The list also said that China may now
have the most billionaires in the world. But over the past decade, the
distribution of wealth has grown increasingly uneven - incomes averaged
just US$3,600 last year.
Mr Gates and Mr Buffett commented on
how young fortunes in China were and how charitable habits were just being
formed, creating a window of opportunity to encourage good practices.
'In terms of the rich people here in
China, the thing that's unusual is that 30 years ago there really weren't
people of great wealth so what you have is first generation fortunes,' Mr
Gates said. 'It's natural that they are thinking through in this society
in general - 'What do you do in terms of giving it away, creating a
Mr Buffett said that patterns of giving
were much more solidified in places such as Europe where there is
considerable old wealth.
'We did not pressure anyone, obviously,
in China,' Mr Buffett said. 'We never had the intention to . . . It's just
not our style to do something of that sort.'
Mr Gates said that he and Mr Buffett
may hold a similar philanthropy event in India next year. He said that it
would also be aimed at generating discussion but gave no other details.
In the United States, Mr Gates and Mr
Buffett have helped persuade 40 super-wealthy American families to sign
what they call the 'giving pledge' to return most of their fortunes to
society, but Mr Gates said that type of drive might not be the right model
of giving for China.
The private dinner, in a mansion
modelled after the baroque 17th century Chateau de Maisons-Laffitte in
France, drew 50 business and philanthropy leaders for a 90-minute
discussion, said a news release issued on Wednesday. The list was not made
public to protect the privacy of the guests, Mr Gates said.
The state-run Global Times newspaper
said on Wednesday that Pan Shiyi and Zhang Xin, chairman and CEO of
property developer SOHO China, and Niu Gensheng, founder of Mengniu Dairy,
were among the invitees.
Some of China's super rich are
sceptical about Mr Gates and Mr Buffett's approach. China's wealthy don't
have to 'copy the US charity model', billionaire Guo Jinshu told Xinhua in
a story published on Wednesday.
'In China, an entrepreneur's top
responsibility is to keep his own business sound, to fulfil taxation
payments and create jobs. This is also out of a philanthropist heart.'
- 2010 October 1 AP
The art of giving
Chew Gek Kim of the Tan Chin Tuan Foundation says philanthropy is far more
effective when it's run - and assessed - like a business.
In Philanthropy, as in business, good
stewardship is essential. And this philosophy, alongside her grandfather's
simple wish 'to help his fellow man', shapes the legacy of giving that
Chew Gek Kim carries on as deputy chairman of the Tan Chin Tuan
BEING A GOOD STEWARD
'In both business and philanthropy, we are giving up a valuable
resource, putting it in the hands of another, in the hope of getting something better,' says Ms Chew
Back in the 1970s, its brief was 'to help the poor, the needy, the widowed, the
orphaned', Ms Chew says. That meant providing basic necessities - food, shelter and education - to the many in need. But in today's affluent
Singapore, the government can ensure basic needs are met for all, and many other charities have sprouted.
'In essence, we applied a system used in business to assess the allocation of
capital for profit, to the allocation of capital for social service,' says Ms Chew, who, as executive chairman of publicly listed Straits Trading
Company, oversees the group's resource, property and hospitality businesses.
That business savvy has influenced and disciplined the way the foundation gives
to a range of causes - from services for children, the elderly and the disabled, to education and health programmes. 'In both business and
philanthropy, we are giving up a valuable resource, putting it in the hands of another, in the hope of getting something better,' says Ms Chew,
a lawyer by training, who serves on several other boards.
She thinks imposing the rules of capitalism and efficiency on the foundation
and its beneficiaries gets charities to think through what they need funds for and make sure aims are attainable. 'It is trite but true - the path of
failure is often paved with good intentions,' she says.
With each non-profit articulating its outcomes, the foundation can also be more
objective in prioritising requests, and assessing whom to help. And for charities, too, accepting a higher degree of social accountability makes
future appeals for funding from others easier.
'The questions we ask of charities we donate money to should be no different
from the questions we ask companies we invest in,' Ms Chew says. 'Are you going to spend $90 on the needy and $10 on administration, or the other
way around? Will there be a multiplier effect? Will the $100 given to you go to help five people who will then go on to help another five? The
multiplier effect is crucial.'
