In early April, leaders of developing countries, with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan at the forefront, launched an international appeal for debt relief. The appeal urged world leaders to help developing countries in dealing with the impact of COVID-19 through debt relief and restructuring. This diplomatic initiative was successful, as, on April 16, officials of G-20 countries, the World Bank and the IMF agreed to suspend repayments for poor and least developed countries for almost a year.

While this temporary suspension of debt is a good start and provides developing countries with some much-needed breathing space, there is still more to be done. The pandemic has taught us the importance of global cooperation – the virus infesting in just one country is a cause of concern for the whole world. Even with temporary debt suspension, many developing countries are facing unprecedented problems brought on by coronavirus. World leaders and international organisations have to do more so that developing countries can invest in containing the spread.

One good step would be to halt debt payments from private-sector creditors, including investment banks and sovereign funds, as well. Suspension of debt payments should last not just until the end of the year, but till the pandemic is over, so as to give developing countries space to implement a plan to get their economies on track. Since the virus has caused shortages even in developed countries, ease of trade restrictions to boost exports from developing countries to provide goods in shortage would also go a long way.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has identified these issues and called on the rich countries to do more for fragile economies than just suspending debt and has advocated building a ‘comprehensive plan’ for turning the crisis caused by COVID-19 into an opportunity for economic revival. It is hoped that he will follow up on his previous successful diplomatic initiative to empower developing countries in this time of need.