Coronavirus: G20 leaders plan $5-trillion economy boost

Shubhajit Roy
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses other G20 leaders during a virtual summit, in New Delhi on Thursday. NSA Ajit Doval and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar were also present. (ANI)

Noting the “alarming social and economic costs” to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked G20 leaders to put “human beings”, and not “economic targets” at the centre of the global cooperation to fight the disease.

At the end of the two-and-a-half hour virtual G20 summit — which was not on a purely economic agenda — the leaders decided to inject “$5 trillion into the global economy”.

“We are injecting over $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,” a joint communique of the G20 leaders said. The leaders also agreed to contribute to the WHO-led COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund on a voluntary basis.

According to an Indian government source, the G20 summit did not include any reference to the origin of the crisis. This was in response to a possible face-off between US and Chinese leaders.

Modi, in his remarks, noted that 90 per cent of the COVID-19 cases and 88 per cent of deaths were in G20 countries, even as they share 80 per cent of the world GDP and 60 per cent of the world population. He called on the G20 to come out with a concrete action plan.

The PM underscored the need to “freely and openly share the benefits of medical research and development”, “develop adaptive, responsive and humane health care systems”, promote “new crisis management protocols and procedures for an interconnected global village”, strengthen and reform intergovernmental organisations like the WHO and work together to reduce economic hardships resulting from COVID-19, particularly for the economically weak, a statement by the Ministry of External Affairs said.

He also called on leaders to help usher in a new globalisation for the collective well-being of humankind and have multilateral fora focus on promoting the shared interests of humanity.

As per a source, Modi told G20 leaders that, in many senses, “globalisation had failed us”, the multilateral fora had become a platform to “balance competing individual interests, rather than the collective interests of all humankind”, whether it was “combating terrorism or climate change”.

“Thousands of precious lives have been lost to this crisis”, Modi is learnt to have told G20 leaders. And, even three months after the crisis, he said, “We are still looking, working, trying to find a coordinated response”.

Although the G20 summit shows the international community “can come together”, but “it has taken some time for it to respond to a crisis of this magnitude and damage”, the source recalled Modi telling the leaders.

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In this photo provided by South Korea Presidential Blue House via Yonhap News Agency, South Korean President Moon Jae-in attends G-20 virtual summit to discuss the coronavirus disease outbreak at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea. (South Korea Presidential Blue House/Yonhap via AP)

The summit was chaired by Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed that a “G20 health ministers’ meeting be convened as quickly as possible to improve information sharing, strengthen cooperation on drugs, vaccines and epidemic control, and cut off cross-border infections”. “G20 members need to jointly help developing countries with weak public health systems enhance preparedness and response. I propose a G20 COVID-19 assistance initiative for better information sharing and policy and action coordination with the support of the World Health Organisation,” he said.

He also said China will be more than ready to share its practices, conduct joint research and development of drugs and vaccines, and provide assistance where it can. “We need to make a collective response for control and treatment at the international level. This is a virus that respects no borders,” Xi said.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, participates in a teleconference with G20 leaders amid the coronavirus outbreak, in Istanbul, Thursday, March 26, 2020. (Turkish Presidency via AP, Pool)

“I want to call on all G20 members to take collective actions — cutting tariffs, removing barriers, and facilitating the unfettered flow of trade. Together, we can send a strong signal and restore confidence for global economic recovery. The G20 needs to draw up an action plan and promptly set up communication mechanisms and institutional arrangements for anti-epidemic macro-policy coordination,” the Chinese President said.

The G20 communique said, “We will continue to conduct bold and large-scale fiscal support. Collective G20 action will amplify its impact, ensure coherence, and harness synergies. The magnitude and scope of this response will get the global economy back on its feet and set a strong basis for the protection of jobs and the recovery of growth...”

In this photo released by Saudi Press Agency, SPA, Saudi King Salman, chairs a video call of world leaders from the Group of 20 and other international bodies and organizations, from his office in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Saudi Press Agency via AP)

Saudi King Salman said the impact of the pandemic has spread to reach the global economy, financial markets, trade, and global supply chains, hampering growth and development and reversing the gains accomplished in the previous years. On the trade front, the G20 must send a “strong signal” to restore confidence in the global economy by resuming, as soon as possible, the normal flow of goods and services, he said.

“The G20 has previously proven its effectiveness in mitigating the severity of the global financial crisis and its ability to overcome it. Today, through our cooperation, we are confident that we, together, will overcome this crisis, and move forward towards a future where all people thrive, prosper and are healthy,” he said.

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