PM asks int’l community to ensure availability of coronavirus vaccine for everyone

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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan Monday said the international community must ensure that the coronavirus vaccine was available to everyone, everywhere and as soon as possible, and if it were not done, the virus would soon return.

While making an opening statement at the special virtual segment of the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council on Financing for Development, he said the forum’s deliberations this year were critical as the world battled the coronavirus and its massive socio-economic fallout.

He said, “Pakistan contained the first two waves of the virus through a policy of smart lockdowns. We implemented an eight billion dollar relief package to support the poor and vulnerable, and to keep our economy afloat at the same time.”

Now, he said, “Unfortunately, we are facing the third wave of the virus. Insha’Allah, we hope to defeat this wave as well. We need a lot of luck, as everyone does.”

The prime minister stressed that the production of the vaccine must be ramped up, and the patent and technology-transfer restrictions should be waived to enable it.

“Vaccine nationalism and export restrictions are deplorable; as is the use of the vaccine to advance national foreign policy objectives.”

He emphasized that the forum was an important opportunity to adopt decisions on ways to mobilize the money needed by developing countries to recover from the Covid-induced recession and restore them on the path to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

Imran Khan said last April he proposed a Global Initiative on Debt Relief. “I am glad to say that the G-20’s debt suspension has been extended. Its scope needs to be enlarged to encompass all vulnerable countries, especially the small island developing states. Private creditors must participate in providing debt relief and restructuring.”

In January of this year at the UNCTAD meeting, he had proposed a five-point agenda for emergency financial support to developing countries, including the debt relief and restructuring, special drawing rights creation and redistribution, larger concessional finance and an end to illicit financial flows from developing countries.

“I warmly welcome the proposal from the International Monetary Fund managing director to create 650 billion dollars in new SDRs, and appreciate the support for this from the largest shareholders, including the United States, China, the EU (European Union) and Japan.”

The IMF, the World Bank and other development banks had an ample capacity to enlarge concessional financing for developing countries. The forthcoming International Development Association (IDA) replenishment should be enlarged to 60 billion dollars, he stressed.

The prime minister viewed that the developing countries should also be able to borrow from the markets at the prevailing low interest rates, which were available to the developed countries. The liquidity and sustainability facility, proposed by the Economic Commission for Africa, could be one of the ways to achieve it.

He noted that the Panel on Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity (FACTI) had proposed 14 recommendations to halt the outflow of trillions of dollars from the developing countries.

“These recommendations should be endorsed by the United Nations and all financial institutions. The stolen assets of developing countries must be returned immediately and more importantly unconditionally.”

He recalled that while speaking to the FACTI Panel, he proposed the imposition of a global minimum corporate tax to avoid profit-shifting and tax avoidance by large corporations. “I endorse the recent US proposal for such a global minimum corporate tax.”

He suggested that a moratorium should be declared on the exorbitant claims adjudicated against some developing countries in investment disputes. Unequal and exploitative investment agreements should be cancelled and revised, he added.

“The challenge posed by the Covid crisis is, as the UN Secretary-General has said, also an opportunity to build back better. We must seize this opportunity to transform the world economy into one that is development-oriented and environmentally sustainable.”

He pointed out that though Pakistan’s carbon emissions were among the lowest in the world, yet it was one of the most seriously affected and vulnerable countries due to the climate crisis.

“We have embarked on an ambitious programme to create a green Pakistan through reforestation, by planting 10 billion trees over the next three years, and introduction of renewable energy, electric vehicles and a moratorium on coal-burning power plants.”

Imran Khan asked the developed nations to fulfil their commitments under the Paris Agreement and mobilize 100 billion dollars annually in climate finance as they had promised, and 50 per cent of that must be devoted to adaptation programmes of the developing countries.

“We are at a critical point in world history. The COVID pandemic has dramatically illustrated humanity’s oneness and interdependence. We must disavow power rivalries and geopolitical competition,” he said.

“We must opt for unconditional international cooperation. Together, we can – we must – construct a new, peaceful, equitable and sustainable world order.”

The four-day Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Forum on Financing for Development will also be addressed by UN ECOSOC President Munir Akram, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, 10 heads of state and government, 55 ministers and vice-ministers of finance, foreign affairs and development cooperation executive directors and executive boards of the World Bank Group and IMF.