ISLAMABAD: Speakers at a webinar on Monday emphasised for a unified global efforts to implement Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Global Initiative on Debt Relief to developing countries following slowdown of the economy due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) organised the webinar, ‘Providing Debt Relief; Time for solidarity,’ to discuss Prime Minister Imran khan’s global initiative on debt relief, according to a press release.
ISSI Director Research Najam Rafique said that in a battle to overcome the pandemic, the developing world had to contend with current account and fiscal deficits, faltering service and production industries, failing businesses, and laboring national budgets.
With falling exports and remittances, balancing their budget will be an uphill task for many developing countries, he said and added that under these circumstances, it was important that there should be a unified global effort to implement Prime Minister Imran Khan’s global initiatives on debt relief to developing countries.
In his introductory remarks, ISSI Director General Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry stated that debt overload was a global phenomenon and the developing countries were gravely affected by this more than others. He said the present state of the world may be heading towards a depression, similar to that of the 1920’s, and therefore, it is time for solidarity and that all stakeholders must come together to defeat this challenge and reach common solutions. He pointed out that the GDP is shrinking, exports are going down and we are heading towards a very challenging situation.
Farrukh Iqbal Khan articulated that Prime Minister Imran Khan has called for global debt relief and was continuously engaging with the world community in this regard. He said that sustainability was the need of the hour in order to move ahead. He was of the opinion that it would be best to pursue debt suspension rather than debt relief since it would not be possible for the international financial institutions to completely write off debts.
Sharing his observations on the subject, Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri stated that the pandemic which was going to lead to negative GDP growth was likely to affect Pakistan’s economy in dire ways and the recent locust attacks were also very likely to further exacerbate the situation.
The ongoing pandemic is posing grave challenges for Pakistan and the lockdown has shut many businesses and affected the informal economy as well, he said and added the closure of economic activity poses several challenges, especially in the shape of growing unemployment.
Humayun Akhtar Khan, while giving his perspective stated that Prime Minister Imran Khan had been the first one to call out for debt relief. He said that the dilemma was that addressing health crises weakens the economy as saving lives requires a strict lockdown.
He said the economy was already in a slowdown and when this pandemic emerged, the government was already struggling to bring about some economic stability via IMF programs. He further said that the country has long been facing an endemic problem of public debt and it has further worsened with the COVID-19, along with a fall in GDP as estimated by the government.
Dr. Iftikhar Husnain shared his views regarding the current economic challenges in the context of debt relief. He emphasized on the need for long-term solutions to the current problems as the pandemic was likely to continue and that the challenging question of the tradeoff between saving lives or the economy continues to be a serious challenge leading to socio-economic problems.
Dr. Salman Shah, in his keynote address drew attention to the fact that the pandemic had created an extraordinary situation never witnessed before. He said that unfortunately, this was a global economic meltdown and all services were affected by it in severity. Moreover, he said that the government has to focus on economic development and on creating employment generation along with the required social security nets.