This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, June 18, 2002, that was edited for clarity. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.
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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Cheech had Chong. Bing had Bob. And Dean had Jerry. But nothing matched the star power we saw a couple of weeks back in Africa like these guys, Bono and Paulo. The rock star and the money star.
With us now, that money star, the treasury secretary of the United States, Paul O'Neill. Secretary, welcome.
PAUL O'NEILL, SECRETARY OF TREASURY: Thank you. It's great to be here.
CAVUTO: That had to be the weirdest thing I have ever seen, you and Bono together. How did you guys get along?
O'NEILL: He's a very serious person. When he got on the plane, he said to the undersecretary for International Economic Affairs, John Taylor, John, I read your book. And he had actually read this economic tome. And I think it illustrates how serious he is about these issues...
CAVUTO: Maybe he was just trying to impress you guys.
O'NEILL: Hey, I don't know. I really became very fond of Bono because I think he is serious and he learned a lot from going on this trip and seeing some things that he hadn't seen before.
CAVUTO: Did you learn a lot?
O'NEILL: I saw some things, I guess, that I saw with more emphasis than I had seen in my previous trips to Africa. And I think I learned that there is a strong sense of compassion in the people around the world. And it was reinforced by the feedback I've gotten from what people saw from television.
But I also was reinforced in my notion that people want to get value for their money. And I think, you know, it is good to tap the well spring of compassion. It's also very good to get value for our money.
CAVUTO: Yes, but he wanted me you to give all your money, right? I mean, he just wanted you to empty the coffers.
O'NEILL: I think that's not a good idea.
CAVUTO: Did you guys fight?
O'NEILL: I would not say we fought, but we had some pretty spirited conversations with me saying I'm for giving money where we can show that we got real results. You know, and by real results, I mean there are over 300 million people in sub-Saharan Africa who don't have clean water. I think they could have clean water if we put ourselves to this test, not just Americans, but giving countries around the world and the nongovernmental organizations.
If we said we're going to create clean water for everyone and we're going to ensure every child has a primary education and we're going to work on the issues of HIV, AIDS and we're not going to exclude everything else, but we are going to concentrate on these issues, we could demonstrate, we could make quick progress that would be meaningful in people's lives.
CAVUTO: Yes, but we had Bono here, Mr. Secretary, from Africa. And at the time, he said, I am working hard on convincing your treasury secretary — I'm paraphrasing here — to open up the spigot more. Did he succeed at that?
O'NEILL: No. You know, the president has proposed that we provide another $5 billion a year. And my objective is to demonstrate that we can add huge amounts of people to those in the world who have clean water. I'll give you an example, if you have got time for that. In Uganda, there are 10 million people without clean water. Now, the water table is pretty high in Uganda. And so, arguably, for $2,500 a well, serving a thousand people, the people of Uganda could have clean water for 25 or $30 million.
CAVUTO: See, some people were questioning that math.
O'NEILL: Well, that's because they don't know how to do the numbers. You know, I know about how to create value. Now, the country has a plan to create clean water for everyone by 2015 at a cost of $2 billion. I don't know about you, but I can tell the difference between $25 million and $2 billion. And even if I'm off by a multiple of two or three, the numbers that add up to $2 billion are systems designed by Western engineers for Western problems.
CAVUTO: Yes, but you always worry too with these guys when you give them good money after bad, the warlords and everything else who just steal it.
O'NEILL: I think there's a way around that. I think there's a way to actually deliver results with foreign countries...
CAVUTO: So you guys got along. In the end, you were both simpatico, everything was OK.
O'NEILL: Yes, it was good.
CAVUTO: Did you wear his glasses at all?
O'NEILL: He gave me a pair of blue glasses on our last night together.
CAVUTO: Why didn't you bring them?
O'NEILL: Well, I tell you, I've been taking them to public events and putting them on. And I'll tell you why I do it, because it is an important message to people. You know, life is about lots of serious things, including people living with deprivation and poverty and the rest of that. But we need it remind people it's a good idea to have a laugh and have fun too.
CAVUTO: You were very good about that. Very quickly, sir, we only have a few seconds. The debt ceiling issue, we're coming up against a deadline. Is it going to be raised?
O'NEILL: Well, I alerted the Congress on December the 5th that we needed to have an increase on the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling, after all, is not a real barrier. The Congress has already passed spending bills...
CAVUTO: But, they are playing games, right?
O'NEILL: Well, they need to play one new game, and that's a bipartisan game or nonpartisan game, to pass the debt ceiling because on the 28th of June, I'm going to run out of all of the precedents that Robert Rubin created to save the nation.
CAVUTO: All right. Mr. Secretary, good seeing you again. Bring those glasses next time.
O'NEILL: I will.
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