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G20: Leaders Pledge to Do 'Whatever it Takes' to Save Economy from COVID-19 Damage

THE WIRE 2020-03-27 03:12:53

New Delhi: G-20 leaders on Thursday pledged to do “whatever it takes” to overcome the crippling impact of the coronavirus pandemic and committed to injecting $5 trillion into the global economy, with India batting for a reform of the World Health Organization to give it more teeth to meet challenges.

This was the first time that G-20 leaders met virtually. This was also the first time they met on a subject which had a more humanitarian dimension, rather than a strictly economic subject.

The Saudi King Salman led the discussions at the ‘Extraordinary Summit’ and called for an united response to the pandemic which has already taken more than 21,000 lives across the world. Most countries have already closed down borders and transport links have been snapped, hurtling the global economy towards a recession, say experts.

Addressing his counterpart, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for strengthening the mandate of the World Health Organization, so that the world body could help nations tobuild new protocols to deal with unprecedented health crises like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

A press release issued by the Ministry of External Affairs said Modi underscored the need to “strengthen and reform intergovernmental organisation like WHO”.

PM @narendramodi joined other G20 Leaders at the #G20VirtualSummit to advance a coordinated global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s human & economic implications#G20VirtualSummit

— Raveesh Kumar (@MEAIndia) March 26, 2020

As per sources, Modi said WHO did not have mandate to deal with pandemic of this nature – “which is why empowering of WHO is necessary, be it in terms of its capacity of early warning or development of effective vaccines, or capacity building”.

The G-20 leaders’ statement issued at the end of the meeting also stated that there was commitment to “further strengthen the WHO’s mandate in coordinating the international fight against the pandemic, including the protection of front-line health workers, delivery of medical supplies, especially diagnostic tools, treatments, medicines, and vaccines”.

The leaders also agreed to increase financing for WHO’s Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan.

“We further commit to provide immediate resources to the WHO’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation (CEPI) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, on a voluntary basis. We call upon all countries, international organizations, the private sector, philanthropies, and individuals to contribute to these efforts,” said the joint statement.

The other highlights of Modi’s statement was his stress on sharing the benefits of medical research and development, developing responsive and humane health care system, promoting a new crisis management protocol and working to reduce economic hardships for the economically weak.

“[The] PM underscored the need to put human beings at the centre of our vision of global prosperity and cooperation,” said the MEA press note.

Sources admitted that G-20 had been rather slow in getting their act together, with the leaders meeting only after three months following the start of the pandemic in January.

Stating that G-20 will present a “united front against this common threat,” the leaders committed to “do whatever it takes and to use all available policy tools to minimise the economic and social damage from the pandemic, restore global growth, maintain market stability, and strengthen resilience”.

The leaders said through the joint statement that their countries were “injecting over $5 trillion into the global economy, as part of targeted fiscal policy, economic measures, and guarantee schemes to counteract the social, economic and financial impacts of the pandemic”.

Asserting that there will be additional large scale fiscal support, the leaders of the top 20 industrialised nations said that the G20’s collective action will “get the global economy back on its feet and set a strong basis for the protection of jobs and the recovery of growth”.

“We ask our Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors to coordinate on a regular basis to develop a G20 action plan in response to COVID-19 and work closely with international organizations to swiftly deliver the appropriate international financial assistance,” said the statement.

Earlier this month, Moody’s Invester Service had cut the growth forecast of G-20 countries for 2020 to 2.1%, even as it cautioned that risks for global recession has increased due to the continuing spread of coronavirus, disruption of supply chains and decrease in demand.

G-20 leaders expressed grave concern about the risks for Africa and small island states, whose health systems and economies were vulnerable. The statement also highlighted the “particular risk faced by refugees and displaced persons”.

“We consider that consolidating Africa’s health defense is a key for the resilience of global health. We will strengthen capacity building and technical assistance, especially to at-risk communities. We stand ready to mobilize development and humanitarian financing,” said the statement.

Meanwhile, sources stated that there was no finger-pointing among the leaders about the source of the pandemic starting from China. “There was no reference to the origin of the crisis, who was responsible…Essentially, the spirit of the conference was cooperative”.

The virtual summit was attended by both US president Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, whose countries have been engaged in a blame game over the outbreak. US leaders have been referring to Coronavirus as a “Chinese virus”, which has angered Beijing and led to claims of racism.