ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday appealed for a “global initiative on debt relief” to deal with worldwide recession and help developing countries overcome disastrous impacts of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
In a televised message, the prime minister urged the international community, particularly the United Nations Security Council (UNSG) and the international financial institutions to respond positively to the dilemma confronting the developing counties in the face of Covid-19 outbreak.
Noting that the pandemic posed unprecedented health and economic challenges, Imran said that the global recession was a certainty, which could be worse than the “Great Depression”, adding: “A global pandemic cannot be contained without strong, coordinated and well-crafted global response.”
He said his global initiative on debt relief aimed at bringing together stakeholders on a single platform to promote a coordinated health and economic response. Imran also cited United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ call last week for a global action.
The prime minister invited the UN secretary general to work with him in advancing the objectives of the coordinated response. He also urged other world leaders to step up measures to help the developing countries overcome the disastrous impacts of Covid-19.
“In the developed world, the dilemma is coronavirus and economy. But we as a developing nation face another major dilemma, how to prevent people from dying of hunger,” he said. “I implore those who walk in the corridors of power to make a stimulus package for the developing world to help them through this economic downturn.”
The proposed global initiative aims to lay ground for urgent debt relief for the developing countries, at their request, and without onerous conditionalities. The proposal is built on the prime minister’s belief that enhanced fiscal capacity is fundamental to recovery from the ongoing pandemic crises.
In the past week, various announcements were made by multilateral actors such as the UN, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank. These announcements included initial relief packages of $1.4 billion by the IMF and $1 billion by the World Bank.
Imran cautioned that the pandemic’s socio-economic impacts would be more consequential in the developing countries. While proposing the initiative, the prime minister highlighted that his government had provided $8 billion stimulus package to help the most vulnerable citizens.
He proposed that the developing countries should be provided with fiscal space and financial relief through enhanced debt relief and restructuring as well as other additional measures that could help them manage the unfolding crisis.
As part of his diplomatic outreach, Imran said he would be approaching leaders of a wide range of countries, notably the Paris Club, highly indebted poor countries (HIPC), heads of international organisations and others concerned to join him in this endeavor.
Meanwhile, the prime minister entrusted Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and the Adviser on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh to reach out to their counterparts around the world to work for the “global initiative on debt relief”.
Earlier on Sunday, Shaikh called on the prime minister and briefed him about the progress on economic stimulus package, which had been announced by the government to support business community, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and the general public.
The government’s economic stimulus package particularly focused on deferment of loans, new borrowings at reduced rates and cash transfer via tax refunds as well as Ehsaas Cash Transfer Programme for the downtrodden citizens.
Earlier, the foreign minister also called on the prime minister and presented a cheque of Rs 10,182,000 for the Prime Minister’s Corona Relief Fund.
NCC meets today
Prior to the PM’s televised address, a special meeting of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) was held with Planning Minister Asad Umar in the chair. The session reviewed measures taken thus far with detailed analysis of the progress in various fields.
The session mainly focused on recommendations for a National Coordination Committee (NCC) meeting that the prime minister would chair on Monday (today) to take policy decisions for the containment measures post-April 14.
The meeting also reviewed the government’s strategy and health projections till April 30. It had an in-depth discussed the pros and cons of each option and finalised its recommendations for the NCC regarding the lockdown.
The planning minister emphasised the need for effect-based measures to overcome the pandemic, saying that the local transmission was increasing, particularly in densely-populated areas.
To assess efficacy of measures taken, the NCOC compared the global and regional data and noted that till today, Pakistan’s strategy was on the right track because of its containment measures, social distancing awareness and timely intervention. The NCOC appreciated all provinces, Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and the federal capital for enforcing the preventive measures in letter and spirit.
Industries Minister Hamad Azhar informed the meeting about domestic trade after coordinating with the provincial authorities while the Prime Minister’s Adviser on Commerce Razak Dawood gave a briefing on the exports industry.
Dr Faisal Sultan and Dr Zafar Mirza, who are leading the government’s health strategy, apprised the participants of the overall situation, especially testing and quarantine facilities and the tracking of the patients and the persons with whom they had contacted.
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) chairman shared the latest figures of the medical equipment available in the country. Other officials also shared their assessment and recommendations regarding the lockdown.
Interior Minister Brig (retd) Ijaz Shah, Energy Minister Omar Ayub, Economic Affairs Minister Khusro Bakhtiar, Food Security Minister Fakhar Imam, SAPM on National Security Moeed Yousaf, SAPM on Digital Pakistan Tania Aidrus, also attended the meeting.