Focus on Collective Well-Being of Entire Humankind: PM Modi at G20

The countries came to a decision to inject $5 trillion into the global economy.

6 min read

Leaders of the G20 major economies held an online summit on Thursday, 26 March, in a bid to fend off a coronavirus-triggered recession, after criticism that the group has been slow to address the crisis. The countries came to a decision to inject $5 trillion into the global economy in order to counter the slowdown caused by the pandemic, ANI reported.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that empowering WHO is necessary to develop effective vaccines to deal with global pandemics, PTI reported. "Let's put human beings rather than economic targets at centre of our vision for global prosperity and cooperation," Modi reportedly said.

In a statement, the Ministry of External Affairs said: "In his remarks at the G20 Virtual Summit, PM Modi noted the alarming social and economic cost of the pandemic. He added that 90% of COVID-19 cases and 88% of deaths were in G20 countries, even as they share 80% of world GDP and 60% of world population."

"G20 leaders committed to using all available policy tools to minimize the economic and social cost of the pandemic, and to restore global growth, market stability and strengthening resilience. G20 countries also committed to injecting over $5 trillion into the global economy," MEA added.

The talks come as the global death toll from COVID-19 soared over 21,000 and over 3 billion people are locked down in their homes.


Pandemic 'Requires A Global Response,' Says King Salman

The emergency video conference was chaired by Saudi Arabia's King Salman, who is also under pressure to end an oil price war with Moscow that has roiled energy markets. King Salman urged G20 leaders to take "effective and coordinated" action to combat the global crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, and called on them to assist developing nations.

In opening remarks as G20 leaders began an emergency online summit, the king detailed the havoc the pandemic has wreaked on the global economy, financial markets, trade, and global supply chains. "We must have an effective and coordinated response to this pandemic and restore confidence in the global economy," he said.

“This human crisis requires a global response. The world counts on us to come together and cooperate in order to face this challenge.”
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman

As concerns mount for poorer countries without access to capital markets and adequate health facilities, the IMF and World Bank have urged G20 leaders to support its call for governments to put debt payments on hold.

"It is our responsibility to extend a helping hand to developing countries and least developed countries to enable them to build their capacities and improve their infrastructure to overcome this crisis and its repercussions," King Salman said, AFP reported.

Meanwhile, battling the coronavirus at home, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for an all-out global war against the pandemic and proposed tariff cuts and removal of trade barriers to prevent the global economy slipping into recession.

Speaking at the unprecedented virtual G20 Summit, Xi said the world needs to be resolute in fighting an all-out global war against coronavirus which has created an unprecedented health crisis. "This is a virus that respects no borders. The outbreak we are battling is our common enemy. All must work together to build a strongest global network of control and treatment that the world has ever seen," Xi said through videoconference.

UN chief Antonio Guterres warned that the world is not winning the war against the deadly novel Coronavirus and needs a war-time plan to fight it as the number of infected cases across the world grow exponentially every day.

No leader tried to define the timeline of the pandemic as its length could not be defined, and discussions were held on developing more effective and faster diagnostic kits and making them available quickly, ANI quoted sources as saying, adding that heads of International Monetary Fund (IMF), United Nations (UN), and World Health Organization (WHO) also spoke at the beginning of the summit. It was decided that G20 will come out with an action paper.

"We are strongly committed to presenting a united front against this common threat," the leaders said in a joint statement after the summit. "We are injecting over USD 5 trillion into the global economy, as part of targeted fiscal policy, economic measures, and guarantee schemes to counteract the social, economic and financial impacts of the pandemic."


'Unite Efforts Towards a Global Response'

"As the world confronts the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges to healthcare systems and the global economy, we convene this extraordinary G20 summit to unite efforts towards a global response," the king of Saudi Arabia, which currently holds the G20 presidency, had said on Twitter.

The meeting comes as the world's 20 most industrialised countries scramble to defend their virus-wracked economies amid forecasts they will likely plunge into recession this year.

On Wednesday, the financial ratings agency Moody’s estimated the G20’s overall gross domestic product would contract by 0.5 percent, with the US economy shrinking by 2 percent and the eurozone by 2.2 percent.

While wealthy nations including the US have unveiled mammoth stimulus packages, there has so far been no collective action plan from the G20, and concerns are mounting for poorer countries without access to capital markets and adequate health facilities. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged G20 nations to offer support to "low and middle income countries", including from Sub-Saharan Africa.


World Leaders at Loggerheads Amid Calls for Cooperation

This week, French President Emmanuel Macron and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping had pushed for an emergency G20 summit to limit the impact of the pandemic.

French presidential sources said the virtual meeting would focus on "coordination on the health level" as well as sending a "strong signal" to financial markets over efforts to stabilise the global economy.

With world leaders divided, the meeting stands in contrast to the G20 summits following the 2008 financial crisis, when the group swung into action to mobilise assistance for vulnerable countries.

“The G20 is missing in action today, unlike 2008.”
Ian Bremmer, president and founder, Eurasia Group

Talk of global coordination has yet to resonate under the isolationist US presidency of Trump. On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took aim at China, saying the top diplomats of the Group of Seven agreed with him that Beijing was waging a "disinformation" campaign about the pandemic.

At the G7 talks, a day before the G20 summit, Pompeo alleged Beijing was engaged in a social media campaign that included conspiracy theories that the US was behind the virus, first detected in the Chinese metropolis of Wuhan.


Need Unity and Confidence

"If G20 leaders can put politics aside and reach a collective G20 agreement, countries have a better chance of success or of delivering more stimulus than on their own," Markus Engels, from the Global Solutions Initiative, told AFP. "Coordination among the G20 sends a strong message of unity and confidence, both of which are urgently needed now."

Crude oil prices – hammered by the outbreak's impact on demand as well as by a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia – are also expected to be at the centre of the discussions.

Riyadh faces pressure from Washington to row back on its decision to hike production and offer the biggest price cuts in two decades, in retaliation for Russia’s refusal to tighten supply as the virus saps demand.

On Wednesday, Pompeo urged Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to "rise to the occasion" and "reassure global energy and financial markets". The G20 members will be joined by leaders from other affected countries including Spain, Jordan, Singapore and Switzerland, Riyadh said.

Leaders from international organisations such as the United Nations, World Bank, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) will also participate.


Putin Calls for Sanctions ‘Moratorium’

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday called for sanctions relief during the coronavirus pandemic, telling G20 leaders it was a matter "of life and death".

The leader did not specify which countries should be earmarked for sanctions relief, speaking instead more broadly.

“Ideally we should introduce a... joint moratorium on restrictions on essential goods as well as on financial transactions for their purchase,” Putin said at a virtual meeting of G20 leaders on Thursday.

"I am talking about the countries that are suffering the most from this pandemic. At the end of the day, it's a question of life and death, this is a purely humanitarian issue."

"These matters should be freed of any politics," Putin added.

Russia has been chafing under numerous rounds of Western sanctions following the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its role in the Ukraine crisis. It is also an ally of a number other countries sanctioned by the West, namely Iran and North Korea.

The Kremlin chief said it was important to establish "green corridors free of trade wars and sanctions" that would ensure supplies of medication, food, equipment and technology.

Putin also predicted the current crisis would be tougher than the financial crisis of 2008-2009 and trade conflicts and sanctions would only exacerbate it.

(With PTI and ANI inputs.)

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