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Coronavirus
VERY HIGH
Pakistan Deaths
16,094
11224hr
Pakistan Cases
750,158
497624hr
Sindh
271,524
Punjab
264,010
Balochistan
20,760
Islamabad
68,906
KPK
104,480

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has proposed a five-point plan to provide developing countries the fiscal space to recover from the Covid crisis.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, in his virtual address to the 14th ECO Summit, stated that for Pakistan, the vision of the ECO’s regional economic integration was an essential component of a strategy to transform the tensions of geo-politics into dividends of geo-economics.

He also reaffirmed Pakistan’s abiding commitment to the ECO to the founding principles of the Treaty of Izmir, and to the full implementation of the ECO Vision 2025.

The prime minister said that five-point plan proposed by him included; (i) debt relief; (ii) SDR creation and redistribution; (iii) concessional finance; (iv) mobilisation of climate finance, because that is another crisis looming ahead; (v) and ending illicit financial flows and return of stolen assets back to the developing countries.

The prime minister said that one trillion dollars every year, according to the FACTI, leaves poor countries to rich countries and tax havens.

Apart from its health and economic consequences, the Covid crisis has exacerbated the manifestations of religious discrimination, xenophobia and Islamophobia in various parts of the world.

We have witnessed this in our immediate neighbourhood.

The COVID lockdowns have enabled the suppression of people in occupied territories struggling for their right to self-determination.

The prime minister said that for all the leadership, I would want to point this out it is essential to reject any attempt to link Islam with terrorism and to link Islam with terrorism is the biggest injustice, which is being done, to Muslims in the world.

Similarly, he said that Muslims must oppose attempts where “freedom of expression” was used to cause pain to Muslims by denigrating the holy Prophet (PBUH).

At the UN, Pakistan, Turkey and the OIC countries have initiated a proposal for the annual observance of an “International Day to Combat Islamophobia”, he added

The member states of the ECO represent half a billion people and cover an area of eight million square miles, the premier added that Muslims form the geographical link on the Asian continent between East and West, and North and South.

We possess two essential pre-requisites for economic growth – rich resources and enterprising people.

We have the potential for much larger production and consumption.

The prime minister said that in the Vision 2025, the ECO members have set themselves an ambitious agenda of enhanced collaboration – in trade, energy, tourism, agriculture and industrial growth.

We should undertake a mid-term review of the progress made so far, accelerate the pace of implementation, and deepen the scope of cooperation, he added.

The prime minister said that in advancing our common objectives, we must take full advantage of our geographical location, economic assets, and political relationships.

Regional connectivity and integration have been proven to be essential for rapid growth and development.

He further stated that enhanced physical infrastructure will generate economic activity, trade, employment, mobility, and cross-border exchanges.

“Peace in Afghanistan is crucial to the success of such physical integration in ECO region. I hope that the successful culmination of the Intra-Afghan Negotiations will lead to durable peace and security in Afghanistan,” he said.

He said that he wanted to appreciate President Erdogan’s initiative in organising this virtual Summit.

Convening the Summit in these difficult times is a reflection of collective commitment to the ECO, the prime minister added. Pakistan congratulates Turkmenistan as the next ECO chair. But I especially want to congratulate President Ilham Aliyev on successful liberation of Azerbaijan’s occupied territories. The prime minister said that in 2017, silver jubilee of expansion of the ECO membership was celebrated with adoption of landmark ECO Vision 2025 and the Islamabad Declaration.

The focus of the present Summit – “Regional Economic Cooperation in the Aftermath of COVID-19” – is both apt and timely as like the rest of the world, the member states of the ECO have been severely affected by the unprecedented health and economic crisis unleashed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The prime minister added that more than 115 million people have been infected by the virus and more than 2.5 million have lost their lives and the world is grappling with the pandemic’s multiple dimensions.

The full extent of its health, social, financial and economic impact on our countries has yet to be fully determined.

He added that it is evident that developing countries including the ECO member countries have been disproportionately affected, economies have contracted, trade volume has declined. Poverty and inequality has increased.

He said that we, in Pakistan, realised that we must prevent our people from dying from the virus and from hunger.

He said that Pakistan faced these twin challenges like the developed world and pursued people and poor-centric approach and doing this very difficult balancing act, saving lives, securing livelihoods, and at the same time stimulating the economy are extremely difficult balancing act.

He said that despite financial constraints, the government allocated an unprecedented US$8 billion to support the poorest and the most vulnerable households and then small businesses, with direct cash handouts and then subsidies to the poor under the Ehsaas (Compassion) programme.

He said that the pandemic is not over and there is a need to ensure that peoples secure the earliest possible access to vaccines being produced but on an affordable and equitable basis.

The vaccine must be declared a “global public good.”

Because, actually, no one will be safe from the virus unless everyone is safe.

Pakistan has begun its vaccination drive but it has only so far concentrated on the front-line health workers, which obviously is everyone’s highest priority.

We must also address the economic impact of the pandemic.

The world economy has contracted by five percent, he added.

The prime minister said that because, Excellencies! one trillion dollars every year, according to FACTI, leaves poor countries to rich countries and tax havens.

Apart from its health and economic consequences, the COVID crisis has exacerbated the manifestations of religious discrimination, xenophobia, and Islamophobia, in various parts of the world.

We have witnessed this in our immediate neighbourhood.

The COVID lockdowns have enabled the suppression of people in occupied territories struggling for their right to self-determination.

The prime minister said that for all the leadership, he would want to point this out that it is essential to reject any attempt to link Islam with terrorism.

To link Islam with terrorism is the biggest injustice, which is being done to Muslims in the world, he added.

Peace in Afghanistan is crucial to the success of such physical integration in ECO region. I hope that the successful culmination of the Intra-Afghan Negotiations will lead to durable peace and security in Afghanistan.

Our priorities and goals are clear. I propose that we focus on the following six points:

First, we need to recover robustly from the economic and health crises induced by the pandemic. We must mobilise the national and international resources required for this purpose. I request ECO’s support for my 5-point agenda which I mentioned earlier.

Second, we must adopt a plan to build resilient healthcare systems to respond to such crisis in future. We must possess the capacity to produce the medical equipment and medicines essential to respond to chronic and infectious diseases.

Third, we must develop an integrated transport network to facilitate both intra-ECO trade and serve as a pathway for trade between the major economies to our East and West, North and South.

The Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad commercial cargo train and proposed Uzbekistan-Afghanistan- Pakistan railway links are important regional connectivity projects.

In addition, linking CPEC with Afghanistan and beyond is vital.

Fourth, we must implement the cross-border projects already agreed among ECO members, including TAPI gas pipeline and the CASA 1000.

Establishing an ECO Investment Agency and organizing an annual ECO Investment Fair where investment-ready projects could be presented to ECO and global investors are ideas that can be explored.

Fifth, studies indicate that our mutual trade, which is just eight percent of our total trade; this could be expanded ten-fold.

Enhanced transport links will help. But, we should promote conscious measures for trade promotion; simplify border procedures; establish intra-regional institutional linkages; reinforce existing regional mechanisms like ECO Trade Development Bank; operationalise ECO Trade Agreement; and develop new initiatives like the Clearing Union. Sixth, to remain competitive, we must promote knowledge-based economies; and this needs we enhance expenditures on research and development; and focus on rapid digitalization especially extension of broadband to all parts of our countries.

The ECO, as envisaged in the Vision 2025, should engage in dialogues with other regional and international organizations.

We could emulate some of the successful models of cooperation in the EU, ASEAN and the African Union.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021