G20 to use 'all policy tools' to support global economic recovery

Finance and health ministers from the world's top industrialised nations also urge collective action to develop a Covid-19 vaccine

In this April 11, 2020 photo, released by Xinhua News Agency, a staff member tests samples of a potential COVID-19 vaccine at a production plant of SinoPharm in Beijing. In the global race to make a coronavirus vaccine, the state-owned Chinese company is boasting that it gave its employees, including top executives, experimental shots even before the government OK'd testing in people. (Zhang Yuwei/Xinhua via AP)

Finance and health ministers of G20 nations have reiterated their commitment to support the global economy and called for a collective approach to develop vaccines and treatments to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We will continue to use all available policy tools to safeguard people’s lives, jobs and incomes, support the global economic recovery, and enhance the resilience of health and financial systems, while safeguarding against downside risks,” G20 finance and health ministers said in a joint statement.

“Urgent collective priority is to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic and alleviate its health, social and economic impacts.”

The G20 is a group of the world’s 20 largest industrialised nations that includes Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, the UK, the US and the EU. Saudi Arabia currently holds the rotating presidency of the G20.

The ministers urged for a collective action to accelerate the research, development, manufacturing and distribution of diagnostic tools and vaccine to combat the pandemic that has rattled the global economy.

“We remain committed to investing in an effective response to the Covid-19 pandemic to bring the spread of the virus under control ... [to minimise] the economic and social disruption,” the statement added.

The G20 governments and central banks have pumped an unprecedented $11 trillion (Dh40.37tn) into their economies to help stabilise financial markets, protect jobs and support businesses.

In April, the G20 agreed on a time-bound Debt Service Suspension Initiative for poor countries, allowing suspension of debt until the end of this year. So far, more than 45 countries have asked for assistance under the scheme, resulting in the deferral of more than $5.3 billion in debt repayments.

The Covid-19 pandemic has plunged the global economy into the deepest recession since the 1930s, disrupted international trade and paralysed air travel. The International Monetary Fund forecasts the world economy to contract 4.9 per cent this year while the World Bank estimates it is likely to shrink 5.2 per cent.

Global coronavirus infections have exceeded 30.6 million, with 956,446 deaths reported, according to statistics from Worldometers.

G20 ministers acknowledged the need for investment in health systems and said the pandemic “has shown vulnerabilities in the international community’s ability to prevent, detect and respond effectively to pandemic threats”.

Resilient health systems, they said, can sustain equitable and affordable access to essential and quality health services for all, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable.

The pandemic risks wiping out gains made in education and health globally over the past decade, particularly in poorer nations, the World Bank said last week.

G20 ministers said “major gaps still exist in global pandemic preparedness and response” and called for voluntary monetary contributions from multilateral development banks to help developing countries access Covid-19 tools.

The ministers’ recommendations will be updated in the G20 Action Plan that will be presented at the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors’ meeting in October and the G20 Leaders’ Summit in November this year.

“We will ... build on key findings, lessons learned and propose recommendations to address existing gaps in global pandemic preparedness and response ahead of the G20 Leaders’ Summit in November 2020,” the G20 statement added.