Carlos Slim, the Mexican tycoon and the world’s richest man, scoffed at Bill Gates and Warren Buffett for “playing Santa Claus” to cure poverty’s ills. But that’s where we are. Our guys—Bill Gates and Warren Buffett—are all about giving it away. Carlos Slim? Not a chance.
A few months earlier Carlos Slim, the richest man in the world, made an assertion. In an interview that was widely reported, he stated, “Our concept is more to accomplish and solve things, rather than giving; that is, not going around like Santa Claus…. Poverty isn’t solved with donations.” In a recent two-hour interview in his office, Mr. Slim promised that there would be no ceiling on his donations. “We want to get to the root of problems, no limits,” he said.
Because Mexico’s income distribution is severely skewed, Mr. Slim has come to personify the small elite who control vast sections of the economy. So he has been feeling the pressure to give much of his enormous fortune away. Some time ago, he pledged to increase the endowments of his companies’ foundations to $10 billion from $4 billion in the next four years. He promises to spend money on education and health.
Very few would argue with Mr. Slim’s assertion that poverty cannot be ended by donations. Slim wants to build huge hospitals in northern Mexico where the country-region can ship tens of thousands of Medicare patients for health care that can be delivered at much cheaper costs.
Slim was unimpressed at how Buffett and Gates vowed late last year to combine their entire fortunes into the world’s largest foundation to do good works.
“Our concept is more to accomplish and solve things, rather than giving,”Slim said. Unlike Bill Gate of Microsoft, considered the best-heeled man in the world, who donated a good part of his fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Slim considers it more important to establish opportunities that will accelerate the people’s ability to form new businesses. He repeats: “Poverty is not fought with donations” He elaborates: I think what Bill Gates is doing is well done, he is not just giving support, but dedicating himself full time to resolve the problems that generate poverty; which is good, because it involves more doing than giving.”
He also referred to Warren Buffet, No. 3 billionaire, who also donated 80 percent of his fortune to the Gates couple’s foundation. But he, said Slim, established a system in which the funds are not transferred unless the people managing them are efficient at generating high levels of revenue.
So, is Carlos Slim Helú a good guy or a bad guy? Neither, or both, depending on your politics. He’s a rich businessman who intends to use his skills, influence, money and the law to get richer. Just like every other rich businessman. And just like every other businessman who wishes or dreams he was rich.