Bill Gates has been accused of naked hypocrisy after warning UK prime minister Theresa May not to cut its foreign aid budget.
Gates, the richest man in the world, wrote in the Guardian this week: “The big aid givers now are the US, Britain and Germany. If those three back off, a lot of the ambitious things going on with malaria, agriculture and reproductive health simply would not get done.”
His intervention is regarded as a carefully calculated move to put pressure on the UK government ahead of June’s general election.
Fearing accusations from the Left of being “nasty”, the Conservative Party, hopeful of regaining power, is still unwilling to say whether it will scrap a pledge introduced several years ago to give away 0.7 per cent of national income — currently more than £12billion ($15 billion) a year – to foreign nations.
This topic is likely to be one of the hot potatoes of the election campaign, with many politicians saying it is absurd for Britain to give away money while its own taxpayers put up with poor public services such as schooling and medical care. They point out that Britain’s expanding population means it is obliged to use every penny it has wisely.
Today, the Daily Mail said Gates, a man revered by the Left as a secular saint after pledging to give away much of his staggering £67 billion fortune, “made his billions while avoiding taxes”.
The paper goes on: “Never forget how he became the world’s richest man — thanks to a firm infamous for its tax-dodging. Microsoft — like other technology titans such as Apple, Facebook, Google and Uber — grew into a global giant while doing its utmost to avoid paying its fair share of tax. It used all the loopholes that could be found by the world’s best lawyers and accountants as it shifted profits around the planet. The firm was even used as a case study for a U.S. Senate inquiry into tax avoidance.”
Gates claims to pay personal taxes but Microsoft has apparently moved its money between the tax-efficient states of Bermuda, Ireland, Luxembourg, Puerto Rico and Singapore in order to dodge paying an estimated £3billion annually.
Americans and Britons will all surely see the stunning irony in Gates’s position. What does he have to say – or is he too scared to comment?