UN backs PM’s call for debt relief

Foreign Desk Report

NEW YORK: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Wednesday supported Prime Minister Imran Khan’s call for a Global Initiative for debt relief to developing countries, saying such a measure must be an “important part” of the response to the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world.
“The prime minister’s initiative is in the same spirit as the secretary-general’s own position,” the UN chief’s Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in response to a question at the virtual news briefing.
“Mr Guterres believes that debt relief must be an important part of the response to COVID-19 including immediate waivers on interest payments for 2020,” he said.
“It’s important that the limited resources of the world’s poorest countries be used to combat the Covid-19 virus,” the spokesman said.
“The secretary-general has made this clear publicly and privately, including in his discussions with the G20 (the major Industrialized countries)”.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Imran Khan urged the world leaders, the UN secretary-general and heads of financial institutions to give debt relief to developing countries like Pakistan so that they could combat the deadly Covid-19 in a better way.
In this regard, the prime minister highlighted the difficulties being faced by the developing countries, particularly those burdened by heavy debt, in handling the situation and said the biggest challenge for nations in the developing world was to save their people from dying of the pandemic and hunger due to extended lockdowns triggered by the disease.
On Tuesday, Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Munir Akram gave a detailed briefing on the prime minister’s initiative to the UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed and the Secretary-General’s Chef de Cabinet, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti.
In a statement, Guterres said it was “not the time to reduce the resources for the operations of the World Health Organization or any other humanitarian organization in the fight against the virus.”
“Now is the time for unity and for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences,” the U.N. secretary-general added.
As of Tuesday, there are more than 1.8 million confirmed cases, according to WHO figures, with more than 117,000 confirmed deaths, and 213 countries, areas or territories with cases of the new coronavirus.
President Trump said earlier Tuesday evening that the U.S. would halt funding to the WHO and conduct a 60- to 90-day review “to assess the World Health Organization’s role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus.”
The president also criticized the WHO for its praise of China’s handling of the coronavirus as it emerged, although Trump himself also spoke positively of China at the time.