Gates feels, education and health are special because that is the capital, that is your next generation, it only pays off over the next 20 years, but it is the primary thing that predicts what will happen to your economy.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has said that health and education are investments that pay off over the course of 20 years and shape the economy for the next generation.
In an interview with CNBC-TV18, the co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Foundation spoke of India's economy and the goal of having insurance more broadly.
"If you do not get the health of your kids right, then even if you send them to school, they are not fully developed mentally or physically to be able to benefit from the education," Gates told CNBC-TV18 ahead of the launch of second Goalkeepers report.
You have spoken about how some of the SDG (sustainable development Goals) targets are realistic and some are aspirational. As you sit here today, which are the ones you where you believe that the deficit between reality and aspiration has been bridged significantly and hence more progress has been made? Where do you feel more confident today?
Our foundation, our deepest expertise is in agricultural output and health. On the health side, we made sure that the objectives were ones that there was a chance of being able to achieve and the world has gotten so smart about these health things, the new vaccines are being adopted, whether it is pneumococcus vaccine or rotavirus vaccine.
In fact, India is now in the process of now rolling that out over time to all the children. Africa is getting very close to achieving that goal. So health is the one that we are very deep into and it is very primal.
If you do not get the health of your kids right, then even if you send them to school, they are not fully developed mentally or physically to be able to benefit from that. So education and health are pretty special because that is the capital, that is your next generation, it only pays off over that 20 years but it is the primary thing that predicts what will happen to your economy in that next generation.
But do people get it because the concern is that when you invest in things like physical infrastructure, the results are perhaps quicker, more tangible as opposed to investing in education, knowledge and skills development which is the need of the hour. However, political leaders may go in for more short-term intervention as opposed to long-term measures which may pay off later. From a return on capital employed perspective when you have this conversation with political leaders, what do they?
Certainly, there is nothing wrong with infrastructure. Having roads is an absolutely amazing thing. There is a tendency to under-invest in the health of the poorest. As you said it does not pay off immediately, the child to death rate is rarely brought up during a political conversation and so the sustainable development goals are the tools to remind people that all these children surviving, all of these children grow up in a healthy way, how important that is. India is making progress on both health and the infrastructure.
But it has been a hard bargain to drive even in India, to get the government to agree to spend more on health. You have been waging that battle for a while.
Right. I would say the best progress has been on taking more risk and making sure that the quality of the system, the number of kids who get a vaccine that gets improved. I agree there is a limit on how far it can go and unless the public investment in these health issues increases. India is a lively democracy, people will debate about that thing, but when it is compared to other countries, the investment level probably does need to get more of a priority.
Have you looked at the Health insurance scheme (Aayushman Bharat) that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced? How that could impact India’s health goals?
We are working with Niti Aayog, talked about how other countries have brought in insurance, how they use private sector capacity to help in the health sector. There is some good long-term planning and over time this goal of having insurance more broadly is very important.
However, the affordability challenge means that the health sector will have to get more resources for you to get up to any substantial coverage level.
Let me talk about education because we have a Right to Education Act in India that is now a decade old. So while we may have addressed the enrollment challenge quite effectively, the quality of education continues to be a cause for concern. There seem to be no easy answers even globally. I think you talked about it in the report that the strategy to actually fix the education outcome is something that is yet to come together in any comprehensive way. What is the way forward when you look at India?
There are exemplars. A country like Vietnam which is substantially poor than India, if you look at the way that they train their teachers, insist that the teachers be good at doing their job, have lots of ways of measuring that, providing feedback, they are now at a level of education that is competitive with the richer countries and so it is quite an outlier.
India, as you said, has done well on access, including boys and girls having access, but the amount of learning, which is a recent thing to really measure, not just the attendance but the learning, India has a lot of room for improvement. In fact, given how much the Indian economy has grown, it has fallen behind on the quality of its learning outcomes.Watch the full interview here.