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Banquet for China's super-rich exceeds expectations: Buffett

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Sept 30, 2010
US billionaire philanthropist Warren Buffett said Thursday a banquet he hosted with Bill Gates for China's super-rich had exceeded expectations, and insisted no one had been pressed to give to charity.

Gates and Buffett, who have already persuaded 40 wealthy US individuals to hand over more than half of their fortunes, discussed charitable giving with Chinese business leaders at a dinner in a swanky Beijing hotel on Wednesday.

"It exceeded my expectations when we met with those 50 people last night. I had no idea what sort of reception we would receive but it couldn't have been better," Buffett, who made his fortune in investing, told reporters.

Buffett, who with Gates launched the "Giving Pledge" in June through which they convinced the 40 US individuals to give much of their fortunes away, said the ball was now in China's court on the future of philanthropy.

"What happens in China will depend on how the Chinese people feel about a project of this sort," he said.

According to Buffett, some guests interested in making charitable donations had expressed concerns about privacy.

"Some worry that their motives will be misunderstood, that people will think they're doing it to cleanse their reputation or whatever it may be," he said.

The two men refused to make public the guest-list over privacy concerns, but media reports have said Pan Shiyi and Zhang Xin, chairman and CEO of property developer SOHO China, and Niu Gensheng, founder of Mengniu Dairy, attended.

Tycoon Chen Guangbiao, who pledged this month to give his fortune -- estimated at more than 700 million dollars -- to charity after he died, was also present.

Software magnate Gates said that more than two-thirds of those invited came to the dinner, adding that some guests had handed over generous "gifts," although he would not elaborate further.

According to Buffett, the pair "did not pressure anybody" into giving, but instead solicited the views of guests on how philanthropy works in China.

The banquet has caused a stir in China, the world's second-largest economy, which had 64 dollar billionaires last year, second only to the United States' 403, according to Forbes magazine.

The state-run Global Times said in a commentary piece Wednesday that philanthropy was still in its infancy in China.

earlier related report
Pakistan flood victims struggle to rebuild alone
Hassan Abad, Pakistan (AFP) Sept 30, 2010 - As a donkeycart owner who lost everything in Pakistan's devastating floods, Jan Pervez is broke but says he has borrowed heavily to rebuild his home.

Fed up waiting for government cash, the 44-year-old is sourcing bricks and cement to knock up a one-room shelter to protect the seven members of his family from the onset of winter and diseased refugee camps.

Barefoot and in rags, the family last saw their home on July 29, when they fled heavy monsoon rain and rising floodwaters with only the clothes on their backs, swapping their independence for a life of misery.

When they returned a month later, practically nothing was left in the village of Hassan Abad. On the outskirts of the northwestern city of Nowshehra, the area is one of the worst affected in Pakistan's worst natural disaster.

The United Nations has issued a record two-billion-dollar appeal for funds to deal with the aftermath of the disaster, which UN agencies say affected 21 million people and left 12 million in need of emergency food aid.

Floodwaters have receded but left small children, women and the elderly battling to survive on food handouts in refugee camps on roadsides, increasingly angry at a government they say has failed them.

People swarm around cars, begging for help. Their homes and crops were completely washed away. Their fields are covered in mud and rubbish.

"Nobody has visited our village. Nobody has helped us," Pervez said.

"My house, furniture -- everything was destroyed. We had no support from the government," Pervez told AFP next to the remains of his house, where he is camped out in a tent handed out by a charity.

The four homes of his four brothers in the same village were also destroyed. The donkeys on which the brothers depended to earn a livelihood drowned.

"Even the home of my widowed sister was washed away, and no government official came to help," he said.

Pervez said he has started re-building one room because he cannot afford a whole house. So far he has knocked up part of two walls, using bricks and cement paid for with borrowed money.

"Just this one room will cost me 50,000 rupees (580 dollars). The government has announced only 20,000 for us," he said.

An AFP reporter saw dozens of people rebuilding their houses, some cleaning wells and removing debris. Villagers were using carts pulled by bulls and tractor trolleys to take away mud and rubbish.

Amal Masud, spokeswoman for Pakistan's National Disaster Management Authority, told AFP that the organisation had started handing out the first instalments of government cash payments in the northwest this week.

"This is the first instalment. The government will provide a total of 100,000 rupees to all the flood victims," she said.

While people were welcome to use the money towards rebuilding their homes, the NDMA was still concentrating on emergency aid.

"At the moment we are in the rehabilitation and relief phase. The reconstruction phase will start from January next year," she said.

But Pervez and his family say they are still waiting. During the family's one month stay in a relief camp, Pervez says his children complained of abdominal pains, diarrhoea, vomiting and skin diseases.

The family were given a tent, food and medicine, he acknowledged.

"But I need cash, or construction material from the government," he added.

"We have nothing but Allah's help. We're still waiting."

Pervez's elder brother, Rahmanuddin Khan, 60, said everyone in the village was still waiting for government help.

"You are the first person who came here. Nobody helped us. We're doing all this on our own," he said.

"We all want to go home, but our mud houses were completely washed away. Where should we go?" asked Yousaf Shah, 40, in a nearby government-run camp.

Noor Akbar Khan, head of the camp, said about 12 of 567 families had already returned to their villages.

"We are motivating them to go back. They will be provided the cash amount of 20,000 rupees in their villages," Akbar khan said.

"We're planning to open this college next week, so they will have to go back," he said.

In the nearby village of Shalakhel, an AFP reporter saw dozens of volunteers cleaning a girls' primary school, removing badly damaged desks and chairs.

"It will take another month to start classes here," Wasim Ullah, a volunteer told AFP.

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Pakistan flood victims struggle to rebuild alone
Hassan Abad, Pakistan (AFP) Sept 30, 2010
As a donkeycart owner who lost everything in Pakistan's devastating floods, Jan Pervez is broke but says he has borrowed heavily to rebuild his home. Fed up waiting for government cash, the 44-year-old is sourcing bricks and cement to knock up a one-room shelter to protect the seven members of his family from the onset of winter and diseased refugee camps. Barefoot and in rags, the famil ... read more

Pakistan flood victims struggle to rebuild alone

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