SAARC combined efforts on coronavirus set to strengthen regional cooperation

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SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) President-designate Iftikhar Ali Malik Friday terming Pakistan’s hosting a video conference of SAARC member states on coronavirus, a giant step in right direction urged their leadership following the same spirit to ramp up action to curb the health emergency, protect their people, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.
In a statement issued here today. Iftikhar Ali Malik said there is dire need of greater cooperation at the regional level to effectively overcome the public health crisis, and mitigate its socio-economic impact.
He further said Prime Minister Imran Khan deserved appreciation for showing willingness to extend cooperative hands to all neighboring countries especially with India setting aside all differences and Pakistan is now ready to cooperate and extend any assistance to South Asian countries, to deal with the coronavirus.
Iftikhar Malik further suggested that the SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund should be utilized proportionally to provide support and assistance as per the need of any member state, and a regional mechanism should be formed to share and exchange knowledge, information and ideas on the status of the fight against the pandemic.
He said the pandemic has exposed the ugly face of neo-liberalism, which has miserably failed to protect our lives. “Hundreds of thousands have died, health workers in the front lines of this battle have been put at risk, as country after the country failed to provide adequate protective gear to their doctors, nurses and others,” he added.
He said that the virus had the potential to cause grave damage to the poor and to the livelihoods of millions in the informal sector. “If we are unable to contain the spread of this virus, allowing it to spread to high-density areas, slums, working people neighbourhoods, refugee camps and other centres of vulnerability and poverty, South Asia will be left to face health, economic and social disasters on a scale never experienced before.
Iftikhar Malik said now time has come that SAARC countries must collaborate together with a very strong business agenda to take advantage of our geographical proximity, cultural similarities and economic complementary that we all have in this region. “There are other areas too that the SAARC countries should work on, such as formulating standards and working with different departments and states to improve ecosystem to boost services trade,” he added.
He also called on all South Asian governments to curtail military and defence budgets and health budgets should be increased to a minimum 10 per cent of the total national budget. He said all the basic services should be provided by the governments ensuring its quality, sustainability and better preparedness for any looming danger.
“Strengthen social protection and starts thinking for a new vision of South Asia with all people have a universal minimum income,” he concluded.

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