ISLAMABAD: Since all the countries of the world are intertwined, a global response to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic is imperative.
This was stated by Canadian High Commissioner Wendy Gilmour during an online policy dialogue titled ‘Canada-Pakistan relations and cooperation amidst Covid-19’. The dialogue had been organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on Friday.
Gilmour said that the Canadian government highly values its bilateral relationships with Pakistan. In the aftermath of Covid-19, she said that Canada has supported Pakistan through several measures including strengthening the healthcare infrastructure and provision of medical supplies. Moreover, through interventions via international support systems and financial institutions.
“Canada has been able to contain the spread of the disease through science-based responses and informed decision-making,” Gilmour said, adding that Canada has a universal public healthcare system which has been crucial in dealing with the pandemic.
Gilmour said that healthcare in Canada, much like Pakistan, is a provincial responsibility. The difference, however, is that in Canada, it is ensured that the entire population has access to similar healthcare facilities.
However, testing is varied per the situation of different localities.
Gilmour said that the Canadian government fully understands that developing countries, including Pakistan, are facing financial constraints in supporting their populations and saving lives in the face of this global pandemic. Therefore, she said, Canada has played its role at the G-7 and G-20 platforms to provide fiscal space to these countries through the debt relief offers.
“A large chunk of the population across the globe cannot maintain social distancing nor are all of the government’s ability to provide the basic necessities to the population in situations such as a lockdown,” she said.
However, she said that despite fiscal constraints, Islamabad had taken appreciable steps to maintain the balance between the lives and livelihoods.
The cash support provided to the poorest of the poor under the Ehsaas Programme has been a very timely initiative to cater to the immediate needs of the families in urgent need of support, she said.
On the role of Canadians of Pakistani origin during the pandemic, the diplomat said that Pakistani-origin Canadian businesspeople have shown remarkable character during this testing time.
“Many Canadian-Pakistanis approached the authorities and offered different kinds of support services for the local communities,” she said, adding that one of these Canadian-Pakistani has been performing a leading role during response activities in the province of Saskatchewan.
On the future of bilateral trade and Pakistani exports to Canada, she said that curtailed shipment and the ability to move will be the major hindering factor for the time being.
However, she said that Canada will continue to enhance mutual trade ties as and when the right solutions are available.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 23rd, 2020.