A global alliance of parliamentarians from 34 countries have united to call on world leaders meeting at the G7 summit to back a three-point plan to ensue that the Covid health crisis does not trigger a “pandemic of poverty”.
Commenting on a joint letter coordinated by the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, Labour’s Liam Byrne declared that “after the agony of loss and sacrifice, we cannot and will not allow the reward to be a new era of extreme poverty”.
“This crisis is far from over,” he argued. “Members of parliament around the world are on the frontline of the crisis and most expect things to get worse before they get better. What’s needed now is ambition to meet the moment.
“No-one will believe warm words about building back better unless we see a concert of action to deliver vaccines, build up health services, protect children’s education and kick-start small and medium sized businesses getting back on their feet and creating jobs.”
The three-point proposals include a $50bn plan for global vaccination backed by grants and concessional financing with an increase in donated doses, cooperation on free trade of raw materials and finished vaccines, additional vaccine production capacity of at least one billion doses, as well as intellectual property waivers.
It calls for the issue of $650bn of IMF ‘special drawing rights’, which are interest-bearing reserve assets created to supplement other reserve assets of member countries, and a reallocation of existing SDRs from richer to poorer countries.
Finally the letter, also signed by Labour MPs Feryal Clark and Taiwo Owatemi, urges leader to agree an expansion of grant support for poorer countries with replenishment of funds for grants, business development and infrastructure loans.
“In a global pandemic, we know that none of us are safe until everyone is safe. Crucially, there is now no trade off between health policy and economic policy,” the international alliance of parliamentarians wrote.
“We have battled day in, day out to protect the people we serve. We have watched in horror as lives were lost in our communities, and livelihoods destroyed. There is a global consensus that we must now build back better.
“But that requires an action plan to take us from the pandemic to the goals of the Paris Agreement in which no-one is left behind. So, we ask you to act to stop a pandemic of disease triggering a pandemic of poverty.”
According to IMF analysis, low-income countries need around $200bn to step up the response to the pandemic and build external buffers between now and 2025, as well as $250bn to resume and accelerate income convergence with richer countries.
Citizens of 33 developing countries are predicted, on average, to still be poorer in five years time than they were in 2019 and the debt stock of 120 low- and middle-income countries rose by an estimated by $220bn over the course 2020.
The call from the parliamentarians comes amid growing concern over vaccine distribution disparity. One in four individuals in high-income countries have received a jab, while just one in more than 500 have in low-income countries.
UK ministers have promised to donate 100m surplus Covid vaccine jabs over the next year as part of the package being negotiated by G7 leaders to provide 1bn doses to low-income countries, but the plan has been criticised as insufficient.
Campaign groups have argued the plan does not address the structural problems preventing those countries from securing a regular supply and highlighted that 11 billion vaccines are needed.
Gordon Brown has contrasted the “soaring Churchillian rhetoric” deployed by Boris Johnson in making the commitment last week to vaccinate the entire world by the end of 2022 with what he described as the absence of a plan to achieve the goal.
In anticipation of talks kicking-off this morning, Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy hailed the 100 million vaccines donation announcement as a “welcome start“, but stressed that leaders must reach an agreement on ramping up capacity.
Johnson has rejected criticism, saying: “The people of this country should be very proud that of the 1.5 billion doses that are being distributed around the world to the poorest and neediest in the world under the Covax programme, one in three come from the Oxford/AstraZeneca deal that the UK did, allowing those vaccines to be distributed at cost.
“And that’s before we’ve talked about the £548m that we’ve contributed to Covax, £1.6bn to Gavi. And, yes, we’re putting in 5 million doses by September, but we’ll do another, we’ll do 100 million before 12 months is out.”
Below is the full text of the letter.
Dear Mr Johnson,
As members of the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, we write to urge you as the leaders of the G7 to agree a radical action plan with the IMF and World Bank to stop the Covid pandemic now triggering a deep and dangerous pandemic of poverty.
Crucially, we believe it is vital you agree three key steps:
- Immediate action to accelerate world-wide Covid-19 vaccinations;
2. Immediate action to agree both a fresh allocation of $650 billion in IMF Special Drawing Rights and a radical redistribution of surplus SDR’s from richer to poor countries; and
3. Immediate action to agree an expansion of grant support for poorer countries along with urgent agreement on IDA20 replenishment.