For instance, instead of buying a table at a Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO)
charity dinner, the foundation - using the same sum of money - chose to ask students from the schools it gives scholarships to, to take elderly
people from the homes it supports to a concert by the SSO in Anglo Chinese School's hall. 'That created a platform for people to get together, get to
know each other. It generated a multiplier effect that was quite gratifying,' Ms Chew says.
But the highlights of philanthropy do not lie in the numbers - whether on
cheques or evaluation forms. Instead, they surface in Ms Chew's encounters with people and their stories.
'It makes philanthropy real,' she says, sharing memories of visiting old
folks' homes as a girl, to more recent ones of watching orphan children of refugees in Vietnam laugh at an amateurish skit and realising how
resilient children can be.
She shares also the story of a paraplegic whose husband left her, who had lost
both legs and a young son to illness, but today makes her own living while encouraging others as president of the Society for the Physically Disabled
in Perak. It is more than inspiring, Ms Chew says. 'It is humbling when I know I could be her. After all, who can choose when or where they are
born, and who their parents are?'
Philanthropic foundations are not yet as common among Singapore's rich as they are in
other developed economies like the US. And now that estate tax has been abolished and companies and individuals receive a double tax deduction on
donations, the financial imperative to set up one is less compelling.
But Ms. Chew sees strategic advantages in foundation-based giving. 'I have given money personally as an individual, and when I do so, I often find
myself more lax, giving because of sentiment and less inclined to do it in a systematic, structured manner,' she says. Professionalising the foundation can ensure continuity, and provides longer-term objectives to
take stock against.
She believes more foundations will emerge in Singapore with time, 'each developing and nurturing their own niche and contributing a great deal' as
they have in other countries. While growing philanthropy may be indicative of Singapore's progress, there are other questions that can be asked, Ms
'Have we as a people progressed intellectually? Have we created a people who can just earn more, or have we also created groups of thinkers, scientists,
philosophers who will contribute to the body of social thought? Have we progressed in our perspective of life? Have we progressed with the way we
deal with our neighbours - whether they are individuals or countries, whether they are of different creed and colour? Have we become more civic
A few years back, she read something that first struck her as morbid, but on
reflection as profound: 'To decide how to live, you must first learn how to die.'
She says: 'Life is finite. When we are clear about what we wish to have
achieved when our days are ended, we will know how to live. I wish to use my time, the resources that have been bestowed on me, in a way that will
make the world a slightly better place by the time I leave it.' - 2010 July
China's Richest Philanthropist Sets
Donation of US$470m to charity by China tycoon
'This will be my last donation... It
will all be for charity, no part of it will be inherited by
anyone,' Mr Yu tells a press conference in Shanghai
A Chinese tycoon is donating his fortune to charity in a
gesture that has cemented the real estate magnate and hotelier's position
as China's top philanthropist.
Yu Pengnian, 88, told a news conference
yesterday that he was donating US$470 million in cash and property assets
to the Yu Pengnian Foundation, bringing the total he had given to the Hong
Kong- registered charity to US$1.2 billion.
'This will be my last donation. I have
nothing more to give away,' he told reporters.
'It will all be for charity, no part of
it will be inherited by anyone, no part will be used to do business nor
for investments,' he said.
The donation ensured Mr Yu's position
as China's top philanthropist, said Rupert Hoogewerf, founder of the
Shanghai-based Hurun Report, which tracks China's wealthy.
Mr Yu has topped the Hurun Report's
Philanthropy List for five consecutive years.
His foundation, which supports health
and education charities and disaster relief, has funded over 150,000
cataract removal operations across China since it began in 2003.
'China's top wealth creators are now
making significant donations,' Mr Hoogewerf said.
'While there still remains public
scepticism of some of their motives behind many donations, it is now no
longer possible to ignore Chinese philanthropy, which has landed on the
world map,' he added.
