Pakistan asks Germany, UK for debt relief

ISLAMABAD: Following up on his call for a ‘Global Initiative on Debt Relief’, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday held a telephonic conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

During the call, the prime minister emphasised that COVID-19 has unfolded an unprecedented global health and economic crisis, where developing countries will be hit harder due to lack of fiscal space and debt servicing. People in the developing world face a starker choice: death by COVID-19 or by hunger, he added.

He underscored that ability of the developing countries to cope with the COVID-19 challenge would depend on providing urgent debt relief, at their request, and without onerous conditions.

The premier hoped that alongside the United Nations Secretary General (UNGS) António Guterres, countries like Germany would provide leadership to this issue, in the forthcoming G-20 Finance Ministers’ Meeting as well as the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB).

Following up on their earlier conversation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to contain the outbreak, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had a telephonic conversation with the British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Dominic Raab.

The Foreign Minister felicitated him on improving health of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and wished him speedy recovery. He commended the able stewardship of the fight against the outbreak by the British secretary of state in the absence of the British PM.

Underscoring Pakistan’s solidarity and long-standing affiliation with United Kingdom and its people, the foreign minister offered heart-felt condolences over the loss of precious lives. He also lauded the role being played by the National Health Service (NHS) and healthcare professionals across the world who are risking their lives to look after the patients.

The two ministers discussed matters relating to repatriation of citizens in the wake of closure of airspace due to the pandemic emergency. The foreign minister informed his British counterpart that so far, the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has operated 23 flights repatriating more than 7,700 British nationals. The British secretary of state appreciated and thanked Pakistan for its support and further informed that the UK wanted to operate chartered flights to repatriate remaining British nationals from Pakistan. The foreign minister said that Pakistan was open to the idea and would facilitate the UK in this regard.

FM Qureshi also apprised the British secretary of state about PM Imran’s call for debt relief for poor countries. Alluding to reports by WB and IMF concerning an imminent economic recession of a graver nature than the Great Depression, the foreign minister underscored that without immediate, coordinated and comprehensive actions to create fiscal space, the developing world may have to contend with dire social, political and economic consequences. He expressed hope that the UK will support and advance this cause in earnest, particularly through the platform of G20. The British secretary of state assured FM Qureshi of UK’s understanding and support for the initiative.

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