G20 nations to inject $5T to counter economic impact of COVID-19

Photo: India’s prime minister Narendra Modi addressing the G20 virtual summit today. Also seen in the background are India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, External Affairs Minister Dr S. Jaishankar and Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla.

By Amit Agnihotri

New Delhi: As world economies count their losses due to COVID-19 impact, leaders from the G20 nations today pledged to inject over $5 trillion into the global economy to counter the ill-effects of the pandemic.

At a virtual summit of the leaders through video conferencing, the G20 called for a coordinated global response to fight the pandemic, adopting measures to safeguard the global economy, minimising trade disruption and steps to enhance global cooperation.

Several nations across the globe have shutdown businesses and government offices to promote social distancing in a bid to outwit the Coronavirus, dubbed Chinese Virus after its origins were traced to Wuhan in China.

Participating in the virtual summit, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the powerful grouping to come out with a concrete action plan to fight the health emergency. On a day his government’s Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman announced a Rs 170,000 crore ($22.7 billion) financial package to protect the vulnerable sections from the impact of COVID-19, Modi pointed out that the social and economic cost of the pandemic was alarming.

According to Modi, 90 per cent of the COVID-19 cases and 88 per cent of deaths related to the deadly Coronavirus were in G20 countries, which shared 80 percent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and were home to 60 per cent of the global population.

Highlighting the need to put human beings at the centre of G20’s vision of global prosperity and cooperation, Modi urged the grouping to formulate joint strategies to deal with COVID -19, including freely and openly sharing the benefits of medical research and development, developing adaptive, responsive and humane health care systems, promoting new crisis management protocols and procedures for an interconnected world.

The Indian PM stressed the need to strengthen and reform the World Health Organisation (WHO) and urged G20 leaders to reduce economic hardships resulting from the Coronavirus pandemic, particularly for the economically weak. Modi called on the G20 leaders to help usher in a new globalisation for the collective well-being of humankind and have the multilateral fora focus on promoting the shared interests.

US President Donald J. Trump will speak separately over the summit later on, while Chinese President Xi Jinping, who called for an “all-out global war” against the pandemic, suggested tariff cuts and removal of trade barriers as ways that can prevent the global economy from slipping into a recession. Terming the pandemic as a matter of “life and death”, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested relief from sanctions, without naming any country or global organisation that had imposed it, to deal with the impact.

The G20 leaders agreed to take all necessary measures to contain the pandemic and protect people. They also supported strengthening of the WHO’s mandate in the fight against pandemics, including delivery of medical supplies, diagnostic tools, treatments, medicines and vaccines. The leaders committed to use of all available policy tools to minimise the economic and social cost of the pandemic and to restore global growth, market stability and strengthening resilience and to contribute to the WHO-led COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund on a voluntary basis.

Modi thanked King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who chairs G20, for convening the extraordinary session. Earlier, Modi had a telephonic conversation over the issue with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman on Mar. 17. Over the past few days, Modi spoke to Putin and Ursula Von Der Leyen, President of the European Commission, over the pandemic.

After the summit, the Indian PM spoke to Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Qatar State Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani over the issue. Earlier on Mar. 15, Modi had urged members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to evolve joint strategies to fight the health emergency.

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