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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has proposed a five-point roadmap to materialize the vision of D-8, which include mobilizing financial resources to recover robustly for the economic and health crises incurred by COVID-19 pandemic.

While virtually addressing the 10th D8 summit in Dhaka, he said harnessing technology, promoting innovation and investing in youth education, skills and training was an urgent imperative.

This year’s theme of the conference was “Partnership for a Transformative World: Harnessing the Power of Youth and Technology.”

He said Pakistan was pursuing initiatives and programmes such as Kamyab Naujawan, Hunarmand Pakistan, youth entrepreneurship scheme and digital Pakistan.

The PM said because of the inter-connectedness of the countries and economic, social and environmental vulnerabilities created by that inter-connectedness, the coronavirus pandemic had caused death of over 2.9 million people and more than 250 million people had become unemployed and trillions of dollars were lost as a result of the global economic contraction.

The PM said the coronavirus had taken a heavy toll on poor countries and also inequality had been accentuated within the countries and between the rich and poor countries.

The developing countries were not only faced with the dilemma of saving their citizens from the deadly virus but they also had to save people from hunger, he observed.

He said “today the world boasted the largest number of young people in history.”

Even before the pandemic struck, one fifth of youth in the world was unemployed and did not have the education and skills to equip themselves for the 21st century, he remarked.

“We have 550 million youth population in the D8 countries. Our youth not only has the potential to optimize opportunities but they can also help overcome the present challenges.”

He said the developing countries had youth entrepreneurs, business innovators, technology pioneers, educators, artists and journalists and “we must create opportunities for this predominant component of the population”.

Imran Khan said the pace of change in the world had intensified and the rate of change had become exponential.

Innovation and breakthroughs in technology, he said, were transforming the science fiction of yesterday into reality of today. Only five years ago, the World Economic Forum had predicted that the Fourth Industrial Revolution “will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another.”

The PM noted that contemporary global challenges of a changing world were a moving target. “No single country can address these complexities in isolation. Partnerships are essential.”

He expressed happiness that the D8 countries had a platform to work together for mutual benefit and win-win solutions.

“The D8 will do well to pay special attention by following specific areas while dealing with the rapidly transforming world.”

First, as the net producer of global commodities, the D8 must conceive projects that harness technology for supply side improvements with special emphasis on efficiency and productivity, he said.

He said with cost of transportation and communications improving due to innovations, the D8 must partner to keep pace with logistics and global supply chains.

Secondly, the D8 should brainstorm ideas to insulate its members from disruptions in the labour markets due to technology and innovations, he continued.

Imran said as the automation substituted for labour across the world, the labour intensive economies of D8 faced challenges of unemployment and social disruption.

He said the D8 countries should ask that the coronavirus vaccine should be treated as a global public good to ensure equity, affordability, enhanced production and timely supply to save lives.

“We must push back against vaccine nationalism and undue export restrictions. The global vaccine manufacturing companies must speed up production and share their technology and expertise with the developing countries for adequate vaccine supply.”

He said 23 years ago, a shared vision motivated “our countries to establish D8 to improve their position in the global economy, diversify and create new opportunities in trade relations, enhance participation in decision making at international level, and improve living standards.”

Today, he said, D8 was a grouping of over one billion people with a combined GDP of four trillion dollars. “We possess two essential pre-requisites for growth, including resources and enterprising people.”

He proposed five steps to supplement efforts of D8 during the present testing times.

“We must mobilize finances and resources to recover robustly from the economic and health crises induced by coronavirus pandemic,” he added.

He said in order to address the unique financial and economic crises faced by developing countries as a result of the pandemic, he had suggested a five-point plan, including debt relief, creation and re-distribution of special drawing rights, mobilization of climate finance, elimination of illicit financial flows and return of stolen assets to the developing countries.

He had called for a global initiative on debt relief last April, he added.

The PM invited the leadership of D8 countries to consider his five points and join in advocacy for the Covid-related relief measures.

He said the D8 must take concrete actions for expanding intra D8 trade from currently around $100 billion to $500 billion by the year 2030.

It should include measures like simplification of border procedures, enhancing of institutional linkages and operationalizing new initiatives, he added.

Imran Khan welcomed ideas like D8 payment card, which would enable transactions in local currency.

He urged the D8 to develop a “Youth Engagement Strategy” focused on promoting cultural, educational, and scientific and business exchanges. “Linkages should be established between educational institutions through scholarships, skills development, trainings, fellowships, joint research, and exchange programmes for the youth, particularly in the field of science, technology and innovation.”

He said the technological development was a gateway to economic prosperity, particularly in the post-pandemic period when reliance on technology would be greater than ever before in human history.

“To remain competitive, we must promote knowledge-based economies, increase expenditure on research and development, and focus on rapid digitalization. Pakistan has recently hosted the inaugural meeting of the D8 Network of Pioneers for Research and Innovation (NPRI).”

He underlined the need for making D8 more relevant to the lives of its citizens by promoting food security, enhancing cooperation in health, holding joint sports events and helping each other during natural disasters.

“To achieve these goals, we need high level of commitment and mobilization of financial resources by both developed and developing economies.”

“Partnerships between governments, international financial institutions, businesses and civil society are essential to leverage technology, innovation and skills to enable every young person to have all opportunities to realise their full potential,” he concluded.-Agencies

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