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Rwanda's Kagame backs proposed global social protection fund

25 January 2021 - 14:55 By Reuters
Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda. File photo
Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda. File photo
Image: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame on Monday welcomed the proposed establishment of a global social protection fund, saying it will build resilience among societies to help them navigate the economic impact of future pandemics.

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed glaring inequalities among the world's workers. Nearly half of the globe's 3.3 billion workforce has been thrust into the risk of losing their livelihoods by the crisis, the World Economic Forum said.

It has particularly hit many of Africa's workers, who toil in informal sectors without any rights such as a minimum wage, creating the need for universal social protection, Kagame told a virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum.

“This is a bold idea that merits serious consideration by policymakers,” the president said.

Governments, which are spending trillions of dollars to help economies survive the coronavirus crisis, can start social universal protection funds with a fraction of the cash, said Sharan Burrow, the general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation.

“It will go to the G20 this year,” she said of the proposal, which also aims to help the world's poorest nations start to bridge an $80 billion funding gap for social protections.

Proponents of the global social protection fund, which is part of the United Nation's sustainable aims, want it to be funded by a combination of existing aid assistance from rich nations, increased taxation of firms, and contributions from existing funds. That can be complemented by debt relief or cancellation.

Once set up, it will offer basic income like cash transfers to the poor, pensions for the elderly, disability benefits and unemployment benefits, child benefits and access to the health, education and housing services, the Brussels-based International Trade Union Confederation said.

Burrow, speaking on the same panel as Kagame, said governments could boost the fund through ensuring big firms pay their fair share of taxes.

Rwanda, which has seen a surge of Covid-19 cases this year, has been providing food and health insurance to at least two million of its most vulnerable citizens, Kagame said.

It also set up a $100 million fund to help businesses that have been hit hard by the impact of the pandemic to stay afloat through access to affordable financing.

“Everybody needs to be brought into the fold and engaged,” he said.