Extraordinary Virtual G20 Summit: President Putin lays out plan to fight COVID crisis

Planned by Saudi Arabia, the current chair of the G20 group, ‘Extraordinary Virtual G20 Leaders’ Summit’ focusing on corona virus pandemic was conducted through video conference on March 26, 2020. All the invited world leaders of the group discussed the challenges posed by global pandemic Novel Corona virus, also called COVID-19. All the leaders also pledged to come up with a coordinated response. This was for the first time that the group of major 20 economies in the world convened virtually to discuss a global crisis.

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that the COVID-19 pandemic will result in “greater shocks than the financial crisis of 2008–2009”. Speaking to G20 world leaders, Putin said, “It appears to me that the current problems caused by the new corona virus pandemic will result in far greater shocks than the financial crisis of 2008–2009”, adding that the trade conflicts and business sanctions between the nations were the only going “worsen” the economic recession.

Referring to the job loss and unemployment the world suffered during the 2009 economic meltdown, Putin said that Russia believes that the unemployment dynamics would also be a crucial factor for the present crisis. “From our point of view, the key risk lies in long-term unemployment which, regardless of the future scenario, will peak much higher than in 2009. Unemployment dynamics will also serve as a key efficiency indicator for our anti-crisis measures,” he said.

Pointing out the ill effects of “every-man-for-himself approach”, the President said that no one can afford to act in solace during this time.  “The current crisis will inevitably take its toll on global development, and for the long term. Therefore, certainly, we cannot afford to act with an every-man-for-himself approach,” he said. Putin said healthcare was the top-most-priority of the hour.

Putin emphasised that it was vital for all the member nations to regularly exchange any “credible information” on the pandemic with each other. He further said, “It was also brought up that it is necessary to provide aid to the African countries. I believe that overall today, the World Health Organisation should channel its efforts to detecting hidden corona virus epidemics in countries that are not able to organise testing. Also, joint research by our countries could significantly expedite the development of vaccines and medications.”

Speaking on Russia’s preparation and action plan, Putin said that the Russian government has allocated 1.2 per cent of its GDP to fight this virus. “Russia’s Central Bank is providing approximately the same amount of support. But all of us, the Group of 20, need a common action plan to stabilise the situation, support our economies and restore trust across global markets,” he added. Stating that the national budgets should help in increasing the global demand, Putin asked the world leaders to take into account that owing to the high volatility of global markets a lot of countries were left with very limited borrowing options. “It is extremely important now to ensure access to financing for countries that are suffering from resource shortages.”

President Putin suggested the member nations create a special fund under the auspices of the IMF, financed primarily by the central banks that issue currencies included in the IMF basket, and then granting the right to any IMF member to borrow money from this fund in proportion to his share in the world economy at a zero rate for the long term.

Pointing out the need to develop an efficient supply chain for the delivery of essential products during the crisis, Putin said it was important to create “green corridors” for the movement of the products during the pandemic. He said that these green corridors should be “free from trade wars and sanctions, for the mutual supply of medicines, food, equipment and technology”.

The leader also called for the sanctions relief during the corona virus pandemic. “Ideally, we should impose a moratorium, a joint moratorium on restrictions on essentials, as well as on financial transactions for their procurement,” he said. Stating further, President Putin said that the joint moratorium should first be applied to the countries that are suffering the most from this corona virus pandemic. “In the end, this is a question of life and death of people; it is a purely humanitarian issue. We need to cleanse these issues from all kinds of the political husk,” he said.

Keeping the G20’s traditional cooperation between the ministries of finance, the central banks and Sherpas, we could strengthen our cooperation at the economic adviser level during this crisis. They have direct access to state leaders and can make decisions urgently, informally and quickly, Putin told the world leaders.

Pointing out the inability of the international organisations to act quickly, President Putin said such organizations lack mechanism and stability. He also called for the reorganisation of these institutions. “I would like to say a few words about global international organisations. Obviously, they lack mechanisms for automatic stabilisation in the event of a crisis. And so, it is necessary to efficiently and as quickly as possible, work through and resolve all the issues related to their reorganisation,” he said.

At the meeting, G20 Leaders agreed to take all necessary measures to contain the pandemic and protect people. They also supported the strengthening of the WHO’s mandate in the fight against pandemics, including the delivery of medical supplies, diagnostic tools, treatments, medicines and vaccines. Leaders also committed to using all available policy tools to minimize the economic and social cost of the pandemic and to restore global growth, market stability and strengthen resilience. G20 countries committed to injecting over USD 5 trillion into the global economy to counter the social and economic impact of COVID-19. Leaders also agreed to contribute to the WHO-led COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund voluntarily.

Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov and Representative of the President of the Russian Federation in the G20 (Russia’s G20 Sherpa) Svetlana Lukash, attended the virtual summit for Russia.

Leaders of the Group of 20 (G20) countries, representing 85 per cent of the global economy, met by videoconference on March 26 to discuss the international response to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic disruptions. This year’s G20 host, Saudi Arabia, issued a 20-paragraph communiqué on behalf of the group following the call. In it, leaders committed to doing “whatever it takes” to overcome the pandemic.

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