Bill Gates is the greatest living philanthropist

Bolivia doesn't want chickens from Rüpel Gates

Bill Gates distributes 100,000 chickens to families in developing countries to fight poverty. In Bolivia, the Morales government refuses the gift and feels offended. Right?

Vienna. An ingenious operating system made Bill Gates the richest person in the world. Now the philanthropist has discovered a new passion: “I love chickens”, he admits in his blog - even if he has to admit that this “sounds strange”. The founder of the Gates Foundation wants to distribute 100,000 live chickens. They are supposed to secure an economic basis for families in need and free them from extreme poverty. The poultry should go to 20 countries, mainly to sub-Saharan Africa, but also to Bolivia.

But the left-wing government of the South American state rejects the gift indignantly: Bolivia is not a “poor third world country”, says Agriculture Minister César Cocarico indignantly. The American magnate probably thinks “that we are living in the middle of the jungle like 500 years ago”. The point of view of Gates is "rowdy" and "insulting", he should apologize kindly: "We have our dignity." The chicken farmer association contributes data: production volume, per capita consumption, export capacity. The bottom line: Bolivia has a flourishing poultry industry and can provide for itself very well. The polemic works: Instead of collecting sympathy points, the Microsoft founder has to give up his image. But is the biggest private donor being straightened out?

First of all: Behind the “chicken coop dreams” there is not the eccentric idea of ​​an unworldly billionaire, but a tried and tested concept. His foundation works with Heifer International, an organization that has been distributing live cattle and training cattle breeding since 1944. The recipients must undertake to donate part of the brood to another poor family. The village community sets goals for itself and decides what kind of support it wants. Chickens are particularly suitable: they are easy to breed, reproduce quickly, can be sold at a profit and their eggs ensure better nutrition for the children. Unlike goats and cows, raising them is not a male domain. This strengthens the position of women - those family members who experience has shown to handle money best.

Put off investors

Of course, Evo Morales' government is not interested in criticizing any form of development aid. The president, who has been in office since 2005, sees his movement towards socialism as a bulwark against the “imperialist” Yankees. An ineptly presented initiative by a patronizing US billionaire is of course grist to the ideological mill. But the sober facts sound different from the rhetoric of pride, dignity and anti-capitalism. Bolivia's economy has grown strongly in percentage terms over the past ten years, but from a very low base: with a per capita income of $ 2900, it is still by far the poorest country in South America. In absolute numbers, the neighbors Peru and Chile have galloped away. The mountainous landlocked country is rich in natural resources: natural gas, oil, zinc, silver and gold.

The surpluses from the period of high raw material prices flowed into social programs that fight poverty quickly, but often not sustainably. The good years were not used to put the economy on a broader basis. This required capital from the West. But the Morales government has successfully deterred potential investors. The credit protection insurer Coface classifies the country as “high risk” and paints a gloomy picture of the business climate: uncertain legal situation, constant threat of expropriations and nationalizations, corruption, poor infrastructure and the danger of social unrest.

After all: Morales has avoided a strict isolation course like in Venezuela. In comparison to the brothers in the revolutionary spirit, Bolivia is still in a good position - and can entertain the world public with small skirmishes for chickens and unsuspecting super-rich.

("Die Presse", print edition, June 17, 2016)