'Big mistake' if US Blocks Overseas Skilled Workers: Bill Gates

New Delhi, July 24 (IANS): Microsoft founder Bill Gates Friday said it would be a "big mistake" if the US curbs the entry of skilled workers from abroad, rallying behind the "smart people" from countries like India that has a globally recognised outsourcing industry.

He also said Microsoft will like to partner the Indian government in its ambitious plan to give a unique identity number and a biometric card to each of its 1.17 billion people.

"I can't make any predictions. Immigration policy could get more difficult. Microsoft as a company is very vocal. It would be a big mistake," said Gates, here for overseeing the philanthropic activities of the foundation he has formed with his wife Melinda.

"The US Congress is very tough on immigration. But why not make an exception for smart people?" he said at an interactive session organised by the National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom) at the Durbar Hall of Taj Palace Hotel here.

Gates even maintained that the job market in the US had not shifted anywhere, when asked to respond to US President Barack Obama's comments that he will not like jobs to be taken away from Buffalo to outsourcing companies in Bangalore.

"If we get the statistics, about 1,800 US people are working here (in India)."

Even though Gates now devotes most of his time to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he has always been vocal about his support for migrant professionals that is reflected in the number of such workers at the Microsoft offices in the US.

According to Nasscom, Indian nationals accounted for 157,726 H1B visas, or 37.8 percent of the 409,619 admissions under this US programme in 2008. This is a drop of about 3,000 professionals compared to 2007.

Gates said he was also keen to partner India in its ambitious plan to issue a single identity card and number to its 1.17 billion citizens for which a new authority has been formed under Infosys Technologies co-founder Nandan Nilekani.

"Microsoft wants to be part of the Unique Identification Authority of India project," he said, adding that he hoped to meet with Nilekani to discuss the issue.

"I am very excited about the project. It is a great initiative. We need to make sure every data is accurate. From a mobile phone number to anything," Gates told the conference, also addressed by Minister for State for Communications Sachin Pilot.

During his current visit, Gates announced a major increase in his foundation's AIDS prevention commitment to India to $338 million, saying India's drive in this regard could serve as a model for the rest of the world.

Launched in 2003, his family foundation provides funding and support to targeted HIV prevention programmes in six Indian states, including Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, and along the national trucking routes through an initiative called "Avahan".

Prior to this, the foundation had committed a total of $258 million for the purpose.

Gates, who has always maintained a packed schedule during his visits to India, was also scheduled to meet with Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and hold a videoconference with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

Another reason behind the current visit is to receive the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development on behalf of his foundation, being recognised for "pioneering and exemplary philanthropic work around the world and in India in health".

As of July, the foundation has committed nearly $1 billion for health and development projects in India. Globally, it has committed nearly $12 billion in grants for global health, the foundation claimed in a statement.


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Comment on this article

  • Wilfred, Mangalore/AUH

    Sat, Jul 25 2009

    Microsoft wants to be part of the Unique Identification Authority of India project,keeping an eye on this multi million project,it is a tricky ststement by Mr.Gates.No way this statement of Microsoft founder can have an effect on US government,because as mayola, mangalore/U.S.said their economic condition as bad as any other countries in the world.

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  • mayola, mangalore/U.S.

    Sat, Jul 25 2009

    I am not sure where Mr Gates has been living, but i live in the U.S. and its in recession. People are losing jobs and homes by the day... They have enough engineers that are unemployed as it it. It has hit health care and they are laying off nurses. The auto industry is struggling to survive borrowing money from the government. Mr. Gates is just saying things people in India want to hear. The reality is that there are no jobs here.

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  • Reems, Dubai

    Sat, Jul 25 2009

    Until Arabs have oil people will remain in the Gulf. Once the oil is over , they will work for India, America also depends on arab counrties

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  • Walter , Bajpe/Boston,USA

    Sat, Jul 25 2009

    Bill Gates fully understands that President Obama is not blocking the skilled people to work in the US or transfer of jobs into Bangalore or any part of India. Obama is simply attempting to collect the rightful revenues (payroll taxes) that US would collect for each employed worker, which gets work from US. Failure to collect the revenues would permanently destroy US economy. US cannot afford to export jobs and loose revenues. No country can afford such job transfers scheme. For every job that is exported, if the exporting company pays 25% as tax to the US treasury, US would be doing lot better than what it is doing today. Bill Gates should know that US cannot survive without the tax revenue. This complex issue is tied to the immigration policy. Those US companies exporting jobs to other countries must understand that they need to pay up their share of taxes for each job they export. Otherwise train and employ people who are within the US.

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  • Garry , Kateel/Dubai

    Fri, Jul 24 2009

    As an American you know about Indians. Let some arab countries also read this article. Good one daiji...

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  • Thomas Dsouza, Gorigudda/Israel

    Fri, Jul 24 2009

    You are Absolutely right Mr.Bill Gate.i agree for your statement.

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