Recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic must be sustainable and inclusive, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in remarks to a major UN trade conference which opened on Monday in Barbados, unveiling “an urgent four-point debt crisis action plan.”

Warning that uneven recovery is leaving much of the world behind, Mr. Guterres urged greater support for vulnerable nations as they tackle the challenges of debt distress, lack of investment, unfair trade and the climate emergency.

While highlighting the urgent need for vaccine equity now, it is but “the first step in a much longer race”, he said, as the pandemic is putting decades of development progress at risk.

“We need to turn this around with a bold, sustainable and inclusive global recovery,” Antonio Guterres told the latest ministerial conference of the UN trade and development agencyUNCTAD.

“One that benefits the many, rather than the few.

One that delivers hope to people, and healing to our planet. 

And one that levels the playing field for all countries as they support their people during this extraordinary moment in history.”

Countries cannot build back from the pandemic if they are held down by debt, which the UN chief described as “a dagger through the heart of global recovery”.

While welcoming the recent issuance of $650 billion in Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), a type of foreign reserve asset created by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), he appealed for “a quantum leap in support.”

Action against debt

His four-point debt action plan calls for re-allocating unused SDRs to vulnerable countries, including middle-income nations, and for the G20 wealthy economies to extend their debt suspension initiative, established in May 2020, through next year.  

The UN Secretary-General also reiterated his call to reform “the international debt architecture”, particularly for middle-income countries, to examine innovative measures such as debt swaps, buybacks and exchanges.

Fourth and finallywe need private finance to help fill the gap,” he said. 

It is deeply unfair that rich countries can borrow cheaply and spend their way to recovery, while low and middle-income countries struggle to keep their economies afloat”, according UN News.

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