The global community has moved quickly to tackle the catastrophe of Covid. However:
- 1. By the so-called “first anniversary,” on 15 December 2020, 1.64 million people were believed to have died due to Covid;
- In the economic shock that has ensued the numbers living in extreme poverty has risen for the first time this century and the pandemic has cost the world’s poorest over 120 million additional years spent in poverty;
- The IMF believes the citizens of 33 developing countries will, on average, still be poorer in five years time than they were in 2019;
- The World Bank estimates the external debt stock of 120 low- and middle-income countries has now risen to $8.4tn at end-2020, a rise of $220 billion during the course 2020; and
- While one in four citizens of high income countries have received a Covid-19 vaccine, only one in more than 500 citizens in Low Income Countries have been given the same protection.
Bluntly, this crisis is far from over. We believe therefore it is vital that G7 leaders now agree with the leadership of the IMF and the World Bank, a three-step plan.
1. Vaccinate the world – faster.
In a global pandemic we know that none of us are safe until everyone is safe. Crucially, there is now no trade off between health policy and economic policy.
- Today, WHO and its COVAX partners aim to vaccinate 30% of the world’s population this year. With additional agreements and investments this could be doubled by the first half of 2022. But this demands upfront financing, upfront vaccine donations, and upfront precautionary investments and planning. The World Bank’s $12bn vaccine program is highly welcome. But, IDA countries should not have to go deeper into debt to purchase vaccines.
- The IMF estimates this will require grants and concessional financing of around $50bn, a huge surge in donated doses, cooperation on free trade of raw materials and finished vaccines, additional vaccine production capacity of at least one billion doses – and crucially, a grand bargain on intellectual property.
- Alongside this, we must boost testing and tracing, oxygen supplies, therapeutic and public health measures delivered through existing infrastructure such as systems supported by WHO, UNICEF, the World Bank and Gavi.
2. Immediate action to agree an issue of new, and reallocation of existing IMF special drawing rights structured to help maximise debt cancellation and minimise conditionality.
- The Managing Director confirmed in March 2021 that the IMF was exploring a fresh allocation of $650bn in SDR’s, along with ‘options for members with strong financial positions to reallocate SDRs to support vulnerable and low-income countries.’ It is vital this is now agreed.
- If the new $650bn allocation is shared on similar lines to 2009, $260bn in SDR’s could be offered to emerging markets and developing countries, of which $45bn might go to low-income countries.
- It is vital initiative is structured in a way which boosts debt-free financing for the world’s poorest countries and that re-allocation supports bilateral and multilateral debt cancellation, minimises conditionality, and is additional to the contribution governments are already prepared to make.
- Where richer nations decide to donate unused SDR’s to the Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust (PRGT), leaders should explore improving concessions by extending repayment terms.
3. We need immediate action to agree an expansion of grant support for poorer countries along with urgent agreement on IDA20 replenishment.
- The World Bank’s work to frontload resources from IDA19 to respond to the crisis was very welcome. This means replenishment is now needed.
- A robust policy package must now be agreed for IDA20 aimed at supporting an end to this pandemic as quickly as possible and propelling IDA countries forward into a stable, more equal, and climate-just recovery.
- In particular, it is vital that donors and the Bank create a mechanism to allow all IDA countries to access debt-free financing for vaccine-related programmes, enhance accountability and transparency around vaccine purchasing and rollouts, build more resilient public health systems which support universal health coverage and support countries in making robust investments in public, universal, quality and free education during the pandemic and the recovery period.
- This must sit alongside clear and ambitious targets for supporting IDA countries developing and implementing their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to cut carbon emissions, increase investments in renewable energy and green jobs, and expand access to affordable and sustainable energy.
As parliamentarians, we have battled day in, day out to protect the people we serve. We have watched in horror as lives were lost in our communities, and livelihoods destroyed. There is a global consensus that we must now build back better. But that requires an action plan to take us from the pandemic to the goals of the Paris agreement in which no-one is left behind.
So we ask you to act to stop a pandemic of disease triggering a pandemic of poverty.
