Closer coordination on health, finance key to pandemic recovery, say Singapore ministers at G-20 meet

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong and Health Minister Ong Ye Kung spoke on the need to strengthen global cooperation on the health and finance fronts. PHOTO: AFP

ROME - Closer coordination between health and finance ministries, and in multiple areas, at a global level is key to deal with Covid-19 and future pandemics, ministers from the world's largest economies said at a meeting here on Friday (Oct 29).

Also participating in the Group of 20 (G-20) Joint Finance and Health Ministers Meeting were Singapore Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, who is in Rome, and Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, who attended virtually from Singapore.

Both spoke on the need to strengthen global cooperation on the health and finance fronts.

"In Singapore, we can attest to the usefulness of this joint approach," wrote Mr Wong in a Facebook post after the meeting. "That's how we've organised ourselves as a team, together with our medical experts, to coordinate and implement our response measures throughout the pandemic."

Ahead of this year's leaders' summit, which is being hosted by Italy, the G-20 had convened an independent panel on the financing of pandemic preparedness and response. It is co-chaired by Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, as well as World Trade Organisation chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and former United States Treasury Secretary Larry Summers.

One recommendation it made was to set up a new global board comprising both health and finance ministers to strengthen international cooperation and coordination.

"The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that the current global system for public health and pandemic response is fragmented and underfunded," Mr Wong noted.

During the meeting, the ministers also stressed the importance of an equitable response to the current and future pandemics, highlighting the inequality of access to vaccines between developed and developing countries.

"While the developed world worries about opening up economy and society, the developing world is still working on the urgent need for vaccines," noted Mr Ong. "There was consensus on the need to improve coordination between the worlds of finance and health."

He added that a strong global response to pandemics, with an adequately resourced and independent World Health Organisation at the centre of the effort, is key.

There is also a need to address gaps in financing and resources, such as the ability to develop and distribute vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics safely and reliably around the world, said Mr Ong.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is also in Rome to attend the G-20 Leaders' Summit, which begins on Saturday (Oct 30). Singapore is not a G-20 member, but has been invited as a guest country.

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