WASHINGTON, March 26, 2015 – Microsoft founder Bill Gates encouraged members of a Senate Appropriations subcommittee today to vote in favor of “modest” federal investments in foreign aid initiatives, including agriculture.

“There is a lot of learning that is going in on in areas like agriculture and livestock… We’re figuring out how to get new seeds out, how to raise the productivity and how to create self-sufficiency (in economically-depressed countries),” Gates said.

“If people knew how small (the budget for these international aid programs) was, and how careful we are to make sure that there’s impact, I think that we would get strong support for the modest level that we’re hoping to maintain.”

Gates said that even small federal investments slated for foreign aid enable tremendous improvements in pubic health, civil stability and economic growth in developing countries, particularly when coupled with private sector investment from his organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and others like it.

“Most people grossly overestimate the portion of the budget that goes toward (international programs),” Gates testified. “If you ask them which portion should go (to these programs) they say 2 or 3 percent,” he continued, but the actual level is much lower – less than 1 percent in fact, according to the U.S. Department of State.

According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey, the average American thought 26 percent of the federal budget went to help other countries. Only 5 percent of the 1,500 plus people surveyed knew the actual level of spending. In 2014, $23.4 billion went toward poverty-focused foreign assistance, according to Oxfam America.

Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., agreed with Gates’ appraisal. “You’ve made a compelling case that we are inside the 10 yard line on a lot of (international health and foreign security) problems,” he said. But in the end, Graham predicted deep cuts in international aid programs.


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