Rt Hon Liam Byrne MP, Chair, Parliamentary Network on the World Bank and IMF, along with:
Hon. Anastas Angjeli MP, Albania, Chair of the Economy and Finance Committee
Hon. Senida Mesi MP, Albania
Pr. Ammar Moussi, Algeria, Honorary Member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean
Senator Hafida Benchehida, Algeria, Founding Member of the Arab Women Parliamentarian for Parity and Equality
Hon. Petra Bayr MP, Austria
Hon. Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir MP, Bangladesh, Board Member of the Parliamentary Network
Hon. Gwenaelle Grovonius MP, Belgium
Hon. Choining Dorji MP, Bhutan, Member of the National Council
Mr. Alphone Nombre, Burkina Faso, Former President of the CDP Parliamentary Group
Hon. Dissan Gnoumou MP, Burkina Faso
Hon. Fadil Aliyoum MP, Cameroon, Deputy Secretary at the Bureau of the National Assembly
Hon. Mbutoh Njingum Musa MP, Cameroon, Questor
Hon. Pauline Ndoumou MP, Cameroon, Questor
Hon. Amanda Simard MPP, Canada, Member of Provincial Parliament of Ontario
Senator Don Davis, Canada
Hon. Ziad Aboultaif MP, Canada
Hon. Djidengar Ndjendi Bassa MP, Chad
Hon. Issa Mardo Djabir MP, Chad, Chair of the Committee on the Sustainable Development Goals
Hon. Karim Darwish MP, Egypt, Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee
Hon. Merja Kyllönen MEP, Finland
Hon. Hervé Berville MP, France
Senator Joëlle Garriaud-Maylam, France, Senator for French Citizens Abroad
Senator Ammar Patnaik, India
Hon. Jayant Sinha MP, India, Chair of the Standing Committee on Finance
Hon. Claudio Borghi MP, Italy, Member of the Budget, Treasury, and Planning Committee
Hon. Laura Boldrini MP, Italy, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee
Hon. Marlene Malahoo Forte MP, Jamaica, Attorney General
Hon. Jeta Statovci MP, Kosovo, Vice-chair of the Committee on Economy, Employment, Trade, Industry, Entrepreneurship and Strategic Investments
Hon. Fadi Alame MP, Lebanon
Hon. Willet Karonga MP, Malawi
Hon. Datuk Seri Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin MP, Malaysia, Board Member of the Parliamentary Network
Hon. Ibtissame Azzaoui MP, Morocco
Hon. Dharma Raj Regmi MP, Nepal
Hon. Arsalan Taj Ghumman MP, Pakistan, Member Provincial Assembly of Sindh
Hon. Syed Naveed Qamar MP, Pakistan
Senator Grzegorz Bierecki, Poland
Hon. Filipe Neto Brandão MP, Portugal, Chair of the Budget and Finance Committee
Hon. Pedro Roque Portugal MP, Vice-President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean
Hon. Ricado Baptista Leite MP, Portugal, Vice-Chair of the Parliamentary Network
Hon. Ibrahim Tawa Conteh MP, Sierra Leone
Hon. Dr. Elmi Nur MP, Somalia, Chair of the Planning and Finance Sub-Committee
Hon. Cedric Thomas Frolick MP, South Africa, Chairperson of the Steering Committee on Climate Change
Hon. Hawa A. Ghasia MP, Tanzania
Hon. Anthony Aakol MP, Uganda
Hon. Feryal Clark MP, United Kingdom
Hon. Lisa Cameron MP, United Kingdom
Lord Bruce of Bennachie MP, United Kingdom, Member of the House of Lords
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey, United Kingdom, Member of the House of Lords
Baroness Sheehan, Peer, United Kingdom, Member of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee
Hon. Neale Hanvey MP, United Kingdom, Member of the Health and Social Care Committee
Hon. Patrick Grady MP, United Kingdom
Hon. Philippa Whitford MP, United Kingdom, Shadow SNP Spokesperson of the Health and Social Care Committee
Hon. Taiwo Owatemi MP, United Kingdom, Member of the Health and Social Care Committee
The Rt Hon. The Lord Triesman, United Kingdom, Member of the House of Lords
Hon. Betty McCollum MP, United States of America, Congresswoman, Minnesota’s 4rth District
Ms. Nguyen Tuong Van, Vietnam, Secretary General, ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly
Hon. Ruth Labode MP, Zimbabwe, Chair of the Health Committee
Hon. Willias Madzimure MP, Zimbabwe, Second Deputy Speaker