UN urges governments to tackle recession, scrap debt payment

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More than 60 United Nations (U.N.) agencies and international organizations have urged governments to take immediate steps to address the unfolding global recession and financial crisis wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, especially in the world’s poorest countries.

Speakers seats under Emblem of the United Nations in the General Assembly, United Nations Building, New York City, New York

The U.N.-led Inter-Agency Task Force on Financing for Development said: “Billions of people live in countries teetering on the brink of economic collapse due to the explosive mix of financial shocks fuelled by the COVID-19 pandemic, heavy debt obligations and declining official development assistance.”

In response to the crisis, global financial markets have witnessed heavy losses and intense volatility over the last month, it said, and investors have moved around $90 billion out of emerging markets, the largest outflow ever recorded.

In a 207-page report, the task force said that before COVID-19, one in five countries, home to billions of people living in poverty, were likely to see incomes stagnate or decline in 2020, and the pandemic is now likely to affect billions more.

“The economic and financial shocks associated with COVID-19 — such as disruptions to industrial production, falling commodity prices, financial market volatility, and rising insecurity — are derailing the already tepid economic growth and compounding heightened risks from other factors,” the report said.

To prevent a debt crisis, task force members called for an immediate suspension of debt payments by the least developed countries and low-income countries that make requests.

The task force, which includes the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, also called for urgent action to re establish financial stability. It called for ensuring sufficient liquidity, strengthening the global financial safety net, promoting trade, increasing access to international financing, and expanding public health spending.

U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said in a video statement helping to launch the report that “COVID-19 is a first of its kind global development emergency, and all countries must rise to the challenge.”

She said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for a fiscal package in the magnitude of 10 percent of global GDP to help vulnerable and developing countries.

“That means, for example, the Japan stimulus of 20 percent of GDP and the U.S. stimulus of 13 percent of GDP,” she said, stressing that “a significant part of this package needs to focus on the same fiscal opportunities to the most vulnerable countries.”

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