Islamabad urges urgent relief for struggling economies

Updated Apr 10 2020

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FO says over 700 people have been flown home through special flights. — APP/File
FO says over 700 people have been flown home through special flights. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday emphasised the need for urgent relief measures for struggling economies, whose plight has been aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic, as it welcomed growing international support to the call for helping poor countries.

“Pakistan welcomes these endorsements as steps in the right direction and hopes that these would culminate in concrete steps at the earliest possible,” Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said at the weekly media briefing.

The outbreak of Covid-19 has added to the woes of poor countries. Concerns have been expressed that the epidemic could devastate weak economies. The United Nations Development Programme has warned that developing countries could take years to recover from the economic impact of the pandemic.

Pakistan, which itself is under heavy external debt, has been one of the first countries to advocate debt relief and restructuring for struggling economies so that they could spend their resources on saving lives.

FO says over 700 people have been flown home through special flights

Pakistan’s total external debt is $107 billion and in the last financial year (2018-19) it paid $11.6bn to service these loans.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has written and spoken to his counterparts across the world and senior officials of multilateral organisations underscoring the need to relieve the debt burden of developing countries.

Spokesperson Farooqui said Pakistan’s initiative had resonated globally.

She recalled that the EU foreign ministers’ video conference of March 23 had discussed increased international cooperation and solidarity in order to support the most fragile countries. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank had issued a joint statement on March 25 on debt relief. The Virtual G-20 Summit, hosted by Saudi Arabia on March 26, reaffirmed G-20’s commitment to addressing debt vulnerabilities.

Giving and update about Pakistanis repatriated from different countries, the FO spokesperson said 772 people had been flown home between March 24 and April 8 through special flights operated by the Pakistan International Airlines. These included 101 from the United Arab Emirates, 40 from Qatar, 170 from Thailand, 194 from Turkey, 128 from Uzbekistan, three from Tajikstan and 136 from Iraq.

“Plans for repatriation of our nationals from other destinations are also under active consideration. As this is a dynamic and evolving situation, these plans are being reviewed regularly,” she said.

The priority for repatriation has been those nationals who got stranded in transit after the disruption of flights because of the pandemic, and those who had been abroad on short-term visas.

Meanwhile, Ms Farooqui said that the government has extended till April 30 the validity of visas for foreign nationals who are currently in Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, April 10th, 2020