Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Finance Mohammed al-Jadaan called for countries around the world to join together to fight the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The economic fallout caused by COVID-19 has thrown the world into likely its greatest recession for nearly a century, with authorities around the world shutting down normal economic functions earlier this year as lockdown measures were put in place to prevent the spread of the deadly virus. Over one million people globally have lost their lives to the virus.
“This pandemic knows no borders and has caused tragic loss of life … It is therefore imperative that countries respond individually and collectively to support to safeguard people’s lives and livelihoods and support the global economy during and after this phase,” al-Jadaan said at a virtual IMF and G20 high-level forum held Wednesday.
In response to the pandemic, governments around the world have instituted giant economic and fiscal stimulus measures to combat the virus’s economic impact. The Group of 20 nations, under Saudi Arabia’s presidency in 2020, have also committed billions of dollars to fight the pandemic and canceled debt for the world’s poorest nations.
“The G20 finance ministers and central bank governors endorse the G20 action plan commitments which include launching the debt service suspension initiative for the benefit of the poorest countries to avail them of better liquidity resources. To date the total benefited amount to Arab countries is around $500 million,” al-Jadaan explained.
“The COVID-19 pandemic disproportionate effect on vulnerable groups has reinforced the need to enhance access to opportunity for all, including in the Arab region,” the minister added.
Following on from al-Jadaan’s introduction to the event, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva noted the role Saudi Arabia has played in global leadership throughout the coronavirus crisis.
“I want to most sincerely you, Minister al-Jadaan, for the incredible leadership you, the Saudi presidency, has offered during this very troubled time. We have seen phenomenal action to counter this crisis, and only because of this there is a floor under the world economy,” she said.
Georgieva went on to use an Arabic proverb, “Do not delay the work of today for tomorrow,” to describe her strategy for fighting the pandemic and protecting the world’s most vulnerable.
She focused on health, education, and social safety nets; employment of young people and women; and closing digital divides and embracing technology as three areas to improve economic prospects.
On her second point, Georgieva noted the progress that Saudi Arabia has made.
“I want to zero [in] on the progress Saudi Arabia has made. Just before the pandemic hit we were in Riyadh, and I had this chance to meet with this incredibly exciting and dynamic group of women, and they talked about the transformation that has happened rapidly in their lives in the lives of many women in Saudi Arabia,” she said.
In particular, Georgieva noted, “Introducing workplace antidiscrimination legislation, banning pay discrimination based on gender, age and other irrelevant factors. Smart enforcement of measures that are already coming to help in this very difficult time.”