Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 3 April 2020

Saudi calls G20 meeting to set course to 'safeguard' the global economy

World leaders will meet online to chart the next steps when they speak next week at the request of the group’s chair

Saudi Arabia, the current chair of the G20 group, will convene a virtual meeting of leaders from the world’s largest economies next week to chart a global course forward on containing and battling the novel coronavirus.

The kingdom said that it was seeking to “put forward a co-ordinated set of policies to protect people and safeguard the global economy”.

Leaders will not meet face to face, given the prevailing medical advice calling for social distancing and isolation to stop the spread of coronavirus, known officially as Covid-19.

Dozens of countries including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and regional blocs such as the EU, have imposed travel bans to stem the spread.

Saudi Arabia has 171 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with no deaths so far and six recoveries. There are 1,122 confirmed cases in GCC countries, 148 recoveries and one death.

Globally, 198,152 cases have been confirmed, with 7,954 deaths and 81,960 recoveries, although the true number is expected to be far higher.

Many countries have not carried out the widespread testing advised by the World Health Organisation.

The Saudi central bank on Saturday said it had prepared a 50 billion riyal (Dh47.7 billion) stimulus package to help small and medium-sized enterprises cope with the economic impact of the shutdowns.

The UAE, too, has announced a Dh100bn financial package to support banks and businesses through the crisis.

Meanwhile, leaders of the G7 group – the seven largest economies in the world – have vowed to “do whatever it takes” to prevent a financial meltdown.

But every sector, from tourism to food to aviation, is affected as the global economy effectively goes into shutdown. Global markets have seen declines not witnessed in decades as investors sell off equities and search for financial safe havens.

But central banks and finance ministries around the world have been stepping up support, looking to inject cash into markets to stabilise prices and secure jobs.

Despite the wild swings, United States Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has ruled out a temporary closure of stock markets, saying “Americans need to know they have access to their money”.

The US and Britain led a multi-billion-dollar global fightback against economic havoc wreaked by the coronavirus as the European Union shut its borders to travellers from outside for 30 days to stem the pandemic's ferocious spread.

The sweeping measures, never before seen in peacetime, have upended society worldwide and roiled financial markets on fears of a global recession.

Battered US stocks – which President Donald Trump considers a key metric of his success ahead of the November presidential election – closed higher after the stimulus announcement.

Mr Trump said the White House was discussing a “substantial” spending bill with Congress that would include immediate cash payments to Americans.

Officials did not give hard numbers, but The Washington Post reported the amount could reach $850bn (Dh3.1 trillion), with a chunk destined for airlines fearing ruin.

“We're going big,” Mr Trump told reporters.

British Finance Minister Rishi Sunak also unveiled an “unprecedented package” of government-backed loans worth 330 billion pounds (Dh1.45 trillion) for businesses struggling in the sudden economic paralysis caused by mass self-quarantine.

France has pledged a €45bn (Dh181bn) aid package as President Emmanuel Macron likened the outbreak to war and ordered almost the entire population to stay at home for at least two weeks.

Updated: March 18, 2020 05:40 PM

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