On the 1st of July a news surfaced that Prince Al-Walid bin Talal of Saudi Arabia has decided to donate $32 billion of his wealth for charitable causes. The prince, one of the richest man on the planet confessed that the inspiration for this measure came from Bill Gates. It should be noted that Bill Gates of Microsoft Inc. donated all his wealth to Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.
Prince Talal, the self-proclaimed Warren Buffet of Arabia has a diverse investment portfolio, with Citi group representing just one among several successful acquisitions.
In a statement on his website the prince clarified that his donation will help build bridges to foster cultural understanding, develop communities, empower women, enable youth, provide vital disaster relief and create a more tolerant and accepting world.
While the decision for his philanthropic venture is welcomed, it would be a hugely beneficial if that money was utilized sooner rather than later in pressing matters at hand that are nothing less than humanitarian crisis. The three noteworthy causes where this money can assist rightaway are addressing the plight of Syrian and Rohingya immigrants and the sorting out Greek debt problem.
Refugee migration has seen an upshot in recent years due to growing conflicts that spread across continents. Day after day, migrants are recovered from hazardous make-shift boats trying to ferry hoards of people across the Mediterranean sea. People are desperate to flee their own countries, which have either turned into warzones or are being ruled by warlords.
Syrian immigrants make up the biggest number, who are risking their lives in search of safe havens. Even pregnant women and those with babies are risking this trip across the Mediterranean sea. From the start of this year alone, 100’s have lost their lives. The situation is almost mirrored in the Andaman Sea, where Rohingya Mulsims are escaping persecution by the monks in Myanmar.
The money from prince Talal can go a long way in helping prospect migrants at refugee camps where conditions are deteriorating fast. Bordering countries that have allowed refugees are running short of resources and are in urgent need of supplies. In the migrant camps of Jordan for example, both the infra-structure and resources have been stretched to the limits. Money is urgently needed to provide relief to the displaced and to help them resettle.
Similarly, by collaborating with Myanmar government, settlement plans can be chalked out for Rohingya Muslims. Myanmar is economically weak and fiscal stimulus particularly in the industrial and energy sector would set the country on the path to prosperity. With improving financial stability, the tension in the region to an extent will subside. Prince Al Waleed, a shrewd businessman can look into pouring much needed investment in Myanmar’s economy on terms that secure long term peace in the region.
Another port of call is Greece. Greek people have suffered heavily in the last five years, since the start of austerity measures. Greece recently became the first developed country that failed to make a loan repayment to IMF of 1.6 billion Euros (on June 30, 2015). The total debt on Greece stands 323 Billion euros while the country requires 50 billion euros to stay afloat till 2018.
The money by prince Talal will not be able to wipeout Greece’s debt but it can provide them temporary relief. This time period can be used by Alexis Tsipras’s government to regroup and engineer a long term solution. If Greece does come out of EU, the donation money money can help shore up their Forex reserves of the new currency.
To solve any problem, sometimes it takes a talisman to lead from the front and the rest follow. A case in point is Thom Feeney, a 29 year old London shoe store worker. He worked out that if every person in the UK was to pay a mere £3 than Greece’s June installment can be paid. He turned to crowd funding and in just two days was able to garner £177,841. Although Feeney’s initiative still has a long way to go but the influx of donations is showing no signs of stopping and in fact have gained momentum after worldwide publicity.
Even if the prince provides seed money for these causes, than he is bound to see people rallying behind him. His fiscal muscle can propel the identified issues out of an impasse. He can inspire million others to get behind his cause and starting today, he can play a major role in patching the crevasses in a world that is slowly tearing apart.
The question is, will he?
Also worth reading: The Crisis of Muslim Leadership