Singapore hopes G-20 summit will boost WHO's vaccine efforts: Lawrence Wong

Singapore hopes the Group of 20 (G-20) summit this weekend will boost support for the World Health Organisation's (WHO) efforts to develop an effective Covid-19 vaccine and for a rules-based multilateral trading system, said Education Minister Lawrence Wong.

Mr Wong, who is also Second Minister for Finance, was speaking yesterday at an event to mark Saudi Arabia's G-20 presidency at Shangri-La Hotel. It was organised by the Saudi embassy in Singapore.

The G-20 comprises 19 large advanced and emerging economies and the European Union. This year's summit, whose theme is Realising Opportunities Of The 21st Century For All, will be held virtually this weekend.

Mr Wong highlighted three wishes for a successful outcome.

First, that the G-20 will rally global support for the WHO and its critical efforts to develop safe and effective vaccines that can be distributed equitably and affordably. "We cannot afford to get into vaccine nationalism," he said. "If there is one lesson that Covid-19 has reinforced, it is that no one can be safe unless everyone is safe."

Second, that the G-20 can send a strong signal of support for a rules-based multilateral trading system, as keeping markets open and supply chains intact is key to accessing essential medical supplies, minimising disruptions and enhancing economic recovery.

Third, that G-20 leaders will signal their collective determination to rebuild the global economy in a way that is greener and more sustainable - such as by investing in new sustainable infrastructure, and setting the tone for a successful United Nations Climate Change Conference next year.

Mr Wong said that despite Covid-19, Saudi Arabia has galvanised international responses to the pandemic, and has undertaken "extraordinary" efforts to reach out to countries that are not part of the G-20. It has also led the G-20 to develop a comprehensive action plan to tackle the immediate crisis and to emerge stronger, he noted.

"Part of this also involves coordination efforts for bilateral creditors to participate in the Debt Service Suspension Initiative to help the poorest and most vulnerable countries," he said.

The G-20's commitments this year include restoring global growth, maintaining market stability, and strengthening resilience.

A debt suspension initiative was also extended until June next year, giving some 43 countries more time to redirect funding to healthcare and emergency stimulus.

Mr Wong noted Saudi Arabia had included the views of guest countries like Singapore, which in turn helped to represent the views of the wider global community. He said: "We hope that future G-20 presidencies will continue this tradition."

Singapore has been invited to this year's G-20 meetings as the convener of the Global Governance Group - an informal coalition of 30 countries that seek to influence the G-20 to take into account the interests of smaller countries affected by its decisions.

Mr Wong said: "Just as the G-20 was able to steer the global economy out of the global financial crisis more than a decade ago, I am confident that with Saudi Arabia's leadership, the G-20 will once again help us realise a strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive recovery."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2020, with the headline Singapore hopes G-20 summit will boost WHO's vaccine efforts: Lawrence Wong. Subscribe