ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday presented a five-point agenda to address the structural barriers in global prosperity, proposing equitable supply of Covid-19 vaccine to developing countries and suspension of debt repayments for the most stressed countries until the end of the pandemic.

The prime minister, in his keynote address at the fourth session of virtually held United Nations Conference on Trade and Deve­lo­pment (UNCTAD) Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Financing for Development in Geneva, called for a viable framework for equitable and affordable supply of Covid-19 vaccine to developing countries.

He said the coverage of the Covax (global programme) facility must be expanded as this would enable developing countries to spend their precious resources on socio-economic development needs.

Calling the pandemic an opportunity to address the structural barriers hampering global prosperity and development, he suggested the suspension of debt repayments for the most stressed countries until the end of the pandemic and restructuring of their public sector debt under an agreed and inclusive multilateral framework. Moreover, the expansion of concessional financing through multilateral development banks was also essential, he emphasised.

Presents five-point agenda to address structural barriers in speech at UN conference

Prime Minister Khan called for a general allocation of special drawing rights (SDRs) of $500 billion to help alleviate balance of payments pressures.

Reiterating his decades-old stance of return of stolen assets held by corrupt politicians and criminals in foreign countries, Mr Khan viewed that illicit financial outflows from developing nations caused more poverty in that world than any other factor.

A staggering amount of $7 trillion is reportedly parked in haven destinations. It is also reported that one trillion dollars annually leaves developing countries for these haven destinations, he told the meeting which was also addressed by the prime minister of Barbados, vice president of Bolivia and second vice president of Spain.

The fifth point of the proposed agenda was meeting the agreed target of mobilising 100 billion dollars annually by developed countries for climate action in developing countries.

Terming the economic malaise and recession highly communicable like coronavirus, Prime Minister Khan said global policy measures, along with his proposed lines, were urgently needed to save lives, revive economies and build back better.

He thanked the UNCTAD secretary general for organising the extremely important event and said the world was grappling with a series of interlinked and unprecedented public health and economic crises. He said that as coronavirus did not discriminate between the rich and the poor, the most vulnerable people and countries had suffered the most. “Millions are likely to fall back into poverty,” he feared.

Mr Khan told the meeting that Pakistan’s efforts had been aimed at ensuring their protection from both Covid-related as well as hunger-related deaths. “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 said.

The prime minister said Covid-19 vaccines were now being administered in developed countries but it seemed that it would take much longer time for the vaccine to fully cover the global South.

He said the sustainable development would remain elusive as long as the pandemic persisted. “Developing countries are trapped between recovering from the pandemic and meeting their debt servicing obligations,” he added. PM Khan said he had in April last year called for a global initiative on debt relief for creating fiscal space and reviving economic growth for developing countries.

“But I am afraid much more needs to be done on this account. Otherwise, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by the target date of 2030 will remain a daunting challenge,” he added.

Published in Dawn, January 26th, 2021

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