IMF says ending Covid-19 pandemic possible at cost of some $67 billion

The International Monetary Fund projects that some one billion vaccine doses could be donated this year. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Friday (May 21) unveiled a US$50 billion (S$66.6 billion) proposal to end the Covid-19 pandemic by vaccinating at least 40 per cent of the population in all countries by the end of this year and at least 60 per cent by the first half of next year.

Doing so, IMF officials say, would inject the equivalent of US$9 trillion into the global economy by 2025 due to faster resumption of economic activity, with rich countries potentially benefiting the most.

The crisis has killed more than 3.5 million people across the world, and projections point to highly unequal health prospects well into 2022, which poses "severe risks for the world", the IMF said.

IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva told a health summit hosted by the European Commission and Group of 20 major economies that it made sense for rich economies to boost donations to ensure a faster end to the pandemic.

"Advanced economies - asked to contribute most to this effort - would likely see the highest return on public investment in modern history, capturing 40 per cent of the gross domestic product gains and roughly US$1 trillion in additional tax revenues," she said in her prepared remarks.

The proposal, drafted by IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath and staff economist Ruchir Agarwal, builds on efforts already under way by the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, United Nations, World Health Organisation and other groups.

Implementing the plan would cost some US$50 billion, with US$35 billion to be paid for by grants from rich countries, private and multilateral donors, and the remaining US$15 billion to be funded by national governments using low- or no-interest financing available from multilateral development banks.

G-20 countries had already recognised the need for some US$22 billion in grants to tackle the crisis, leaving some US$13 billion in additional grants needed to reach the US$50 billion, the IMF authors said.

The plan calls for upfront financing, vaccine donations and moves to ensure free cross-border flows of raw materials and finished vaccines, as well as some US$8 billion in investments to diversify and increase vaccine production capacity worldwide.

The IMF projected some one billion doses could be donated this year even if countries prioritised their own populations, and one billion additional doses should be produced by early 2022 to handle downside risks, such as new variants that require booster shots.

While the vaccine supply was still limited, it called for US$30 billion in spending on widespread testing, sufficient therapeutics and preparations for vaccine deployment, as well as US$2 billion to evaluate and implement dose-stretching strategies.

Without urgent actions, many emerging and developing countries might have to wait until the end of 2022 or later to bring the pandemic under control, they said.

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