G20 ministers launch $1.4b fund to tackle next global pandemic

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Janet Yellen. File

G20 health and finance ministers launched a $1.4 billion fund on Sunday to tackle the next global pandemic ahead of the bloc’s leaders gathering for a summit on the Indonesian resort island of Bali but the host’s president said it was not enough.

The 24-nation fund is viewed as one of the early global outcomes of the summit next week where little progress is expected on the Ukraine crisis with Russian President Vladimir Putin not in attendance.

It was launched at a news conference on Sunday opened by Indonesian President Joko Widodo and addressed by World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and World Bank President David Malpass.

“The G20 agrees to build a pandemic fund to prevent and prepare for a pandemic. Donors from G20 and non-G20 members, as well as philanthropic organisations, have contributed to the funds. But it is not enough,” Widodo said in a video address.

He said $31 billion was required to tackle the next global pandemic.

“We must ensure community resilience in the face of a pandemic. A pandemic can no longer take lives and destroy the joints of the global economy.”

The United States has contributed $450 million to the fund, nearly a third of the total. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the joint fund was an example of what the G20 can do to tackle global problems.

“I am proud of what we have accomplished. I think the steps we have taken this year will help deliver on a vision of a healthier and more responsive global health architecture,” she said.

Indonesia was at one point an epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic when a wave of Delta strain cases hit the country in mid-2021.

Its health system was overwhelmed by the number of infections and Jakarta produced its own homegrown vaccine as lower income countries became frustrated at more developed nations hoarding inoculations for their citizens.

The fund’s major donors include the United States, Britain, India, China, France, Canada, Australia and Japan.

“We meet at a time of multiple crises… this new dedicated fund is an important tool that will support low and middle income countries to be better prepared for global health crises,” said Malpass, who urged more countries to commit to the fund.

“The pandemic fund can help make the world safer.”

Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati told a news conference on Saturday Saudi Arabia was expected to contribute to the fund, without specifying how much.

The UK government on Sunday warned of impending tax hikes, especially for the wealthy, as it bids to repair economic havoc wrought by Liz Truss’s short-lived tenure as prime minister.

Truss’s successor Rishi Sunak, who was heading to a G20 economic summit in Indonesia, has vowed to get soaring inflation under control even if it means more pain for hard-pressed consumers and businesses.

His finance minister, Jeremy Hunt, told Sky News that the pain would fall disproportionately on the better off when he unveils an emergency budget statement on Thursday.

“We’re all going to be paying a bit more tax, I’m afraid,” he said, while refusing to be drawn into detail on the plan, after a tax-cutting budget by Truss caused panic on financial markets.

Hunt conceded that the UK economy was already likely in recession after a contraction in the July-September quarter, “but we are a resilient country and we’ve faced much bigger challenges, frankly, in our history”.

“We will be asking everyone for sacrifices,” the chancellor of the exchequer stressed.

“But I think in a fair society, as we are in the UK, we need to recognise that there’s only so much you can ask from people on the very lowest incomes, so that will be reflected in the decisions that I take.”

Hunt is reportedly looking at changing income tax brackets, to raise more revenue from high earners, and impose strict curbs on government spending for years to come even as inflation hits double digits.

He is seeking up to £60 billion ($71 billion) in savings and extra revenue — half of which was left by a budget black hole bequeathed by Truss, according to the Resolution Foundation, a think tank.

“We do have to do some tax rises, do some spending cuts, if we’re going to show that we’re a country that pays our way,” Hunt said, insisting his policies would make any recession “shallower and quicker”.

Hunt said the surge in energy prices linked to the war in Ukraine amounted to an economic hit of £140 billion.

“It’s like the economy supporting an entire second NHS (National Health Service),” the chancellor said.

Asked if the NHS was on the brink of collapse after the Covid pandemic, Hunt acknowledged “massive pressures” in the service and “unbearable pressure” for doctors and nurses.

Agencies



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