–PM says govt’s efforts to lift economy out of near-collapse would begin an unstoppable slide backward if outbreak gets serious
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday feared the new coronavirus will devastate the economies of developing nations and warned the international community to be prepared to write off the debts to developing nations if the same happens.
In an interview with The Associated Press, the prime minister expressed concerns over the devastating impact the virus may have on economies of “poorer countries”.
“My worry is poverty and hunger,” Imran said, adding: “The world community has to think of some sort of a debt write-off for countries like us, which are very vulnerable, at least that will help us in coping with (the coronavirus).”
Expressing fear of a possible economic fallout of COVID-19, Imran said that if a serious outbreak happens in the country, the government’s efforts to lift the economy out of near-collapse would begin an unstoppable slide backward.
“Exports would fall off, unemployment would soar and an onerous national debt would become an impossible burden,” the premier added.
The prime minister noted that Pakistan, being a developing economy, does not have the capability and resources to deal with the adverse effects of coronavirus.
“It’s not just Pakistan. I would imagine the same in India, in the subcontinent, in African countries,” he said, referring to the virus. “If it spreads, we will all have problems with our health facilities. We just don’t have that capability. We just don’t have the resources.”
Prime Minister @ImranKhanPTI expresses his concern over poverty and hunger as a consequence of the Corona Pandemic. Moreover, he urges the world community to think of some sort of debt-off for vulnerable countries.pic.twitter.com/FG6ZDT5h99
— Prime Minister’s Office, Pakistan (@PakPMO) March 17, 2020
IMRAN TERMS GHANI’S COMMENTS ‘DISAPPOINTING’:
Prime Minister Imran also criticised recent comments by the president of neighboring Afghanistan, which appeared to reference allegations that Pakistan used militants to further its own goals in years past.
Imran called Ghani’s comments “disappointing,” and said that since taking office, he’s worked hard with the US to help cobble together a peace deal in Afghanistan.
“If anything, it should have been an appreciation of the way Pakistan has gone about furthering the peace process,” he said.
“Pakistan is now a partner in peace for the US, which I always thought Pakistan should have been. Pakistan should never have been used as a sort of hired gun, which is the role which Pakistan was playing,” he explained.
Prime Minister Imran said he has always opposed his country’s participation in the “war on terror,” calling it a waste of Pakistani lives and money.
HINDU NATIONALISM IN INDIA:
The premier said he’s also warned about violent strife on the other side of his eastern border, amid the rise of Hindu nationalism in India.
“The worst nightmare of the world has happened an extremist, a racial party that believes in racial superiority has taken over a country of more than one billion people and has nuclear weapons,” he said.
“That’s when I went to the United Nations” to warn of the danger posed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modis Hindu nationalist-led government, he said.
Citizenship law in India fast-tracks naturalisation for foreign-born religious minorities of all major faiths in South Asia, except Islam. There are about 280 million Muslims there.
Since the law’s passing, India has been wracked by some of the worst communal violence in decades. There is some evidence of police aiding Hindu extremist attacks against Muslim neighborhoods, setting fire to a mosque.
In a further call for action from the international community, Prime Minister Imran said it was time to end US sanctions on Iran, where one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the world has unfolded.
Iran has struggled to respond in part because of crippling sanctions imposed by the Trump administration.
The outbreak in Iran has also hit close to home. Most of Pakistan’s cases of the coronavirus and the COVID-19 illness it causes have been traced back to Iran, and all of the 21 Afghans who tested positive had traveled to Iran.
Prime Minister Imran said Iran is a “classic example” of a place where the humanitarian imperative to contain the outbreak outweighs political rivalries or economic dogmas.