Gates, Buffett Set to Meet With Indian Billionaires

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are scheduled to visit India this week and while there will talk with many of the country's billionaires about committing more money to charitable causes, Agence France-Presse reports.

Before joining Buffett, Bill and Melinda Gates will visit policy makers, nongovernmental partners, business and community leaders, and public health figures to discuss ways to build on public health advancements in the country. They will also travel to the state of Bihar to help launch an $80 million maternal and child health initiative supported by the Gates Foundation, the state government, and local and international NGOs.

To date, nearly sixty billionaires, most of them American, have commited at least half of their wealth to philanthropic causes through the Giving Pledge, a campaign launched last year by Buffett and the Gateses. But convincing the wealthiest people in India, where philanthropic traditions are not as well established as they are in the West, could be a challenge. According to a report from Bain & Company, India's wealthiest class contributes only 1.6 percent of their household income to charitable causes, compared to 1.9 among the middle class. Arpan Sheth, a Bain & Company consultant, said he believes philanthropic activity lags wealth accumulation because it is a relatively new phenomenon.

"We have a history of scarcity, and so it takes a while to build confidence that the future will be better on a sustainable basis and let go of newly earned wealth," Sheth told the AFP. "There is also a suspicion that charities are badly managed and so donors fear their contributions won't be put to good use or are at risk of being misappropriated."

Penny MacRae. "Gates, Buffett Bid to Open Rich Indians' Wallets." Agence France-Presse 03/20/2011.