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U.N.’s Guterres Backs Debt Relief for Developing Nations

by Staff Report

Jose Manuel Ribeiro—AFP

Global body chief’s spokesperson says P.M. Khan’s initiative is in ‘the same spirit’ as secretary-general’s position

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday came out in favor of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s call for a global provision of debt relief to developing nations, saying such a measure must be an “important part” of the response to the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world.

“The prime minister’s initiative is in the same spirit as the secretary-general’s own position,” the U.N. chief’s spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, said to a question during a virtual press conference. “Mr. Guterres believes that debt relief must be an important part of the response to COVID-19—including immediate waivers on interest payments for 2020,” he said, adding, “It’s important that the limited resources of the world’s poorest countries be used to combat the COVID-19 virus.”

The spokesperson said Guterres had always been public about his stance on the matter and had also conveyed his position privately to G20 nations.

Last week, Prime Minister Imran Khan had issued a video message urging global leaders and heads of financial institutions to provide debt relief to developing nations such as Pakistan to enable them to focus their fiscal resources toward combating the spread of COVID-19.

In his speech, Khan had highlighted the difficulties being faced by the developing world, particularly nations burdened by heavy debt. He said the biggest challenge for developing nations was ensuring their citizens did not die of hunger due to the economic impact of the lockdowns triggered by the disease.

The International Monetary Fund has already announced debt relief of six months for the 25 poorest member nations, including Afghanistan and Tajikistan. The G20 bloc has also decided on one-year debt relief for the world’s poorest nations.

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