Global response needed to defeat virus, says PM Imran as he reiterates call for debt relief

Published May 20, 2020
Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses the World Economic Forum  (WEF) session through a video link. — DawnNewsTV
Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses the World Economic Forum (WEF) session through a video link. — DawnNewsTV

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said that a global response was required to defeat the novel coronavirus, saying that "we [countries around the world] are all connected".

He was addressing a session of the World Economic Forum (WEF) through video link.

"The upcoming year isn't just a challenge for Pakistan. It's a challenge for the entire globe. When this pandemic hit the world, every country looked inside and became insular," he said.

"But ultimately we are all connected and therefore our response has to be global," the prime minister reasoned.

Prime Minister Imran said that several countries in the developing world do not possess the fiscal space to deal with the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.

"G20 countries are working on a debt relief [initiative] but we need more details," said Khan, as he reiterated his call for debt relief for developing countries.

Explaining why developing countries around the world needed the relief, the prime minister said that countries like "ours need fiscal space to divert resources to healthcare and the environment," adding that healthcare systems all over the world are in "direct line of fire of this pandemic”.

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He added that he has spoken to the leaders of Nigeria, Ethiopia and Egypt and they had informed him that they were facing similar economic issues, such as drops in exports and revenue.

The prime minister said that the developed world has experienced the coronavirus pandemic differently than countries in the Indian subcontinent.

"Firstly, the speed with which this virus spread in the Europe and the US, it simply did not spread here," Khan said.

"We [Indian subcontinent] had to face a twin challenge. One was to stem the growth of the virus, but the bigger challenge was how to mitigate the effects of a lockdown on our population amid rising poverty," Khan added.

Prime Minister Imran told the WEF that millions in Pakistan would have starved if the government had not lifted the lockdown meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

"In Pakistan, we have 25 million workers who are either daily-wagers or are self-employed, and these are 25 million families [...] so I'd say our lockdown affected 120-150 million in total.

"These people were facing stark poverty, and unless these people work, they will starve. So what we did was, and I'm proud of my government for this, that we started a cash disbursement programme," the prime minister said, as he briefed the forum on some of the measures the country took to deal with the pandemic.

The prime minister also briefed the WEF about the country's Corona Relief Tiger Force and the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC).

"We realised that we just have to learn how to live with it [the virus] going forward. Therefore we have developed a 1 million strong volunteer force, which will go out and discourage people from gathering in groups and encourage social distancing," Khan stated.

Terming the work of NCOC a "robust mechanism" for decision-making, the prime minister told the forum that the country's NCOC meets daily and analyses data and trends of the spread of the virus in Pakistan.

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