Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Yes, There Are Private Donors—and Not Just Bill Gates—Helping Fund the Coronavirus Response

By Scott Shackford - March 10, 2020 at 03:40PM

Nearly $1 out of every $10 being spent to fund the global response to the new coronavirus outbreak is coming from private donors, according to a new tracking system put together by the Kaiser Family Foundation. That adds up to more than $725 million coming from non-profits, businesses, and foundations.

The Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit global health policy think tank and information center, put together this database and released it today to serve as a resource to show where money is coming from and going to in the global effort to fight the spread of the new coronavirus, called COVID-19.

The total that has been spent so far is $8.3 billion, which means the vast majority of spending has come from government sources. The top spender is the World Bank, which has outspent everybody else to the tune of $6 billion and has prioritized that spending in the poorest countries with the highest risk.

The U.S. government has given $1.285 billion to other countries. An important caveat: This database does not show a government's domestic spending to contain and fight COVID-19 within its own borders. This is all about the international effort.

Unsurprisingly, the largest private donor is Tencent, the massive Chinese tech company that pretty much operates the country's entire internet social structure and is worth more than $500 billion (in U.S. dollars). Tencent has donated $214 million towards containment efforts in China. Alibaba, the massive Chinese e-commerce company, has donated $144 million.

Here in the United States, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is getting attention for its $100 million in total donations and its direct efforts to facilitate faster coronavirus testing and the development of potential treatments. It's the largest U.S. private donor currently, but it's not the only one. Google, Caterpillar, Mastercard, General Motors, and several corporations that run resorts and hotels (like MGM Resorts International) are contributing anywhere from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars.

Most of the money right now is focused on assisting China, but it seems likely that as the coronavirus spreads we'll see donations spread to other countries. The Kaiser Family Foundation also acknowledges that its figures are based on public reports of private donations. There may be other private donors that Kaiser has missed. The chart lists all of its sources.

Looking at the private donor list, it seems obvious why they're donating to China. All of them have huge customer bases there, particularly the Las Vegas resort chains. They have a huge stake in making sure consumers of their goods and products don't die off. That's a great thing about capitalism—it creates incentives to assist in the fight against large scale crises.

Read the list here. It will be updated as the Kaiser Family Foundation hears of new donors, both government and private.


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