Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has favoured “strong augmentation” of the functioning of the World Health Organisation (WHO) for greater assistance to lower and middleincome countries.
She was speaking at the two-day G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors’ meeting virtually on February 16. The meeting was held under the presidency of Indonesia. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, World Bank Group President David Malpass and Singapore Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam were among the participants.
Sitharaman urged the global community to be better prepared to deal with crises like the Covid-19 pandemic and highlighted the importance of multilateral organisations. “Increased funding would be needed from multilateral development banks.
Resilient and Sustainability Trust (RST) being created by the IMF must keep pandemic preparedness in mind. Therefore, the principle being agreed upon investment, looking at addressing fairness, and also financing modalities being well established so that they have inclusivity, transparency and equity in mind,” she said.
Making a case for finance for global public goods, Sitharaman said low and middle-income countries face a resource crunch, having to strive even for such elementary requirements as syringes and personal protective equipment (PPE) kits. The world community should urgently respond to the needs of poor nations at the time of a pandemic such as Covid-19 or in coping with the climate crisis, she added.
“So, we need to have a preparedness, which is transparently managed, which is multilaterally supported… because eventually all these have to come through multilateral institutions. WHO’s centrality is not being undermined at all. But WHO’s own ways of doing things, and also organising capabilities, need strong augmentation…,” she said.
Sitharaman called for an “expeditious and equitable” distribution of vaccines to facilitate global economic recovery.
There is a hint of India’s unease in “WHO’s own ways of doing things,” for the body, especially Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has come under a cloud of suspicion regarding its dealings with China. It is a well-known fact that Tedros, who owes his appointment as WHO chief to Beijing, delayed the critical announcement that Covid-19 can be transmitted human-to-human.
An independent body set up by the WHO itself in May 2021 slammed both the multilateral health agency as well as global governments for their poor response to the Codid-19 pandemic.
“For the panel it is clear that the combination of poor strategic choices, unwillingness to tackle inequalities, and an uncoordinated system created a toxic cocktail which allowed the pandemic to turn into a catastrophic human crisis,” the report said.
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