Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Un, Bill, What About Your Own?

Bill Gates says there'll be no poor countries by 2035.  Really, Bill?  What about the United States of America?  Then again, isn't this the same guy who claimed that 64K of RAM was all anyone would ever need?

What Gates overlooks is how tightly poverty is linked to the environment.  You simply cannot have a healthy economy without a healthy environment.  And much of the world, especially the most impoverished countries, are in areas that are already being whipsawed by climate change.  Just ask them.  They'll tell you.

Or, take a look at Nigeria.  That would be the Eko Atlantic city project near Lagos on the Atlantic.  It's an example of how, around the world, wealth is concentrating and the poor are being excluded from the equation, left to fend for themselves.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, meanwhile, has released a report into corruption leading to the top tier of the Chinese government.  ICIJ sleuths have turned up evidence of near relatives of the Top Brass making massive investments in the Cook Islands, the British Virgin Islands and other spots where the rich like to go to hide their riches.

Nearly 22,000 offshore clients with addresses in mainland China and Hong Kong appear in the files obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.  Among them are some of China’s most powerful men and women — including at least 15 of China’s richest, members of the National People’s Congress and executives from state-owned companies entangled in corruption scandals.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, UBS and other Western banks and accounting firms play a key role as middlemen in helping Chinese clients set up trusts and companies in the British Virgin Islands, Samoa and other offshore centers usually associated with hidden wealth, the records show. For instance, Swiss financial giant Credit Suisse helped Wen Jiabao’s son create his BVI company while his father was leading the country.

The data illustrates the outsized dependency of the world’s second largest economy on tiny islands thousands of miles away.  As the country has moved from an insular communist system to a socialist/capitalist hybrid, China has become a leading market for offshore havens that peddle secrecy, tax shelters and streamlined international deal making.

Every corner of China’s economy, from oil to green energy and from mining to arms trading, appears in the ICIJ data.

Perhaps not surprisingly, three of Steve Harper's favourite Chinese partners play prominently in the ICIJ expose.

The country’s three big state-owned oil companies –CNPC, Sinopec and CNOOC -- are linked to dozens of BVI companies that show up in the ICIJ files. 


Anonymous said...

Bill Gates is a trust fund kid. He started out with millions of dollars before he and Steve Ballmer began their business crime of the century.

Bill and Steve used to rummage through the dumpsters behind the computer lab at Harvard when they were 'writing' Microsoft Basic, cherry picking the code of others, which they then sold on as their own.

Bill and Steve have called free software, shareable by all, as 'cancerous' and 'communistic'. Bill is little more than a used code salesman, and should be afforded the commensurate credibility.

And Melinda was the project leader of 'Microsoft Bob'. In the end, Microsoft couldn't even give that disaster away for free.

Steve said...

The solution is de centralized living. This is as simple as off grid sufficiency linked heavily. People like Gates should be buying the world de centralized living.

Oh and an F35 killer appears.

The Mound of Sound said...

Given the measure of Gates' philanthropy, I find it hard to criticize him lightly but I think in this case he's off base.

Steve, I agree with the ide of decentralized living but I'm not convinced that it's the key to ending poverty. Poverty is not just an economic reality but a political function also.

Anonymous said...

Oh Mound, and I thought you were so rugged....

Purple library guy said...

One thing to keep in mind about Gates' philanthropy is that much of it is like US foreign aid -- tied to the use of things he has large investments in. So he does medical aid in ways that involve the purchase of medicines from pharmaceutical companies in which he's a major shareholder, or educational aid in ways which result in the purchases of Microsoft software. In some cases this involves blocking other approaches which might be better for the recipients of the aid.

He does some good, but once you add up the tax writeoffs and the stock price boosts, he often actually makes money from his philanthropy.

While Gates got a significant boost from his relatives, IMO it was not so much about money. The Microsoft story to me emphasizes the "soft" advantages of class; it so happened that Bill's mother did charities alongside bigwigs from IBM and persuaded them to give her son's company a try. Now, that said, Bill Gates took amazingly full advantage of that initial start; if he hadn't been a highly impressive predator Microsoft would never have grown into the massive monopolist it became.

The Mound of Sound said...

MS-DOS, as I understand it, was a rebranding of an operating system Gates picked up cheap before meeting the IBM types. It was originally called CDOS which stood for "cheap and dirty operating system." The rest, as they say, is history.

kootcoot said...

Bill "bought" lock stock and barrel what became the first IBM distributed DOS from a local Seattle programmer, cheap something like $50,000 when he KNEW he had a good chance of selling licensing to IBM. Eventually that programmer sued Gates and I think won a small settlement, but of course not an empire like Microsoft. It is reminiscent of white "blues collectors" ripping off songs from black blues artists for $50 for complete title to a tune or Alan Lomax horning in on writing credit with Leadbelly because he understood business and buying and selling shit!