Saudi Arabia pledges $500m to global coronavirus relief efforts

The current chair of the G20 called on other countries and organisations to help bridge $8bn financing gap

Saudi Arabia, the current chair of the G20, has pledged $500 million (Dh1.83bn) to support global efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

The contributions include $150m to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation (CEPI), $150m to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations (Gavi), and $200m to other international and regional health organisations and programmes, the Kingdom said in a statement on Thursday.

It also urged all countries, non-governmental organisations, philanthropies and the private sector to help close the financing gap to fight the virus, estimated to be over $8bn according to the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB). The independent body, launched in 2018, assesses response capacity for international health crises.

The $500m pledge from Saudi Arabia comes in response to the commitment made during the Extraordinary G20 Leaders’ Summit last month, when leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies agreed to mobilise needed funds for virus relief.

Following a virtual meeting of the G20’s finance ministers and central bank governors on Wednesday, the group said it must “act collectively and decisively to protect and support our citizens and businesses, prevent long-term damage and lift restrictions as soon as our health conditions permit”.

There were more than 2.1 million confirmed Covid-19 cases and a toll of 145,000 deaths as of Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University. As worldwide lockdowns, business closures and travel restrictions continue, the International Monetary Fund warned this week the global economy faces its worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The G20 has so far poured $7 trillion into the global economy to support businesses and stem job losses.

Last month the group agreed to suspend debt repayments from the world’s poorest countries, allowing them to dedicate funds to fight the coronavirus instead. Both principal repayments and interest payments will be suspended from May 1 until the end of the year.

During a separate virtual meeting of the International Monetary and Financial Committee that represents the members of the IMF on Thursday, Saudi Arabia’s finance minister said the country is facing the coronavirus crisis from “a position of strength”.

Mohammed Al Jadaan said the Saudi government has a strong balance sheet, ample reserve buffers and relatively low debt, the Saudi Press Agency reported. He said the government’s priorities are necessary resources for the healthcare system and support to those affected by the coronavirus financially and economically.

The government has so far announced 170bn riyals (Dh166bn) to support the economy, including 50bn riyals dedicated to small and medium-sized enterprises and 50bn riyals to speed up payments to the private sector.

Updated: April 17, 2020 06:44 PM

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