The coronavirus pandemic will cost the economies of the Middle East “literally trillions of dollars,” billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates told reporters on a conference call last week.
Gates was speaking ahead of the release of the 2020 Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Goalkeepers Report, which aims to quantify global progress against the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The report said that the coronavirus pandemic had caused catastrophic economic damage that had resulted in setbacks for global development, with the Middle East taking a big hit.
Gates explained that to calculate the cost of the coronavirus to the Middle East you would have to imagine, “would have happened if we have had had no COVID … We’re talking literally trillions of dollars over time.”
Coronavirus: A wide-ranging catastrophe
The Goalkeepers Report painted a poor picture for global development due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In the report’s introduction, Bill and Melinda Gates, the foundation’s co-chairs, note that unlike almost every year that the report had been conducted, on the vast majority of the UN’s SDGs “we’ve regressed.”
The “widest-ranging catastrophe” of the coronavirus, according to the report, has been its economic fallout. In line with Gates’ analysis, the IMF has predicted that the global economy will lose around $12 trillion or more, despite $18 trillion that has already been spent in stimulus by countries around the world.
In responding to the virus, the report called for a global response and a global framework to prevent those countries most at risk from being dealt a heavy, sustained blow and put in last place to an eventual solution, such as a vaccine, by the world’s richer countries.
“The danger now is that the countries already dealing with residual pandemics will be sent permanently to the back of the line for solutions to this one. This would be a heartbreaking injustice,” the report said.
G20 donation drives key, but vaccines expensive
The Microsoft founder, who is currently the second-richest man in the world, went on to explain the importance of donation drives to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
When asked about G20 initiatives directed by Saudi Arabia, the group’s 2020 president, Gates noted that he is “a huge believe in this generosity, obviously, as I am choosing [to give away] literally tens of billions of my own money.”
However, Gates warned that the billions of dollars raised through G20 initiatives and others may still not be enough to finance and roll out a vaccine on a global scale.
“We still don’t have enough [money] to buy the vaccine for all the developing countries, if you think you need two doses at $3 a dose, then you think for the poorest three billion in the world, that’s $18 billion for them alone, we don’t have that level of resource yet. I’m hopeful we will get to that level,” he explained.
Gate also reiterated his call for a global fight against the pandemic, saying the disease is “going to keep coming back” unless it is stopped “everywhere.”
However, the billionaire also voiced some optimism about the coronavirus vaccine. According to Gates, the science behind vaccine initiatives is sound and that the private sector is well equipped to develop the necessary drugs to beat the virus.
“The good news is that we have an extremely high chance of having a very effective vaccine that is partly due to the academic centers and the private companies who have come together behind this … and many of these companies are doing this on a nonprofit basis,” he said.
The Gates conspiracy
Widely debunked conspiracy theories have circled Gates since the onset of the coronavirus – one, for example, suggests that he would use the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to create a vaccine that contains a microchip capable of tracking the entire population.
Responding, again, to questions regarding these conspiracy theories, Gates said that, “People are reaching for overly simple explanations for why this pandemic happened … Frankly I’m surprised by these conspiracy theories, especially the ones about me.”
Despite Gates’ frequent denial of these accusations, the theories have continued to spread.
One poll conducted earlier this year found that in the US, 44 percent of Republicans agreed with the conspiracy theory, while 19 percent of Democrats also believed the theory.
Gates has previously described the theory as “stupid” and “bizarre.”