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Q & A With Bill Clinton

Wednesday, 23 Sep 2009 | 11:47 AM ET

Here are the transcripts from Maria's interviewwith former President Bill Clinton. We talked with him on Friday as he was preparing for this week's 5th Annual Clinton Global Initiativein New York City.

Bartiromo: Let’s talk about global health at CGI. What are the most important issues that corporations need to focus on?

President Clinton: I think, first, the basic thing is clean water. A billion people have no access to clean water. Then let’s look at 25 percent of the deaths every year – and far more in poor countries – are from AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and infections related to dirty water. Making sure that there’s health care clinics and basically train paramedical workers who can diagnose and get medicine to these people, that’s really important.

We sell AIDS medicine all over the world. We’re now doing the same thing thanks to the Gates Foundation partnership with discount malaria medicine. Not many of these people are going to die because they can’t get medicine because it’s too expensive. They’re going to die now because there are no health care networks out there to find them, to test them, to deliver the medicine, to check on them and see if they’re taking it. So this is an enormous opportunity for corporations and for our country.

This is not rocket science. The economic and social and political benefits of saving these children are breathtaking.

Bartiromo: Investing in girls is a big part of the program at CGI. Why is it so important? What do you want people to know about the importance of investing in girls?

President Clinton: Hillary has made this a big issue as Secretary of State, the role of women and girls in the economy and the long-term stability of societies. She’s been educating me about this for more than 20 years.

I think it’s very important to realize that most of the children who are out of school are girls. It’s important to realize that in every society with all the different religious and moral standards that different societies have, the one universal thing that always lowers the birthrate is putting more girls in school and giving more young women access to the labor market.

The political empowerment of women almost universally leads to less human trafficking. We also have a lot of emphasis on human trafficking this year. There’s still too many children sold not only into sex slavery but also into other kinds of bondage.

I think every man who’s a father of a daughter will have no problem figuring this out. But people without regard to gender identification, should be for this because it’s what works to lift poor countries to new heights.

Bartiromo: More than 70 million children will not see the inside of a primary classroom. Two hundred twenty-six million won’t continue on to secondary school. What kind of progress can be made? What can corporate America do in particular?

President Clinton: In my last year as President, we allocated $300 million of your money, tax money, to give to poor countries to feed children that were poor, if the kids would come to school to get the meal.

That program is still in place. That $300 million increased school enrollment by six million, 50 bucks a kid. That’s how much just the inducement of a good meal every day got people to school. I don’t want to oversimplify this. You also have to have school facilities. You have to have a teacher. You need some learning materials. But the point is - it doesn’t cost a lot of money in a lot of these poor countries.

Secondly, if you think about them as future customers, future employees, and every year of schooling n a country with a per capita income that’s under $2 a day adds ten percent to earnings every year for life. Just one year. So you get massive benefits.

This is a big economic issue. What should be done, in my opinion, is that when businesses should either sponsor their own schools for either enrollment or efficient building or learning materials, supporting the teachers, or they should work through a local non-governmental group to do that, if there is a big program in areas where they’re otherwise active. Because all they’re doing is making more customers for the future. And they’re creating political and social stability in the country by getting kids off the streets or out of the workforce and into school.

Bartiromo: You and your wife, Secretary Hillary Clinton, have spent so much time trying to make a change in health care. Do you think that a public plan will actually accomplish what you think needs to be accomplished?

President Clinton: Health care is not just about extending coverage to people who have no coverage. It’s about ensuring that the people who already have coverage will be able to keep it at a price they can afford. It’s about ensuring that people who practice medicine and deliver health care will be able to do that in the future without having to spend more and more and more of their time shuffling paper and navigating the finance system. And I believe the bill will pass which will make it better because there is not anywhere near the potential for a filibuster in killing it now that there was when I tried it.

More from the 5th Annual Clinton Global Initiative Including:

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Questions? Comments? Write toinvestoragenda@cnbc.com

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