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UN chief calls for further debt relief for developing countries amid COVID-19

Antonio Guterres

Kampala, Uganda | XINHUA |   UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday called for further debt relief for poor and middle-income countries for them to respond to COVID-19.

“I hope the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (of the Group of 20) will be extended and its scope expanded to all developing and middle-income countries in need. The private sector, including the credit rating agencies, must be engaged in relief efforts,” he told a joint press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness after on a high-level event on financing for development.

Guterres strongly encouraged the provision of resources at scale to developing economies, through the World Bank and other multilateral development banks, either using existing facilities or innovative facilities of concessional financing that are important for the most needed countries.

Governments must have the resources to invest in job creation and retention, get education and businesses back on track, and align their budgets with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change, in order to build forward, stronger, greener and better, said Guterres.

The international community should also increase the resources available to the International Monetary Fund, including through a new allocation of Special Drawing Rights and a voluntary re-allocation of existing Special Drawing Rights, he said.

“This is exactly the kind of crisis for which the IMF was created — to put teetering economies back on their feet. We will not see a global recovery until we have stopped the virus in its tracks.”

Guterres urged the international community to take a collective action to provide 35 billion U.S. dollars to the ACT-Accelerator, a global collaboration led by the World Health Organization for the development of COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines. Of the money, 15 billion dollars is needed immediately, to move from successful start-up to scale-up, he said.

There are over 33 million confirmed COVID-19 cases around the world, and the number of lives lost has already passed 1 million, he noted. “So far, we have not yet seen enough solidarity to assist with the massive and urgent support those countries and communities need.”

COVID-19 is an acute crisis. But the problems the pandemic has exposed are chronic pre-existing conditions. Ignoring these warning signs is an act of planetary self-harm, said Guterres. “We must stop the virus in its tracks, respond, recover, and strengthen our systems for the future.”



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