At UN conference, PM Imran suggests further debt relief for stressed countries

Published January 25, 2021
Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses the fourth session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development on Monday. — DawnNewsTV
Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses the fourth session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development on Monday. — DawnNewsTV

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday called for further debt relief for stressed countries amid a surge in the coronavirus pandemic around the world and the detection of the new Covid-19 variants, saying "much more needed to be done" to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs) by the 2030 target.

Addressing the fourth session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), he observed that developing countries were "trapped between recovering from the pandemic and meeting their debt servicing obligations".

"The world today is grappling with a series of interlinked and unprecedented public health and economic crises. While the coronavirus does not discriminate between the rich and the poor, the most vulnerable people and countries have suffered the most," he said, adding that millions were likely to fall below the poverty line as a result.

"Covid-19 vaccines are now being administered in developed countries but it seems like it will take much longer for the vaccines to fully cover the Global South. Sustainable development will remain elusive as long as the pandemic persists."

Referring to his call last year for a global initiative on debt relief for developing countries including Pakistan, he said "much more needed to be done" in this regard or else achieving the sustainable development goals by 2030 would "remain [a] daunting [task]".

"The pandemic also offers an opportunity to address the structural barriers hampering global prosperity and development," the premier said during his address.

Prime Minister Imran also presented a five-point agenda which he said could help countries overcome the effects of the pandemic and remove obstacles to development.


PM Imran's five-point agenda includes:

  • Creating a viable framework for equitable and affordable supply of Covid vaccines to developing countries
  • Additional debt relief by suspending debt repayments for the most stressed countries until the end of the pandemic
  • General allocation of special drawing rights of $500 billion to help alleviate the balance of payment pressures
  • Return of stolen assets held by corrupt politicians and criminals
  • Meeting the agreed target of mobilising $100b annually by developed countries for climate action in developing countries

Elaborating on his agenda, the premier called for an equitable and affordable supply of coronavirus vaccines to developing countries and for expanding Covax — the World Health Organisation's (WHO) global shared vaccine programme.

"This would enable the developing countries to spend their precious resources on socio-economic development needs," he noted.

He also called for additional debt relief for the most stressed countries, suggesting it be extended till the pandemic ended and "restructuring of the public sector debt under an agreed and inclusive multilateral framework".

Prime Minister Imran also asked the world community to expand concessional financing through multilateral development banks.

His third point was related to special drawing rights (SDRs). An SDR is an International Monetary Fund unit for a financial transaction, which includes a mixed basket of currencies.

"[There should be] a general allocation of special drawing rights of $500 billion to help alleviate balance of payment pressures."

The prime minister said that illicit financial flows "caused more poverty in the world than any other factor", calling for the return of stolen assets held by corrupt politicians and criminals.

"Reportedly, a staggering amount of $7 trillion is parked in [tax haven] destinations and it is also reported that $1t annually leaves the developing countries for these [havens]."

Talking about climate change-related measures, the premier also called for meeting the agreed target of mobilising $100b annually by developed countries for climate action in developing countries. He was referring to a commitment made by developed countries in 2009 at Copenhagen in which they promised to deliver at least $100b of finance every year to developing countries by 2020 to help them cope with challenges related to climate change.

"Global policy measures along the lines I have outlined are urgently needed to save lives, revive economies and build back better," he added.

Pakistan's strategy

Detailing Pakistan's efforts to combat Covid-19, the premier said they were aimed at "saving people from dying from the virus and at the same time, preventing them from dying from hunger".

"Our strategy, fortunately, has worked well so far but continuous efforts are needed to fully overcome the second wave of the virus and also, at the same time to maintain and stimulate economic growth," he added.

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