Honourable Minister of Finance of India, Shrimati Nirmala Sitharaman,
Honourable Governor of the Central Bank of India Shaktikanta Das,
Excellencies, dear colleagues and friends,
The global economy and global health are inextricably linked.
The COVID-19 pandemic was so much more than a health crisis.
It created one of the most significant economic shocks of the last century.
The recovery has been uneven, with developing countries in particular lagging and more likely to suffer long term scarring effects.
COVID-19 is over as a global health emergency, but its impacts on health, societies, economies and politics continue.
This is a perilous moment. Historically, the world has operated on a cycle of panic and neglect. We throw money at a crisis, but do nothing to prevent the next one.
We cannot allow that pattern to repeat.
Right now is the time to invest in preparing for the pandemics of the future.
The same health systems that were so badly disrupted by COVID-19 have not fully recovered, making us and our economies even more vulnerable to pandemics, severe weather events and other risks of climate change.
And just like COVID-19, the next pandemic will cause a severe economic shock.
Recognising these risks, the G20 responded by beginning a relay of discussions under the Presidency of Saudi Arabia, leading to the establishment of the Joint Finance-Health Task Force under the Italian Presidency, and supporting the launch of the Pandemic Fund and realizing it, under Indonesia’s Presidency and now India with concrete recommendations for the future.
The Task Force is uniquely placed to identify what finance and health need to do together to address pandemic preparedness and those fundamental weaknesses in our health systems.
With the World Bank, and in collaboration with the IMF and European Investment Bank, we are developing an analysis of the interactions between health systems, societies, and economies, which will allow decision makers to better understand how to mitigate economic vulnerabilities, and how to finance pandemic response.
But of course, pandemics are far from the only health threat we face.
Every day, diseases, conditions and injuries incur huge costs to governments, in terms of health sector spending, and lost productivity.
Many of these diseases, conditions and injuries could be prevented at a fraction of the costs of dealing with their consequences.
And many of the same investments needed to prevent them – especially in comprehensive primary health care – are also investments in pandemic preparedness.
I put it to you that investments in healthier populations are an economic no-brainer. If they were bonds, they would be triple-A.
Healthier populations are more stable, more secure, more productive, and more resilient.
It’s time to rethink financing for health.
It’s time to see health not as a cost, but an investment;
Not as a consumptive sector, but a productive sector – as the anchor for more inclusive, more equitable and more prosperous societies and economies.
In May this year, the WHO Council on the Economics of Health for All, published its final report, with concrete recommendations on how to rethink, reframe and restructure economies to deliver healthier populations. I commend it to you.
Let me leave you with three requests.
First, I urge you to prioritize the work of the Joint Finance and Health Task Force, and to act on its analyses.
Second, I urge you to break the cycle of panic and neglect, by continuing to invest in the Pandemic Fund, and by solving the challenge of surge financing before the next major epidemic.
And third, I urge you to see health as a productive rather than consumptive sector; as an investment rather than a cost; and as a human right, rather than a luxury.
I thank you, Your Excellency.