ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan presented a 10-point agenda before the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday underlining the need of collective response by the global community to recover from the Covid-19 crisis.
In his pre-recorded address to the special session on Covid-19, the prime minister said if economic collapse was to be averted in a number of developing countries due to the Covid-19, the international community must identify and implement some key priority actions.
Khan said he would like to propose a 10-point agenda for urgent action that included; (i) debt suspension until the end of pandemic for low-income and most stressed countries; (ii) cancellation of debt of least-developed countries; (iii) restructuring of the public-sector debt of other developing countries under an agreed inclusive multilateral framework.
The prime minister further proposed; (iv) a general allocation of special drawing rights of $500 billion; (v) expanded concessional financing to lower-income countries through multilateral development banks; (vi) creation of a new liquidity and sustainability facility, which should provide short-term loans at lower costs; (vii) fulfillment of the 0.7 percent official development assistance commitments; (viii) mobilising the required $1.5 trillion annual investment in sustainable infrastructure; (ix) achievement of the agreed target of mobilising $100 billion per year for climate action in developing countries and; (x) immediate action be taken to stop the massive illicit financial outflows from developing countries to rich countries to tax havens and immediate return of their assets stolen by corrupt politicians and criminals back to these countries.
This one action would benefit the poor countries more than all other measures put together, he added. The prime minister further stated that everyone agrees that there had to be a collective response to recover from the Covid-19 crisis and at the same time, achieve sustainable development goals, and implement targets set by the Paris agreement.
The UN charter's concept of 'collective security' embraces 'collective economic security' and without economic security, conflicts and disputes will persist and proliferate across the world, added the prime minister, that guided by the principles of this charter, we must all work collectively for an inclusive, stable and sustainable economic, social, and political order.
The prime minister stated that in Pakistan the government had a successful policy of 'smart lockdowns' with the efforts aimed at ensuring that not only do we save the people from the virus, but also prevent them from dying from hunger.
The government had provided a relief package of around $8 billion - almost three percent of Pakistan's GDP - to support the deprived segment and to keep the economy afloat at the same time.
So far, he stated that strategy of 'smart lockdown' has worked. But, the prime minister said, now the country was faced with a far more aggressive second wave of the virus.
We are facing now the challenge of maintaining and reviving the economic growth as well as dealing with increasing number of cases, which are occupying our hospital beds, the prime minister added. He stated that the IMF managing director had advised countries to spend as much as it was required, to stimulate growth but like many other developing countries, Pakistan was committed under our IMF programme to reduce the budget deficit.
The only way to have the fiscal space to maintain and revive growth is through access to additional liquidity, the PM added.
In April, the prime minister said he called for a 'global initiative on debt relief' and Pakistan was grateful for the debt suspension announced by G-20 in May, and its subsequent extension till June next year.
We also appreciate the rapid lending facilities activated by the IMF and the World Bank; yet, the amounts generated so far are not even close to the needs of the developing countries to recover from the impact of the pandemic.
He said as far as he knows, five developing countries had already defaulted on their debt, and it seemed others were about to follow.
Several nations, faced with large debt repayments and at the same time lost revenues, are on the brink of economic collapse, the prime minister added.
He further stated that there were disturbing reports from the World Food Programme of possible famines in some parts of the world and the 'financing for development' discussions initiated by the secretary general and the prime ministers of Canada and Jamaica had identified hundreds of options to financially support the developing countries.
We hope that this process culminates in some concrete actions soon, the prime minister said.
There is a need to reform the international financial architecture; build an inclusive and equitable debt management mechanism; construct a democratic; SDGs-focused trading system; and install a fair international tax regime.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2020