COVID-19: Obasanjo, Gordon Brown, others mobilising $600bn against pandemic

Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo and about 165 global leaders, including  former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown, are mobilising about $600 billion from the International Monetary Fund, IMF, to support developing countries in the fight against coronavirus.

The former leaders, made the call in a letter signed by 92 former Presidents and Prime Ministers, along with current economic and health leaders, also called for a concerted global response to the pandemic, led by the G-20 countries.

The former leaders called for the creation of a G-20 executive task force and a global pledging conference which would approve and co-ordinate a multi-billion dollar anti-coronavirus fund.

The leaders called for a global action to raise $8billion emergency global health fund to prevent a second wave of coronavirus; coordinated fiscal stimuli, including a resolution by the multilateral finance organizations to waive the debt interest payments for the poorest countries, including $44billion due this year from Africa, to avoid a recession becoming a depression.

They said about $35 billion was needed for ventilators, test kits and protective equipment for health workers.

The leaders want about $150 billion to be provided for preventing a second wave of the disease in countries that are now struggling to come out of the first wave of the disease.

They said:  “All health systems – even the most sophisticated and best-funded are buckling under the pressures of the deadly virus.

“The economic emergency will not be resolved until the health emergency is addressed: the health emergency will not end simply by conquering the disease in one country alone but by ensuring recovery from COVID-19 in all countries,” the statement says.

“World leaders must immediately agree to commit $8 billion – as set out by the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board – to fill the most urgent gaps in the COVID-19 response. This includes $1billion this year for WHO, $3 billion for vaccines and $2.25 billion for therapeutics.

“Instead of each country or state or province within it, competing for a share of the existing capacity, with the risk of rapidly-increasing prices, we should also be vastly increasing capacity by supporting the WHO in coordinating the global production and procurement of medical supplies, such as testing kits, personal protection equipment, and ITU technology to meet fully the worldwide demand. We will also need to stockpile and distribute essential equipment.

“$35 billion will be required, as highlighted by WHO, to support countries with weaker health systems and especially vulnerable populations, including the provision of vital medical supplies, surge support to the national health workforce (70 per cent of whom in many countries are underpaid women) and strengthening national resilience and preparedness.

“According to WHO, almost 30 per cent of countries have no COVID-19 national preparedness response plans and only half have a national infection prevention and control programmes.

“Health systems in lower-income countries will struggle to cope; even the most optimistic estimates from Imperial College London suggest there will be 900,000 deaths in Asia and 300,000 in Africa.

“We propose convening a global pledging conference – its purpose supported by a G20 Executive Task Force – to commit resources to meet these emergency global health needs.” They also warn that without rapid support, about 1.2 million COVID-19 deaths would be possible in Africa and Asia’s poorest countries amid danger of igniting a second round of disease in the rest of the world.”

On the Global Economic Outlook, the group proposed a range of measures to ensure stability on a global scale.

“A global economic problem requires a global economic response. Our aim should be to prevent a liquidity crisis turning into a solvency crisis, and a global recession becoming a global depression.

“To ensure this, better coordinated fiscal, monetary, central bank, and anti-protectionist initiatives are needed. The ambitious fiscal stimuli of some countries will be all-the-more effective if more strongly complemented by all countries in a position to do so.

“The long term solution is a radical rethink of global public health and a refashioning – together with proper resourcing – of the entwined global health and financial architecture.

“The UN, the G20 and interested partners should work together to coordinate further action,” the group said.

The letter signed by 92 former Presidents and Prime Ministers, along with current economic and health leaders in the developed and developing world, demanded the mobilisation of vaccines, cure, test kits, ventilators and protective equipment for health workers.

The signatories include Mo Ibrahim, Founder of Celtel; Chairman of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation and former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo (1999-2007); former Liberian President, Ellen Sirleaf (2006-2018) and her Ghanaian counterpart, John Kufuor (2001-2009)

Others include the former Education & Culture Minister of Mozambique, Graça Machel (1975-1986) and former Nigerian Finance Minister and World Bank Vice President, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who is also the Board Chair of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation.

The letter was also signed by the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed; President of Sierra Leone, Julius Bio, and the Finance Minister of Ghana and Chair of the World Bank Development Committee, Ken Ofori-Atta.

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