are criminalized. And corporate power puts up enormous resistance against all alternatives to AGRA. Jan Urhahn writes, “All in all, AGRA reduces the diversity in farmers’ fields and thus also the variety of seeds being used. This development in turn makes agriculture even more vulnerable to the consequences of the climate crisis.”

BMGF is known to influence African governments to change laws to accommodate the agricultural industry. In Ghana, Tanzania and Malawi, AGRA enabled more private sector involvement, more pro-business seed laws, the privatization of seed production and new pricing and trade policies. Like its efforts in public health, BMGF’s work in agriculture is fraught with conflicts of interest.

Education

In addition to health and agriculture, Gates also has an agenda in education. Associated Press says there is no bigger champion of Charter Schools than Bill Gates. Charter schools effectively privatize the public school system; it remains a bill for the public to pay yet they have no say in how it is run. A vast majority of unionized public school teachers oppose them. They have not been found to improve performance. Gates pours millions into the movement and even funded the pro-charter school documentary Waiting For Superman.

It is shown that, for twenty years, Gates has been trying to dismantle the public education system. Indicators Gates promotes are those that can be easily quantified and mined. In reimagining education, children will be monitored through surveillance systems to check if they are attentive while they are forced to take classes remotely, alone at home. As Shiva says, “The dystopia is one where children never return to schools, do not have a chance to play, do not have friends. It is a world without society, without relationships, without love and friendship. As I look to the future in a world of Gates and Tech Barons, I see a humanity that is further polarized into large numbers of ‘throw away’ people who have no place in the new Empire. Those who are included in the new Empire will be little more than digital slaves.”

Gates is also preoccupied with controlling population growth and, as Alan Macleod writes, “he appears almost more interested in eliminating the people who are suffering than the source of the suffering itself.” The Grayzone report says, “22,000 children die each day due to poverty. Yet socio-economic causes of health problems can be neglected when industry aligned interests call the shots. Such is the case with the Gates Foundation’s primacy in the global health arena.”

Gates isn’t interested in solving the underlying problems: food and water insecurity; income inequality; militarism. All his solutions are technology-focused and suit his pocket, solutions that he is invested in. His foundations facilitate private corporations dictating public policy for the benefit of their investors’ bottom line.

Dr Vandana Shiva’s writes that Gates is spearheading a “war against life.”

Shiva reveals that, in March 2020, at a peak of the coronavirus pandemic and in the midst of the lockdown, Microsoft was granted a patent by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Patent WO 060606 declares that “Human Body Activity associated with a task provided to a user may be used in a mining process of a cryptocurrency system…” Shiva points out that the “body activity” that Microsoft wants to mine includes radiation emitted from the human body, anything that can be sensed and represented by data. The patent is an intellectual property claim over our bodies and minds. Shiva reminds us: “In colonialism, colonisers assign themselves the right to take the land and resources of indigenous people, extinguish their cultures and sovereignty, and in extreme cases exterminate them. Patent WO 060606 is a declaration by Microsoft that our bodies and minds are its new colonies.”

“The mechanical mind connected to the money machine of extraction has created the illusion of humans as separate from nature, and nature as dead, inert raw material to be exploited. Health is about life and living systems. There is no ‘life’ in the paradigm of health that Bill Gates and his ilk are promoting and imposing on the entire world. Gates has created global alliances to impose top-down analysis and prescriptions for health problems. He gives money to define the problems, and then he uses his influence and money to impose the solutions. And in the process, he gets richer. His ‘funding’ results in an erasure of democracy and biodiversity, of nature and culture. His ‘philanthropy’ is not just philanthrocapitalism. It is philanthroimperialism. The coronavirus pandemic and lockdown have revealed even more clearly how we are being reduced to objects to be controlled, with our bodies and minds as the new colonies to be invaded. Empires create colonies, colonies enclose the commons of the indigenous living communities and turn them into sources of raw material to be extracted for profits. This linear, extractive logic is unable to see the intimate relations that sustain life in the natural world. It is blind to diversity, cycles of renewal, values of giving and sharing, and the power and potential of self-organising and mutuality. It is blind to the waste it creates and to the violence it unleashes. The extended coronavirus lockdown has been a lab experiment for a future without humanity.”

Dr Vandana Shiva

Shiva sums up the process: “You create a new field, you invest in it. You force governments to invest in it, you destroy the regulation. You destroy the alternatives, you attack the scientists. And you create a whole machinery for your monopoly.” It is said, “The foundation’s leadership in previous global health efforts displays an allegiance not to public health, but to the imperatives of Western capital. It prefers not to strengthen health systems, but to ensure nations remain dependent on Big Pharma and/or Big Agriculture for as long as possible.”

The Grayzone report asserts, “…strong evidence suggests that the Gates Foundation functions as a trojan horse for Western corporations, which of course have no goal greater than an increased bottom line.”

“Bill Gates is not just some rich guy who is unsure about paying more tax: he’s a menace to society.”

Alan Macleod

The next section is No Good Billionaires.

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