Source: RDCY Published: 2020-6-12
Editor's note: Danilo Türk gave a speech at the Global Think Tanks Online Forum held in Beijing. Over 100 think tank experts and media representatives from 48 countries and nine international organizations attended the forum. The following is the full text of his speech.
Distinguished friends, President Liu Wei, Doctor Wang Wen, friends from the Renmin University of China, and friends from every other parts of the world. It's a great pleasure and privilege to be part of the discussion on this important conference on fighting COVID-19 and promoting social and economic development.
Now the shock of COVID-19 is global. It is felt in all countries in the world. And the variety of experiences include very painful once. Europe is suffering, our industrial production is suffering, our tourism is suffering. And also this is coming on the top of a situation in which the disease itself has taken a heavy toll among our people. And we also have every sympathy for every other country in the world, in particular China, which has shown heroic efforts to overcome the disease and to start a path towards a new stage of development.
At this time, obviously, we are involved in dealing with immediate tasks, both in the field of healthcare and in the economic field in matters such as providing liquidity for the economy, stimulating domestic and later international demand, and building a platform from which recovery can start. In parallel, this is my major first point, the international cooperation to fight COVID is an essential element in recovery.
In this context, I think we have to pay special attention to the World Health Organization and the World Health Assembly, which held on 19 May this year, defined a plan, a comprehensive plan for overcoming the disease. And that plan includes a large amount of international cooperation, including in the process of evaluation of the causes and characteristics of the pandemic.
We are now in the period of very intense search for vaccines. There is a variety of initiatives around. And I would like to recall, simply as a matter of fact, that European Union convened an important meeting on the fourth of May this year, when about 8 billion dollars were raised to support the development and availability of vaccines for the future.
Here we are dealing with a very important feature of current and potentially future international system. The problem is this, we have to live in a world where corporation and a degree of competition coincide. How does one manage this coincidence of competition and cooperation? We shall have a very important test to pass in the main area of vaccines. Because in vaccines, there will have to be a great deal of competition among different research institutes and others, but there also will have to be a very strong international cooperation. And I think that held the conference today is an important moment in which we can look into these matters more deeply.
Also we have to think about the global availability of vaccines. We are now talking a great deal about health as being global public good. But we have to give specific meaning to this global public good. That means making the vaccines available globally to everybody cost free or at an affordable price which governments, including the low income and middle income governments, can afford. So this is the immediate activity.
But let's think about the long term effects. We have to think about the global environment as it will emerge from the experience of COVID-19. Preservation of global supply chains. This is not only a matter of and economic spontaneous development. This will require policy decisions. Is the world prepared and capable of preserving the global supply chains or developing them further to appeal to a level which will be needed for the future?
Secondly, that relief and that restructuring. It is clear that the provision of enormous amounts of liquidity, which is absolutely necessary at this point, will require dealing with the mounting debt in the future. But there are parts of the world where this is not a serious problem, because one can extend the debt repayment over a long period of time. And therefore, the debt burden will be more manageable. There are parts of the world where this is not possible. And it will be necessary to have a position, not only on financial position, but also political position, on the question of that relief and that restructuring for low income and middle income countries. And of course, that would require efforts in the framework of International Monetary Fund, where the question of special drawing rights was addressed already without success. But it will not go away, will have to be there with us.
Finally, of course, every country will have to pay particular attention to its own specific priorities. But let us be clear, priorities unlikely to be very similar in everyone country in the world. Jobs, jobs, jobs! This will be an important priority now. Making sure that the world doesn't slide into a kind of recession, which would be a devastating unemployed.
Now we can be reasonably hopeful that the task is manageable. There are recent assessments, both by the international monetary fund and a variety of other financial and economic centers around the world, which are saying that this crisis can be overcome. And then the job loss may not be equally devastating everywhere. But it is an important priority everywhere. We have to look with very great care to be positive developments wherever we see them.
Nowadays, we see certain important positive developments in China. We see that there is a growing demand in China. That the demand is coming from small and medium sized enterprises, and that it is internally driven. It is not driven so much by additional credit. This is good. And I think that our conference today will have the opportunity to look into this aspect with particular attention, because we need in the rest of the world specific knowledge about how is the dynamic of recovery in China developing. We understand that China has not abandoned its task of ensuring zero poverty in a few years. How is that going? And here we would need, I think, very important insights today and in the days to come.
Finally and very importantly, quality development. China has declared its commitment to quality development as the main Beijing direction for the future. Let us think about what does it does this entail and they certainly must entail development of the health system, provision of health services as widely as possible. That, of course, is a basic task in every other country in the world.
Now let me conclude by saying the world is in a inappropriate moments, and is in the certain difficult and appropriate moment for major positive changes. We are also entitled to have a dream, perhaps a dream of a global recovery plan, a global post COVID-19 recovery plan which some people would compare with the Marshall plan after World War II, but certainly a global plan, a plan that would include all countries of the world, in an effort to build a more resilient and more people-focused economy than we have today.
This is a time of great difficulty, but also a time of important opportunity. I would like to express my gratitude to Renmin University for organizing this important conference and wish every success in its work.
Thank you very much.
Danilo Türk is former president of the Republic of Slovenia, and currently a non-resident senior fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.