Debt relief must for developing world to help them fight pandemic: PM
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Prime Minister Imran Khan Wednesday said developing countries need debt relief as they need fiscal space to divert resources to healthcare system to counter the threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Addressing a session of the World Economic Forum via video link Prime Minister said that a lot of the developing world does not have fiscal space to deal with the economic fallout from the Covid-19 outbreak.
"G-20 countries are coming up with a debt relief [initiative] but we need more details. The reason why there should be [such an initiative] is because we need that fiscal space to divert resources to healthcare and the environment."
Prime Minister Khan said the developed world has experienced the Covid-19 pandemic differently as compared to countries in the subcontinent.
"The experience of the developed world is completely different to what we are facing in the developing world. Countries like India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh — specifically the Indian subcontinent — our experience is somewhat different. The speed at which COVID-19 [the disease caused by the novel coronavirus] spread in Europe and the United States, we're not experiencing the same sort of speed. On the other hand, we are still facing rising number of cases and we still haven't reached our peak here" in Pakistan, he added.
"From day one, the difference between, say, what we've seen in Europe and the United States — and, in fact, even in China — is that we had to face this twin challenge: one was to stop [and] stem the growth of the virus, hence, the lockdown.
"But the bigger challenge and increasingly in our country is how to mitigate the effects of lockdown on our population with the rising poverty.
Prime Minister Khan said that millions would have starved if the government had not lifted the lockdown meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
"In Pakistan, we have 25 million workers who are either daily-wagers or are self-employed, and these are 25 million families, I'd say it has affected 120-150 million in total. These people are facing stark poverty, and unless these people work, they will starve. So what we did was, and I'm proud of my government for this, was that we started a cash disbursement programme."
However, this was only a short term solution, which is why we decided to ease the lockdown, he said. "There's no way the government can give out handouts to feed people for that long."