KARACHI: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday reiterated his call of debt relief for the developing countries, including Pakistan, to cope with the challenges of economic difficulties and the overwhelmed healthcare system in the wake of Covid-19 outbreak.
Speaking at the Covid Action Platform of the World Economic Forum (WEF) via a video link, Imran said the debt relief was necessary as the developing countries needed fiscal space to divert their resources to the healthcare system, besides mitigating the economic effects of the lockdown.
The prime minister said that the G-20 states had already come up with a policy of debt relief for the developing countries and in that respect he had held telephonic discussions with the leaders of Egypt, Ethiopia and Nigeria, who were also facing economic difficulties.
He said the situation of coronavirus outbreak in South Asian countries, including Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, in terms of the spread of virus as well as the peak, which was yet to come, was different from that of the United States and Europe.
Elaborating, the prime minister said Pakistan was facing the twin challenge of dealing with the virus as well as unemployment of around 25 million daily-wage or weekly-wage workers due to the lockdown. In total, he added, around 120 to 150 million people were affected due to the lockdown.
“Unless workers, daily wagers or weekly wagers go to work, they cannot feed their families,” he said, adding that it was the reason Pakistan started easing lockdown restrictions and first opened the construction sector.
The prime minister stressed that he was proud to mention that his government, as a short-term measure, introduced a cash transfer programme for around 15 million poor and needy people to mitigate the effects of lockdown.
As people around the world, including those in the developing countries, had to live with the coronavirus till a vaccine was developed, Imran emphasised that Pakistan and others had to create a balance between the measures to check the spread of virus and allowing the people and to work.
The prime minister also mentioned the registration of one million youth in the volunteer Corona Relief Tiger Force in Pakistan and said the volunteers were helping the already overburdened administration and law-enforcing personnel to ensure the implementation of SOPs [standard operating procedures] at workplaces to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
He said with a challenge of managing the current account and fiscal deficits, besides decline in the economic growth, Pakistan had a tough year. Though the whole world was facing the challenge of Covid-19, there was a need for enhanced international cooperation to check the difficulties of poor and developing nations.
In respect of the economic effects faced by Pakistan due to Covid-19, he also mentioned decline in foreign remittances due to unemployment of Pakistani workers in the Gulf countries as well as decrease in export orders.
The prime minister said Pakistan had geared up to cope with the challenges emerged in the wake of Covid-19 outbreak and think-tanks, including the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), were dealing with the situation through analysis of data and other measures on day to day basis.
(With input from APP)