Universal access to COVID-19 vaccine vital to defeat health crisis, revive economy: PM

ISLAMABAD (Dunya News) - Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said as the COVID-19 pandemic revealed the interdependence of nations, a joint action was essential to fight the COVID-19’s triple challenge through vaccine supply, reallocation of International Monetary Fund (IMF) quotas by high-income States and adaptation of climate finance.

The prime minister stressed that the “universal and affordable access to COVID-19 vaccine was vital to defeat the virus and to revive global trade, investment and growth”.

“The global economy will not recover fully until all countries – rich and poor – are enabled to accelerate and expand investment for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and climate goals,” the prime minister said in his virtual address at the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, held at the UN Headquarters in New York.

The Prime Minister in his address outlined his vision for dealing with the challenges of COVID-19 pandemic, reversal of economic progress and the existential threat posed by climate change and suggested measures for an effective response to ‘build back better.’

Imran Khan said the world must ramp up vaccine production, including in the developing countries, and ensure its rapid distribution.

To enable developing countries purchase vaccines at fair prices, he emphasized on waiver of intellectual property rights even if temporary, vaccine production under license, full funding of COVAX facility, and grants and concessional lending.

The prime minister said adequate finance was important to mobilize the developing countries meet the triple challenge of COVID recovery, implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and realization of environmental goals.

He commended the excellent role played by the UN Secretary General and the entire relief and recovery efforts of the UN system in the wake of the pandemic.

The prime minister said by the grace of Almighty Allah, Pakistan remained fortunate compared with other countries as the government through its policy of ‘smart lockdown’ and focus on the disadvantaged, had been able to somehow contain the virus.

After managing precious lives and the livelihoods through Ehsaas socio-welfare programme, he said, Pakistan was making efforts to accelerate its vaccination campaign.

Imran Khan said the high-income countries injected $17 trillion to stimulate their economies while the developing countries were estimated to need at least $4.3 trillion to recover from the crises and implement the SDGs. They have so far unfortunately secured access to less than five percent of this amount, he added.

He recalled that last September, he had proposed the creation of new IMF Special Drawing Rights as an effective way to generate development financing and welcomed the agreement to create $650 billion in new SDRs.

He endorsed the proposal of the IMF Director General to enable the high-income countries voluntarily reallocate a part of their unutilized IMF quotas, and stressed its urgent approval.

He hoped that at least $150 billion would be reallocated to finance sustainable development projects and programmes in developing countries through the IMF, World Bank and other development banks and institutions.

“The restructuring of high-cost debt is another essential instrument to provide fiscal space and development finance for the affected developing countries,” he added.

He pointed out that any “common framework” for debt restructuring should not involve protracted negotiations that could defeat the purpose of relief.

Imran Khan emphasized on fulfillment of the commitments made to provide concessional and grant finance to developing countries, including the 0.7 percent Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment, and the advanced IDA-20 window of $50 billion.

“Similarly, fulfilment of the commitment made by developed countries to provide $100 billion per year in climate finance is vital, including for the success of the COP-26 in Glasgow,” he stressed.

He mentioned that the accumulated climate finance commitment now amounted to over $1 trillion, adding that the amounts offered for development cooperation, including ODA, could not be double-counted as part of the climate finance commitment.

He stressed that at least, 50 per cent of the climate finance should be allocated for adaptation.

“It would enable developing countries to implement their climate commitments in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities,” he added.

The prime minister in this regard highlighted Pakistan’s landmark projects including the “Recharge” initiative and 10 Billion Tree Tsunami project, which he said could benefit greatly from such support.

He called upon the countries to focus in their national and international development strategies on the target sectors including COVID recovery, human development, social protection, renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, climate change and digitalization.

“Investment in sustainable infrastructure, which impacts 92 percent of the SDGs, must be a central part of development strategies,” he added.

He urged the UN to initiate a multi-stakeholder dialogue to mobilize the $1 trillion investment required annually in sustainable infrastructure besides attracting public and private investment through its SDG Investment Fair.

Imran Khan said protectionist measures erected by some major economies in violation of the WTO agreements needed to be rescinded to check illicit finance flowing out of the developing countries must be halted.

Endorsing the 14 recommendations of the FACTI Panel, he welcomed the proposal of the United States for a minimum global corporate tax to prevent profit shifting and tax evasion.

“We must focus on peaceful and just resolution of disputes and promote international cooperation for building a more equitable, stable and prosperous world,” he said.

The theme of the 2021 High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) is achieving a sustainable and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that puts us on a path for achieving the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.

The Prime Minister has been regularly addressing this theme at various international fora and has put forth several practical recommendations in that regard, many of which are in the process of implementation.

The HLPF discusses the policies that have been implemented so far to respond to the pandemic and its impacts.

The HLPF is convened every year under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) – which is currently presided over by Ambassador Munir Akram, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN in New York.