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Nigeria’s candidate for the leadership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has called on multilateral institutions and developed countries to increase their support for low income countries, especially Africa, by providing more concessionary funding.
She also stressed the need for global collaborative efforts towards acquiring and distributing COVID-19 vaccines when they are ready.
She spoke yesterday on the sidelines of the ongoing IMF/World Bank Annual meetings, at the CNBC Debate titled: ‘The Outlook for the Global economy,’ where she featured alongside the IMF Managing Director, Ms. Kristalina Georgieva; President, European Central Bank, Ms. Christine Lagarde and the Finance Minister, Indonesia, Ms. Sri Mulyani Indrawati.
Okonjo-Iweala said: “These are the poorer countries, who don’t have the ability to have the kind of fiscal stimulus that you have seen in the developed countries or even in emerging markets like Indonesia.
“We have seen the rich countries put about $12 trillion in stimulus with more on the way with 10 to 20 per cent of Gross Domestic Product, whereas, in many poor countries, in the African continent for example, maybe an average of two per cent of GDP fiscal stimulus.
“And many of these countries do not have the fiscal space to stimulate their economies or even to be able to afford payments for vaccines and this is something I would like us to talk about because they don’t have the resources for households or corporates.
“We need to think about what that means because the world is very interconnected now and people in rich countries can stimulate their economies and come out of it by buying vaccines from as many sources and we would be fine because that is not true.”
According to her, the developed countries should rethink their approach to global development because as long as people in developing countries and poor nations are unsafe, nobody in the developed countries will be safe.
“We have got to think of how we are going to work with those poor countries be it on the health side.
“We are trying to raise $35 billion for the vaccines therapeutics and diagnostics and we have only been able to raise about $3 billion to $4 billion so far. This is a less than one per cent of the fiscal stimulus that has gone in so far in the rich countries,” she added.
Okonjo-Iweala commended the IMF, World Bank and other multilateral institutions for their prompt support for Africa, even as she stressed the need for more assistance for the region.
Responding to the state of global trade, she called for a return to a multilateral trading system.
“The WTO is the only organisation that has rules that underpin the multilateral trading system. And this is the system that most of the world belongs to.
“So, I think that the sooner we confront the challenges the organisation is facing and strengthen it, and strengthen the multilateral trading system so that we can have a predictable fair and level playing field in trade, the sooner everybody would be able to get back to that system instead of the kind of bilateral deals or difficulties that we see countries getting into now,” she stated.