As the coronavirus pandemic is ravaging the world, some of the richest people are generously contributing to help out those in need, including the governments of the affected countries and their health institutes. Bill Gates, the world’s second-richest person, has announced 100 million dollar aid through Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for the cause of combating the pandemic. Alibaba founder Jack Ma, the second-richest person in China, has pledged $14 million from his foundation to help develop coronavirus vaccine. He has already donated 500,000 testing kits and one million face masks to the US. Hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin’s firm Citadel announced to donate $7.5 million in aid for affected provinces of China. Eric Yuan, founder of video conferencing company Zoom, has decided to make his service free for unlimited use in affected regions—in China, Italy and the US—giving up on profit for the moment. In Italy, its top export industry leaders like Giorgio Armani donated about $1.4 million to hospitals in Milan and Rome. Another pharmaceutical giant Menarini converted part of its factory in Florence to produce disinfectant gel for hospitals. The list goes on.
Nepal has also seen some helping hands coming out. People like Lalchandra Gautam and Chirag Goyal have converted private houses into isolation and quarantine facilities just in case the number of infected increases in Nepal and there will be no space to keep them. But when it comes to rich and famous business groups or corporate houses, there have been almost no support to the public and the government, even in form of pledges. Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) handed over 10,000 face masks and 250 sets of personal protective gear to the government on Wednesday. This has been a singular case of the exercise of corporate social responsibility so far. Other business groups are expecting or even demanding the support of the government. The government has announced some packages to help private companies weather the financial difficulties. Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada has pledged relief packages for private companies in these times of crisis.
But what are the profit-making domestic businesses, which we have at least few with billionaires as well, doing? This is no time for them to expect financial relief from the government. They can offer support to the government and show their sense of corporate social responsibility. Why cannot a rich company announce to buy and donate some hundreds of testing kits and donate them? In the times of crisis like these, the private business groups, especially rich ones, have two sets of responsibilities. First, they need to ensure that they and their associates do not involve in black marketing and help the government punish those who do. Their role will be vital in keeping the supplies of essentials smooth and regular. Second, they need to stand ready to support the government and public when the situation so arises. For example, there are those who own private hospitals. If the situation so arises, they should be ready to provide free treatment to the people. In these difficult times, everyone has to act responsibly and stand ready to offer help and assistance to those in need. Rich and profit-making corporate houses even more.