Leaving money to children vs. donating it to charity

The single largest concern and obsession of many rich is how to leave money to their children. How much is too much? How can they be prepared? What is the ideal age to receive a trust fund?

Yu Pengnian, a Chinese real-estate tycoon who has committed over $1 Billion to his charitable foundation, has some wise words for Americans pondering their children’s windfall.

“If my children are competent, they don’t need my money. If they’re not, leaving them a lot of money is only doing them harm.”

That is to say, too many wealthy parents focus on preventing their children from failing. But in doing so, they also deprive their children of the joys of self-made success.

The idea is all the more remarkable coming from a Chinese tycoon. In Asia, wealth is dynastic by nature. Businesses are created to be passed down through the generations. Wealth and privilege, in Confucian fashion, are truly all in the family.

“Everybody has a different view of money,” he told the Globe & Mail. “Some do good things with it, some rich people do nothing with it.…My goal is to be a leader, a pioneer who encourages rich people, inside and outside of China, to do something charitable.”


Another digital leap forward in India

India has unveiled a $35 computer prototype as part of its program to provide connectivity to its students and teachers at affordable prices. The human resources development ministry said the price would gradually fall to $10 a piece. The Linux-based computer is equipped with an Internet browser, a PDF reader and several other facilities.

India said connectivity to all its colleges and universities is key to achieving its education goals. Home to a billion-plus population, the country's literacy rate stands at 65 percent, according to the 2001 census figures.

Recently, it auctioned off its airwaves for third-generation services to enable super-fast multimedia streaming of wireless.The move is aimed at bringing India's online market on a par with its booming cell-phone business through Internet penetration with technology allowing quick access, data transfer and entertainment on mobile handsets.

The country has announced plans to link up all its 250,000 village councils by 2012 in a bid to plug massive broadband divides between rural and urban communities as it emerges as one of the world's few growth markets.


Billions pledged to rebuild Haiti but little paid out

Three months after donors at a U.S.-sponsored conference pledged more than $5.3 billion to rebuild Haiti, only a fraction of the money has been disbursed, and a special reconstruction commission has barely started to function, according to U.N. and aid officials.

U.S. lawmakers and international aid officials have expressed mounting concern about the slow recovery of the hemisphere's poorest country, where about 230,000 people died and about 2 million were displaced in January's earthquake.

There have been some successes: the provision of thousands of tents, as well as clean water, food and medical care for more than 1 million people. There have been no widespread outbreaks of disease.

About 180 million square feet of rubble is still piled where it sat after the Jan. 12 quake, according to U.N. estimates; only 5,000 of the 125,000 temporary shelters promised by the international community have been built. The Haitian government lost 30 percent of its public employees in the disaster, as well as many of its buildings and sources of tax revenue, officials say.

The United States has not disbursed the roughly $900 million it pledged for reconstruction this year, according to the U.N. Web site http://haitispecialenvoy.org.

[Washington Post]


New U.S. aid package for Pakistan

The US government has announced a major new aid package for Pakistan, with hundreds of millions of dollars to be spent on projects in Pakistan's energy and water sectors.

"We know that there is a perception held by too many Pakistanis that America's commitment to them begins and ends with security," Clinton said. "But security is just one piece of this vital partnership."

A large chunk of the new US aid will be spent on new power supplies, including the Gomal Zam dam in Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, and several hydroelectric projects in Balochistan province. Clinton said the US would also fund several solar and wind energy projects.

Electricity is one of Pakistan's top priorities. Pakistan's electric grid is chronically overtaxed, with hours-long blackouts common across the country.

US aid will also be used to renovate three hospitals, in Karachi, Lahore and Jacobabad, to launch several agricultural programs, and to expand access to clean water in Pakistan.


The billionaire challenge

Philanthropists frequently aspire to be innovators and catalysts. Well, now they have a chance to step up to the challenge—by directing money toward programs that work and away from those that don’t and by being disciplined enough to hold themselves accountable for real results.

Warren Buffett, teaming with Bill and Melinda Gates, has challenged the nation’s billionaires to give away at least half of their net worth to charity—potentially totaling $600-billion.

Billionaires including Eli and Edythe Broad, John and Ann Doerr, Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest, and John and Tashia Morgridge have taken the pledge, ushering in a game-changing moment for philanthropy.

Donating lots of money is a necessary first step, but it is only the first step. The real issue is having clarity on what success looks like and how money can help create change, before springing into check-writing mode. If philanthropists aren’t willing to admit and explore their own failures, it’s impossible to learn and improve.

The good news is that a growing number of philanthropists are indeed taking these questions seriously. And these same lessons apply to any grant maker who aspires to maximize his or her impact.