ISLAMABAD                  -              Pakistan will get an immediate international debt relief in the next few days, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Thursday.

Speaking at a news conference here, the FM said the world had responded to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s call for debt relief. “Pakistan is expected to get debt relief from May 1. The G-20 countries, International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have decided to provide debt relief to the developing countries, about 70 countries including Pakistan will benefit from it. The relief will be for a period of one year,” he said.

PM Khan had been calling for debt relief by the world as the country fights the deadly coronavirus. Qureshi said Pakistan was expected to get major relief from the IMF. “Prime Minister Imran Khan had appealed to the world leaders and institutions to restructure loans of the developing countries to cope with the coronavirus challenge.” The FM said the economic relief will enable developing countries to divert their resources to the protection of lives of the people and make their health systems more effective to respond to the challenge.

“The Prime Minister’s call was endorsed by the UN Secretary General, the IMF and the G-20 countries,” he said.

Earlier, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had supported Prime Minister Imran Khan’s call for a Global Initiative for debt relief to developing countries, amid the coronavirus outbreak.

At a regular virtual news briefing in New York, the spokesperson of the UN Secretary General, Stephane Dujarric said Imran Khan’s initiative was in the same spirit as the Secretary General’s own position.

Qureshi said Pakistan could only manage an economic stimulus package of $8 billion despite efforts.

He said the developing world faced two more difficulties, of no fiscal space and a fragile health system.

“On one side, their revenue and exports are bad impacted, while on the other, there expenses are on increase as they need more hospitals, ventilators and other equipment,” he added.

However, Qureshi said the Prime Minister had told the world that the immediate response from the world could be a widespread debt relief, which would have its spin-off impact on the developed world too.

The FM said this was the Prime Minister’s forth global initiative during his two years term, including a drive against climate change, campaign against eliminating Islamophobia, action against corrupt and illicit financial flows, and the latest being the initiative for debt relief. To a question, the FM said the developing countries would get relief on both the principal and interest amounts.

Earlier, the relief was granted to the least developing countries, but after Pakistan’s initiative it was extended to 76 countries of the developing world, he maintained.

The FM said the global pandemic required a global consensus. Even Pakistan decided to take part in a video moot of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation health ministers hosted by India despite the fact that the latter always undermined the regional forum.

To a question, he said the federal government had convinced the provincial governments to reopen the airports in different cities to allow the return of stranded Pakistanis abroad. Pakistan also arranged chartered flights for the return of foreigners from Pakistan.

Qureshi urged US President Donald Trump to review his decision of suspending the American funding to the World Health Organization as it was the time to cooperate. He assured that the impact of the debt relief would surely be passed on to the masses. The FM said Pakistan was fighting coronavirus with determination and would defeat the pandemic.

Also, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said developing countries needed unconditional economic support to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

FM Qureshi held a meeting here with the Resident Representative of International Monetary Fund to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath.

While acknowledging the important role of the IMF, the Foreign Minister exchanged views with Resident Representative Daban on the measures being taken by Pakistan to contain the pathogen and address the associated socio-economic challenges.

Referring to the enormous challenges posed by COVID-19, the Foreign Minister highlighted Prime Minister Imran Khan’s appeal for a “Global Initiative on Debt Relief” for developing countries to give them the fiscal space to combat the disease, save precious lives, and shore up economies.

The Foreign Minister welcomed announcements by the G20, IMF, World Bank and others on debt service suspension initiative for debt stressed countries. He underscored that any initiative for supporting developing countries to combat COVID-19 ramifications should be inclusive and without onerous conditionalities.

 This meeting was in follow-up of the Prime Minister’s initiative and Pakistan’s efforts to bring together important stakeholders on a platform to promote coordinated health and economic response.

It was agreed to continue to closely engage on COVID-19 and on other matters of mutual interest.