Modi to join virtual G20 leaders’ summit on March 26 to discuss a coordinated response to Covid-19

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi will join an “extraordinary virtual G20 leaders’ summit” on March 26 to discuss a coordinated response to the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic ramifications, two people familiar with developments said on Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia, the current president of the G20, called for the virtual summit last week. Though there has been no formal announcement from Riyadh, a person familiar with planning for the summit confirmed it will be held in the evening on Thursday.

The leaders’ summit will be preceded by a virtual meeting on March 25 of the G20 Sherpas or personal representatives of heads of governments of the member states. India’s Sherpa is former commerce minister Suresh Prabhu.

Ahead of the summit, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted on Tuesday that she spoken on the phone with Modi about preparations for the meeting, “supply chains affected by the coronavirus as well as about production capacities for crucial pharmaceuticals”.

The G20 includes the European Union and major economies such as China, Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea and the US. India is set to assume the G20 presidency in 2022.

The G20 leaders’ summit will be held at a time when the world community is grappling with the rapid spread of infections and deaths caused by Covid-19 in as many as 168 countries. According to statistics from the World Health Organisation, there were 332,930 confirmed cases and 14,510 deaths as of Monday.

Preparations for the virtual summit have also figured in PM Modi’s recent phone conversations with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

According to a statement from Saudi Arabia, the G20 leaders are expected to “put forward a coordinated set of policies to protect people and safeguard the global economy”. The G20 will act with global bodies to alleviate the impact of the pandemic and the virtual summit will build on efforts by G20 finance ministers, central bank governors and senior officials to develop “the precise requirements and actions needed”.

The G20 finance ministers and central bank governors held a virtual meeting on Monday and discussed the impact of the pandemic on the global economy and preparations for the virtual leaders’ summit.

Saudi finance minister Mohammed Aljadaan stressed the need to step up the G20’s joint efforts and act decisively and in a coordinated manner to people and businesses, safeguard the stability of the global economy and financial markets, restore confidence and prevent deep and prolonged negative economic impacts.

He highlighted that since the last meeting of the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors in February, the “global economy outlook has significantly deteriorated and that the evolution and global spread of the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the global economy [against] the backdrop of disruption in elements of both supply and demand”.

The finance ministers and central bank governors “agreed to closely monitor the evolution of the pandemic, including its impact on markets and economic conditions and take further actions to support the economy during and after this phase”, according to an official statement.

They also agreed to develop a “joint G20 action plan”, which will outline the individual and collective actions the grouping will take to respond to the pandemic. They also discussed ways to step up “coordinated efforts by bilateral and multilateral creditors to address the risks of debt vulnerabilities, especially in low-income countries”.

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