China's wealthy and their outlook on philanthropy

Chinese businessmen, initially excited to meet two American billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, worried if they would be forced to pledge their fortunes over dinner with them.

Once the Chinese media caught wind, accusations of miserly conduct began flying as well as breathless speculations about who exactly had been invited and who had declined. The result has been much soul-searching among the wealthy in China about how best to help society and what responsibilities come with new-found wealth.

As in America's era of robber barons, new titans of industry are emerging every year in China. But in the United States, the industrial age also ushered in a generation of philanthropists - names such as Carnegie and Rockefeller that still resound today - and it is unclear whether the same is happening, or will happen, in China.

China now has one of the world's largest collection of billionaires, second this year only to the United States, according to Forbes. While the Chinese government has been eager to compete with the United States and the rest of the world in other fields, philanthropy is one sector in which it remains hesitant. China's leaders have not fully embraced the idea of handing over to individuals or groups the power to help the nation's people - a role traditionally reserved for the Communist Party.

"One thing holding back philanthropy may be the reluctance among the rich. But the other is the worry of the government," said Li Huafang, a researcher for the Shanghai Institute of Finance and Law. "They don't want other entities competing with them for the people's hearts.”

Chen Guangbiao, a multimillionaire who has been one of China's most outspoken philanthropists, believes Chinese can become world-class philanthropists, given the benefit of time.

"In the U.S. you had more than a hundred years to develop this idea," he said. "In China, people haven't even come into wealth until these past 20 years. Our speed has been very fast, and, who knows, in the next 10 years, we have the potential to become the best givers in the world."

[Washington Post]


Europeans Push Global Tax to Fund Poverty-Reduction

A group of 60 nations will meet next week at the United Nations to push for a tax on foreign currency transactions as a way to generate revenue to meet global poverty-reduction goals, including “climate change” mitigation. Spearheaded by European Union countries, the so-called “innovative financing” proposal envisages a tax of 0.005 percent (five cents per $1,000), which experts estimate could produce more than $30 billion a year worldwide for priority causes.

World leaders are scheduled to hold a Sept. 21-23 summit at U.N. headquarters to review progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight specific targets to cut poverty and disease by 2015, in line with a pledge taken by U.N. member states in 2000.

The Leading Group on Innovative Financing for Development, comprising 60 countries – the United States is not a member – as well as 15 international institutions and several dozen non-governmental organizations (NGOs), sees the event as a crucial opportunity to promote the tax proposal, and it will meet on the summit sidelines next Tuesday.

Development NGOs have been promoting the idea of a Tobin tax – or as some have dubbed it, a “Robin Hood tax” – for years, with anti-globalization groups, aid agencies, religious organizations and environmental advocacy groups in Europe in particular throwing their weight behind it. Banking and business sectors have generally been opposed.



Disaster Capitalists dismantle Haitian refugee shelters

Eight months after the earthquake, many of the 1.7 million Haitians living under tattered tarps in squalid squatter camps around Port-au-Prince are being forced to abandon the tent cities they've set up on privately owned land.

Meanwhile, businesses—eager to slurp up the spoils of disaster—are swooping in to score major paydays by moving the refugees to new camps, some set to operate as industrial work zones.

International Action Ties, a grassroots community development agency working in Haiti, says authorities are regularly flushing out the camps. The International Organization for Migration, which heads up the international aid response to the quake, has been unable to prevent expulsions and has been relegated to playing mediator between landowners and camp occupants.

A recent IAT report provides a vivid blow-by-blow of expulsions by Haitian police in the communes of Delmas and Cité Soleil: bulldozers demolishing flimsy shelters, policemen swinging batons and shooting their guns in the air, and several cases of sexual assault.

It's not even clear these landowners officially own the property that the displaced people are being expelled from. Murky titling laws have plagued Haiti since its early days, clouding landowners' claims with ambiguity and contributing to the country's current catastrophe.

In the absence of government leadership on this issue, businesses and NGOs are filling the gaps—and exploiting the situation. World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization, plan to build a new city of 300,000 displaced Haitians, complete with garment factories, homes, stores, and restaurants. This new business zone will be in Corail Cesselesse, about nine miles from Port-au-Prince.

[Mother Jones]


Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s planned charitable visit to China

Billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett invited a number of wealthy Chinese individuals to attend an event they plan to host in China, only to hear that most declined the invitation due to concerns they’d be asked to donate to charity.

Gates, 54, and Buffett, 80, who Forbes Magazine estimates are worth a combined $100 billion, recently pressed American billionaires to pledge at least half of their fortunes to charity.

Gates and Buffet are now planning to publicly explain the purpose of their planned visit to China. A letter may be released as early as this week detailing why they’ve invited Chinese billionaires to a private event during a visit to the Asian nation at the end of the month.

Zhang Jing, a press officer for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Beijing office, said, “Our biggest intention for this month’s China trip is to learn how to do philanthropy in China. We would like to learn how to propel the charity business in such a big developing nation.”

The Economic Observer reported that Buffett and Gates will also travel to Shanghai and the southern province of Guangdong. The two billionaires will visit companies in which Buffett holds a stake, the newspaper said, citing people it didn’t identify.