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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2613

Saudi billionaire prince pledges entire fortune to charity

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal says the money will go to programmes promoting health, modernisation, intercultural understanding and empowering women.

A Saudi billionaire has announced one of the biggest philanthropic gestures in history, promising to donate all his $32bn wealth to charity over the coming years.

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a 60-year-old magnate, a nephew of King Salman and a grandson of Saudi Arabia’s founder, Abdulaziz, is unlike other big Saudi princes. He often appears in public with his tinted glasses and wearing suits instead of the usual ankle-length thawb.

The prince, who is obsessive about calorie counting and usually has no more than 1,100 a day, has progressive views on women, music and cinema and has called for the Arab world, Saudi monarchy included, to implement reform.

He married the glamorous and unveiled Ameera years after she interviewed him for a school paper when she was 18. In a society where women are kept away from the limelight, he appeared with her in public – including at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011 – and insisted on Saudi newspapers publishing her photos despite the usual restrictions on using Saudi women’s images in print. The prince divorced Ameera in 2013, although they remain friends.

He is happy to boast that his Saudi-based headquarters employ more women than men and that they don’t have to wear veils at work. Not everyone believes that the prince’s focus on women is solely aimed at empowering them; some critics say it is also a way for him to gain more influence, especially in the west.

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, said he would channel the money through his own Alwaleed Philanthropies organisation. The money will go to programmes promoting health, eradicating disease, modernization, intercultural understanding and empowering women, he said.

“This donation will be allocated according to a well-devised plan throughout the coming years,” the prince said in a statement. “Philanthropy is a personal responsibility, which I embarked upon more than three decades ago and is an intrinsic part of my Islamic faith.

“With this pledge, I am honoring my life-long commitment to what matters most – helping to build a more peaceful, equitable and sustainable world for generations to come.”

The prince’s move will be modelled on the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, which last year donated $4bn to various causes. Alwaleed and Gates have already worked together on a polio eradication programme. Gates said Alwaleed’s decision “is an inspiration to all of us working in philanthropy around the world.”

Philanthropy has surged over the past generation as the general retreat of government and proliferation of misery have left a vacuum.

Gates, who set up his foundation in 2000, has signed up more than 100 billionaires, including Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Bloomberg, Richard Branson and George Lucas, to giving away half their fortunes to charity.

Last year, the top 10 single donations in the US topped $3.3bn.

Prince Alwaleed has supported philanthropy for more than 35 years, with donations thus far reaching $3.5bn.

- Asian Tribune -

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal
Alwaleed bin Talal and his then wife, Princess Ameera, in 2010. The Saudi prince is giving away most of his wealth. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images
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