UN World Food Program Calls Musk's Bluff – Will The Billionaire Pay Up?

Fun fact: this man has more wealth than 173 out of 195 sovereign nations. Image: naresh111/Shutterstock.com

Say you had $1,000, and somebody proposes the following: give me just $20, and I will save tens of millions of people from starving to death. You don’t really gain anything from it outside of a feeling of goodwill towards your fellow humans, but hey, it’s only $20. What do you do?

That’s essentially the choice Elon Musk was faced with a few weeks ago when he was alerted to a call from the UN Food Scarcity Organization – a call which he answered with a challenge: Show me where the money will go, he said, and I’ll pay up. Well, it seems his bluff has been called, as the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) has published a breakdown of their spending plan for $6.6 billion on their website.

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To recap: David Beasley, Executive Director of the WFP, appeared on CNN at the end of last month to personally ask billionaires like Musk and fellow space-farer Jeff Bezos for money to feed starving people across the world.

Musk as an individual has more wealth than the majority of the nations on the WFP list – and just 2 percent, or $6.6 billion, Beasley said, would be enough to feed 42 million people currently facing famine and starvation. As Beasley pointed out, that’s just 36 cents out of every $100 if ol’ Elon could rope in 399 of his fellow billionaires.

Musk subsequently heard this plea and issued a challenge: “If WFP can describe on this Twitter thread exactly how $6B will solve world hunger,” he wrote, “I will sell Tesla stock right now and do it.”

Beasley immediately stepped up to the challenge, replying with a tweet thread asking Musk to meet him "in the field where you can see [the WFP’s] people, processes and yes, technology, at work.” He pointed out the organization’s decades of experience and Nobel Peace Prize, and even gave Musk some rough calculations on where the figures came from.

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In response to Musk’s request that the WFP “publish [their] current & proposed spending in detail so people can see exactly where money goes,” Beasley pointed out that the WFP was an “open book” and Musk could “feel free to look them up”.

“WFP’s financial statements and operational documents are all public,” Beasley wrote. “So are our independent evaluation reports, audits & annual global/country performance reports. The last 10 years are all on wfp.org.”

That wasn’t the only thing Musk would have found on the website: by the time Beasley was tweeting, an executive summary of the $6.6 billion plan had been published, showing exactly how much the WFP planned to spend in the top 10 of the 43 countries hoping to receive WPF funds in 2021.

More than half of the total, $3.5 billion, is earmarked for food and its delivery, with another $2 billion going towards cash and food vouchers – enabling people to get food and stimulating the local economy at the same time. The rest of the money would be spent on local and global management and administration costs.

Under normal circumstances, the WFP is entirely funded through donations from governments and, to a lesser extent, corporations and individuals. This year, though, they have managed to raise just three-quarters of the total needed – the $6.6 billion that Musk needs convincing on would make up the shortfall.

With the WFP plan re-publicized, eyes are on Musk to see whether he holds true to his word. The tech magnate has previously failed to live up to some of his more bombastic promises of charitable giving and has openly stated that any “major disbursements” won’t be seen until he’s nearing his 70s.

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