Gates, Buffett to approach India's billionaires

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett will next year approach a group of India's richest to enlist their support for and views on setting up fund-raising initiatives in India, the billionaire duo said this week, after organising a first-of-its-kind charity dinner for China's billionaires.

On Wednesday night, Mr. Gates and Mr. Buffett held a much-publicised dinner here with around 50 of China's richest business people. Mr. Gates and Mr. Buffett, the world's second and third richest people, launched their fund-raising effort in China following a similar campaign in the U.S., where they reportedly succeeded in getting around 40 billionaires to commit to donating half their wealth in a Giving Pledge. They said they were now considering organising a similar fund-raising event in India. “We may do an event in India”, Mr. Gates told reporters.

China, like India, has a fast-growing list of new billionaires, even as the country faces a growing divide between the rich and the poor, and between urban and rural areas. India seems like an easier fund-raising target for the duo, with a greater concentration of wealth among the country's richest.

According to Forbes magazine, the top 100 Indians are almost as wealthy as the top 400 richest Chinese. This week's dinner received considerable media attention in China in recent weeks, framed as the biggest effort yet to get China's famously secretive billionaires to open their wallets. Media reports said some of China's billionaires were even keeping away from the event, fearing they would be pressured to donate. But Mr. Gates and Mr. Buffett said they had found no reluctance from those who attended the event.

“We were very impressed,” Mr. Gates said, saying they had received “very generous gifts,” without specifying what they were. “The people we were with last night had ideas about things they wanted to do,” he added. “They saw the charitable sector at an early stage and were asking about what lessons there might be from the United States.”

New phenomenon

Many of China's wealthiest are generally more secretive than their Indian counterparts about their net worth, fearful of attracting attention from the government or tax authorities. “Rich lists” are few in China. Philanthropy from China's wealthiest is also a relatively new phenomenon, having been largely directed by the Communist government since the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949.

But the number of millionaires – as well as the income gap – has increased rapidly after economic reforms in 1978. “What you have is a first generation of fortune,” Mr. Buffett said.

Going by this week's dinner in China, India's richest can expect an exchange of ideas and views with the billionaire duo, but not specific requests for donations. “No one was asked in any way, indirectly or directly, to sign up to anything last night,” Mr. Buffett said. “Bill and I will not be calling anybody. What happens in China will depend on how the Chinese people feel about a project of this sort.” Among those reported to have attended the charity dinner in China were actor Jet Li, Niu Gensheng, founder of a dairy empire, and Pan Shiyi and Zhang Xin, a couple who head the SOHO China real estate business. The guest list was kept secret.

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2021 10:59:05 AM |

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