In his latest attempt to undermine President Trump over his decision to cut funding to the WHO, Bill Gates has decided to dedicate the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation - the world's wealthiest charity - solely to battling the novel coronavirus. In an exclusive interview with the FT, Gates said the decision will cause the charity's other efforts to suffer.
Though it's never explicitly stated in the story, it's clear on whose shoulders the blame should fall, though we feel it's unnecessary to spell it out.
But before angry leftists start quote-tweeting the headline with some variation of "look what you've done, Mr. President!", we'd like to remind them that the Gates Foundation's reputation isn't nearly as polished as it might appear at first brush.
Even in the mainstream press and academia, many experts are skeptical about whether the foundation's efforts in the global health sphere are truly a net benefit. In many cases, the strategies embraced by the foundation have been widely criticized in academic journals, as Vox News explains.
"...[I]t's surprising to wade into academic journals and find that many political scientists and development scholars are actually quite skeptical about the Gates Foundation's outsize impact on global health. In numerous papers over the past decade, researchers have raised concerns about the foundation's lack of transparency, its veto power over other global health institutions, and its spending priorities. Some experts worry that the Gateses’ health philanthropy has become too big to scrutinize.
To be sure, plenty of experts think the Gates Foundation does important work in fighting neglected diseases and boosting vaccinate rates in children. The foundation has taken private funding for global health to an unprecedented level, giving away more than $30 billion with an emphasis on data-driven decision-making. Bill and Melinda have also been applauded for encouraging others in their position to do the same.
But precisely because the private organization is so large and influential, some researchers say, critical analysis is so much more important.
Sure, the foundation spends more on global health initiatives than most countries...
...but since it's a private organization, the Gates Foundation is only accountable to three people: Bill, Melinda, and Warren Buffett, the organization's three trustees.
Ironically, one locus of criticism for the foundation is the Lancet, the UK-based medical journal that has been launched into the spotlight thanks to its early and critical publications about the virus from scientists within China. The FT interviewed the Lancet's longtime editor this weekend for its "Lunch with the FT" segment, which explains the editor's history of unabashed progressivism in the world of health policy that has at times verged into the realm of the conspiratorial (prior to the coronavirus, the Lancet was widely known as the publication responsible for super-charging the anti-vaxxer movement).
As the Vox Explainer - which was published back in the summer of 2015 - notes, the world of public health policy has long been in need of reform.
To be sure, existing global health organizations are hardly perfect. The WHO, in particular, is broken and in need of reform. But without accountability and transparency, there will always be questions of whether private foundations like Gates, however well-intentioned they may be, are a superior alternative. "For all the flaws that exist within the WHO, there is still some measure of transparency that can exist," Youde said. "And that simply isn’t present for what Gates does."
And there it is.
Vox continues with a lengthy examination of the criticisms of the Gates Foundation's efforts. Readers can check that out - and, we'd urge, do more research of their own - to try and decide for themselves whether the WHO and the Gates Foundation hurt more than they help, or help more than they hurt.
But don't just assume that since it's "The Gates Foundation", it must be a force for good.