The upcoming summit of the G20 will be a "milestone", Saudi Arabia, the chair of the powerful economic bloc, said on Sunday amid mounting expectations of fiscal support, debt reductions and several other monetary measures by the grouping to help the global economy recover from the coronavirus-driven collapse.
Saudi Arabia's Ambassador to India Saud bin Mohammed Al Sati said the virtual summit on November 21-22 will largely focus on addressing the implications of the coronavirus pandemic, future health care plans and steps for reviving the global economy.
The G20 comprises the world's largest and fastest-growing economies and accounts for 85 per cent of the global GDP and two-thirds of its population. The summit of the grouping is taking place in the midst of the worst economic downturn the world is witnessing since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
In March, the G20 had announced that over $5 trillion would be injected into the global economy to offset the impact of the pandemic. "The upcoming meeting on November 21-22 is going to be a milestone. Members of the G20 are going to be meeting virtually for the second time, during this year," Al Sati told PTI in an interview.
There have been expectations that the G20 will unveil an economic stimulus programme as well as a framework for debt reductions for poor countries at the summit as the coronavirus pandemic threatens to leave long-lasting scars on the global economy. "Among other major agenda points, the summit will work towards addressing the implications of the pandemic, future health care plans and steps to be taken to revive the global economy," the envoy said.
On India's role in the grouping, Al Sati said Saudi Arabia values the knowledge and experience that India has brought to the G20 as well as its remarkable efforts in extending medical supplies to several countries across the globe to deal with the pandemic. "The economic relief package provided by India for its most prominent sectors is commendable. As the fifth-largest global economy and the largest economy in South Asia, the Indian economy has the impetus to recover from the impact of the ongoing pandemic," he said.
The envoy said Saudi Arabia has already engaged with a host of stakeholders including businesses and think tanks across the globe to come up with strong policy solutions for the G20 member nations and beyond to deal with the massive socio-economic disruptions caused by the pandemic.
The much-awaited summit is scheduled to be attended by US President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga, Rusian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron among others. "The global economy has faced unprecedented challenges due to the COVID 19 pandemic. From interruption in global supply chains to the uncovering vulnerabilities of the global health system, the pandemic brought a startling shock to the world," Al Sati said.
"In these testing times, under Saudi Arabia’s stewardship, the G20 has been able to guide economies and societies, especially the most vulnerable of all, to develop a stronger foundation to protect the health of the global citizens and support the global economy," he said.
The envoy said the Saudi presidency will build on the success of the G20 leaders' summit in March and on the outcomes of over 100 virtual working groups and ministerial meetings. "The focus remains on protecting lives and restoring growth by addressing vulnerabilities brought to light during the pandemic and by laying down stronger foundations for a better future," he said.
Saudi Arabia assumed the G20 Presidency on December 1, 2019 with an ambitious theme, namely 'realising opportunities of the 21st century for all'.
The three pillars of the theme include: empowering people, safeguarding the planet and shaping new frontiers. Al Sati said consensus building and effective and harmonised responses are going to be at the heart of all "landmark outcomes" of the G20 this year. "It is with these priorities that we are drawing a roadmap of resilience and inclusive progress, knowledge sharing and consensus building, economic resurgence and preparedness," he said.
Al Sati also quoted Saudi Arabia's Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih to say that the country's presidency has contributed about USD 11 trillion to protect the global economy with a clear commitment and determination to do "whatever is necessary" to overcome the coronavirus pandemic. "The decisions like suspending debt service payments for the world's poorest countries that would allow beneficiary countries to defer $14 billion in debt payments due and use these amounts instead for financing their health systems and social programmes are very crucial. This has benefitted around 43 countries till date," the envoy said.
He also mentioned G20 allocating $21 billion toward diagnostic and treatment tools, medicines and vaccines to combat the coronavirus. "The G20 has stressed that equitable and affordable access to vaccines for all is the key to overcoming the novel coronavirus pandemic and supporting global economic recovery. We acknowledge India's role as a major producer of vaccines and we appreciate the crucial role it plays in the efforts to make vaccines available and accessible," Al Sati said.
"We acknowledge India's remarkable efforts during the coronavirus pandemic to help several countries across the global battle with the pandemic," he said.
As an example of the growing cooperation between our two countries, Al Sati said India facilitated the travel of hundreds of healthcare professionals to Saudi Arabia to resume their work in Saudi health facilities. "Furthermore, India ensured access to Hydroxychloroquine and Paracetamol medicine on a commercial basis to many countries," he said.
The Saudi envoy said the G20 has taken a series of measures to deal with the pandemic including through coordination with the World Health Organisation (WHO), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB). "With the onset of this crisis, the need of the hour was to develop a stronger foundation to protect the health of the global citizens and support the global economy," he said.
"With this aim, the Saudi G20 Presidency, in coordination with member countries and international organisations, initiated a variety of harmonised responses," he added.