Covid-19 problem requires global solution: PM

Updated May 29, 2020

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Addressing a world event online, Imran shares his vision on possible ways to address debt issue, financial challenges facing developing countries. — Instagram/File
Addressing a world event online, Imran shares his vision on possible ways to address debt issue, financial challenges facing developing countries. — Instagram/File

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan reiterated on Thursday that the Covid-19 pandemic was a global problem that required a global solution, urging the developed world to “put their minds together”.

“If developed countries put their minds together and treat this as a global situation, I think we will all come out of it unscathed. Right now things look bleak, but if we treat it as a global issue the world will come out of it,” Prime Minister Khan said while addressing a virtual High-Level Event on Financing for Development (FFD) in Era of COVID-19 and Beyond.

The event was hosted by the prime ministers of Canada and Jamaica and the UN secretary general.

About 50 leaders took part in the event on development financing, including Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado Quesada. Several leaders, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, said the crisis could be an opportunity to grow a “more resilient” economy to aid the fight against global warming.

Addressing a world event online, Imran shares his vision on possible ways to address debt issue, financial challenges facing developing countries

PM Khan said that when Pakistan imposed lockdown measures to curb the spread of the virus, everything came to a standstill, as it did in most economies of the world, and the biggest issue for economies like Pakistan was to look after the most vulnerable section of population, and the people affected in the non-formal sector of economy.

In his address, the prime minister shared his vision on possible ways to address the debt issue and the enormous financial challenges facing developing countries. He said that while these problems had been faced by most countries, the developing world had taken a larger hit. He maintained that when compared with the stimulus packages of other developed countries, the developing world had only given $7 trillion to stimulate their economies.

“When you compare that with the developing world, unfortunately we do not have the fiscal space to revive our economy, to look after the most vulnerable section of our society. Out of a population of 220 million, almost 150m were counted among the most vulnerable section including the non-formal sector, daily wagers, weekly wagers, whose families are dependent on them earning money so that they could eat. But the problem was and the problem is that we have falling exports and remittances. We had big, ambitious plans to revive our tourism sector, and all this took a nosedive,” he added.

PM Khan said Pakistan had an ambitious programme of fighting climate change by planting 10 billion trees, but all this money was diverted into dealing with the effects of the coronavirus lockdown. He referred to his discussions with the leaders of Ethiopia, Nigeria and Egypt and said he was informed that those countries too were facing problems similar to the ones being faced by Pakistan.

“Therefore, I really welcome the G20’s initiative,” the prime minister said, referring to the group’s decision to include all countries under the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) to be eligible for debt relief.

He said there were 1.5 billion people in the developed world, but the developing world faced a population of six billion people. “Unless the problem is dealt with holistically as a global problem with global solutions, the world is not going to recover from this recession if the bigger part of the world’s population is wallowing in poverty,” Mr Khan told the event.

Meanwhile, the foreign affairs ministry has said the invitation extended to Prime Minister Khan reflects the recognition of his role as a sincere spokesman for developing countries and the timeliness of his call for collective action to overcome the debt distress of so many developing countries.

The prime minister’s leading role in advancing solutions to the vital issues of debt, liquidity, investment and sustainable development will greatly enhance the prospects for Pakistan and other developing countries to secure the international support, it added.

Prime Minister Khan had in April issued a call for a “Global Initiative on Debt Relief” to create fiscal space for developing countries to enable them to recover from the current crisis and revive sustainable economic growth. In response to his call, and under Pakistan’s leadership, a representative group of developing and developed countries, and major financial institutions, have commenced informal consultations on the sidelines of the United Nations to evolve an agreement on some measures and practical actions to address the debt challenge of developing countries.

Concluding his address, the prime minister urged the UN secretary general and the Canadian and Jamaican prime ministers to “pursue these initiatives” as it was important that the world became insular when the pandemic hit and it was very important that the world now looks at this whole issue globally.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2020