Bill Gates: How the U.S. “Runs” PR is Just Wrong


Kevin Mead writes about how Microsoft founder Bill Gates, in a recent interview in Rolling Stone magazine, says that the way the United States “runs Puerto Rico is just wrong.”

The 58-year-old multibillionaire’s comment on Puerto Rico came after a question about income inequality, which he said is a complicated issue and argued the need to overhaul programs to help the poor in the U.S. “When we get things right, it benefits the entire world. The world’s governments don’t copy everything we do. They see some things we do – like the way we run our postal service, or Puerto Rico – are just wrong. But they look to us for so many things. And we can do better.”

The tech industry icon got back on top of Forbe’s magazine’s list of the world’s richest people this month after a four-year hiatus. Gates, who led the list for 15 of the past 20 years, won the spot back from Mexican telecom mogul Carlos Slim Helu, who had topped the list for the past four years. Gates’ net worth is estimated at $76 billion; Slim Helu follows at $72 billion.

Bill-Gates-9307520-1-402Gates did not elaborate on his criticism of the U.S. handling of Puerto Rico in the Rolling Stone interview. The residents of the U.S. territory are American citizens but cannot vote for president and do not elect voting members to Congress. The island has one member of Congress, a resident commissioner who does not have full participation in the House of Representatives. The island has no senators.

Federal funding to Puerto Rico is far below what the island would get if it were a state. Microsoft’s Puerto Rico operations include the company’s largest optic disk and software manufacturing center in Humacao, a sales, marketing and service office, and software, digital distribution center. The Washington State-based tech giant has faced scrutiny on Capitol Hill and the Securities & Exchange Commission for its use of “aggressive” transactions to shift assets to subsidiaries in Puerto Rico, Ireland and Singapore, in part to avoid taxes.

As reported by CARIBBEAN BUSINESS online, a U.S. Senate report from September 2012 said Microsoft saved $4.5 billion in taxes from 2009 to 2011 by shifting assets to Puerto Rico, a U.S. commonwealth that offers numerous tax breaks to businesses. Microsoft had already acknowledged under prodding by the SEC that it channels sales through Puerto Rico and the two other low-tax international jurisdictions to keep down its U.S. tax bill.

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Image above: Microsoft sales, marketing and service office in Humacao.

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