Mr Yu said he hoped his move would
encourage other Chinese billionaires to do more - adding his fortune paled
in comparison to some other magnates in Hong Kong and on the Chinese
'My fortune is just a drop in the
bucket compared to them but I have a point of view that is very different
from others, I will not leave my fortune to my children,' he said.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates, the
world's richest full-time philanthropist, said last year he would launch a
campaign to encourage China's wealthiest to take up the practice. --
2010 April 23 AFP
S'pore philanthropists turn more
They use their professional
skills and even visit projects abroad for a first-hand look
A GROWING number of well-heeled
Singaporeans are now going beyond cheque- book philanthropy for a more
hands-on approach to the development work they are pouring money into. So
they apply well-honed business acumen to international development
projects, give of their professional expertise, or travel to less
developed countries in the region to witness first-hand the work they
Khoo Hock Tin, a local philanthropist
who has given to schools and universities here, says he 'was keen to be
part of the new wave of wealth and expertise going out from Singapore,
benefiting Asia's poorer regions'. After accompanying Lien Aid, the
international development arm of Lien Foundation, on a trip to Cambodia to
see for himself the work on the ground, Mr Khoo decided to direct his
passion for education towards another drive for clean water and sanitation
in schools in China. He has given $131,000 so far to help install hygiene
and sanitation facilities in two Sichuan schools there, and will give
$177,000 more to another three schools this year.
But, he says, 'funding overcomes only
one hurdle; in international development work, a focused approach with
clear goals is very important. We need to ensure that resources are not
spread too thin, so that the aid extended is effective and maximised.'
Wealthy and business-savvy
philanthropists are naturally more targeted with their giving, but more so
when it comes to work abroad. Jenny Santi, UBS head of philanthropy
services, Southeast Asia, whose unit advises wealth management clients on
how to give effectively, says: 'Many of the philanthropists we work with
realise that, as in business, money given to charity can be used both
wisely and unwisely.'
To ensure their large donations go
further, more are now travelling out into the region to give of their time
'When they see the projects for
themselves and meet the ultimate beneficiaries of their gifts, they also
get a sense of reward that they would not have otherwise gotten from a
written report alone,' Ms Santi says.
'Site visits also enable donors to
understand the circumstances and root causes of problems that make
philanthropy necessary in the first place,' she adds.
Local architect Tay Kheng Soon, who has
run his own practice Akitet Tenggara for over 30 years, would agree.
He now frequently travels to Thailand
with Lien Aid, a partnership which began with building an eco-community
centre in Lam Plai Mat. On these visits, he has come to know the children
from that community and now speaks with pride of the 10-year-olds - 'some
of the poorest children of Thailand but so incredible, so confident' - who
now run the centre's radio station and came up among the top in a recent
'The learning process is really a
privilege - that's my payoff. As a result, I'm not just an architect
anymore,' he says. It was voluntary work on projects like these that
helped him craft his 'rubanisation' strategy of developing areas which are
neither rural nor urban but combine traits of both in a sustainable way -
an approach now used by Indonesian and Sri Lankan authorities too.
With his technical expertise in
non-traditional architecture, Mr Tay persuaded the Thais to use locally
available materials of rammed earth and bamboo (initially disparaged as
cheap) to save costs and build the environmentally sustainable Lam Plai
Similarly, Philip Wang, a professional
engineer and a relative of Mr Khoo's who visited the Sichuan schools,
says: 'I'm quite keen to see how local architecture or building
engineering consultancies can use some of their skills to benefit
international development. It's not always that easy, because of the
There is the benefit of
philanthropists' own interests sustaining longer-term needs of a
development-type project too. 'We have found that by getting involved,
philanthropists are able to retain their interest in the real pleasure of
philanthropy,' says Ms Santi. 'When they do get involved and apply their
talents, they are able to inject the energy and sustained focus to
overcome the challenge of creating durable positive change.'
Peggy Goh, co-founder of listed
offshore services firm Ezra Holdings, says that motivated by 'God's higher
commission to bless others, especially those who are needy and less
fortunate' and her 'passion for Cambodia and her people', she sees the
tertiary education she helped build for the rural community in Takeo as a
Madam Goh, whose family is 16th on
Forbes Singapore's 40 Richest list, gave US$795,000 to the St Paul's
Institute, which officially opened last month. But finances aside, she was
heavily involved in the actual work of roping in Lien Aid to manage the
project and oversee construction together with the Catholic Church of
Cambodia, and then getting Ngee Ann Polytechnic to share its educational
know-how with the new institute.
Firmly convinced of the value of
development work and the impact it can have, Madam Goh says her experience
with overseas development in the area of education will now spur her
advocacy of other ways of doing philanthropy, like micro funding and
improving healthcare. -
2010 April 3 BUSINESS
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