Covid-19: Lawrence Wong, Ong Ye Kung stress importance of joint approach between health & finance ministries

Wong said that Singapore could attest to the usefulness of this joint approach.

Lean Jinghui | October 30, 2021, 12:12 PM

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The first joint meeting for the G20 summit in Rome, Italy between the group's finance and health ministers under the Italian Presidency was held on on Oct. 29.

One aspect of the meeting discussed ways to enhance collaboration between G20 finance and health ministers.

Singapore's Minister of Finance Lawrence Wong physically attended the meeting in Rome, while Minister of Health Ong Ye Kung attended the meeting virtually from Singapore.

Joint approach is useful

In a Facebook post on Oct. 29, Wong shared that Singapore could attest to the usefulness of this joint approach – "that’s how we’ve organised ourselves as a team, together with our medical experts, to coordinate and implement our response measures throughout the pandemic."

Wong noted that earlier this year, the G20 had also convened a high-level independent panel, to study how the global system can be strengthened.

The panel had been co-chaired by Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, as well as World Trade Organisation Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers.

One recommendation then, was to set up a new global board comprising health and finance ministers to strengthen international cooperation and coordination.

Wong added: "In this regard, the Italian G20 Presidency has convened the G20 Joint Finance and Health Ministers meeting today in Rome. Was happy to participate in the meeting with my colleague Ong Ye Kung."

"Urgent need" for equitable global response

In his speech, Ong responded to the importance of an equitable global response to Covid-19 and future pandemics.

He pointed out a need to address significant gaps in financing and resources, such as the ability to develop and distribute Covid-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics (VTDs) safely and reliably across the world.

In a Facebook post on Oct. 29, he elaborated:

"At the meeting, the stark inequalities of access to vaccines was highlighted. While the developed world worries about opening up economy and society, the developing world is still working on the urgent need for vaccines.

There was consensus on the need to improve coordination between the worlds of finance and health."

Ong also stressed in his speech that a strong global response to pandemics, with an adequately resourced and independent World Health Organisation at the centre, is key.

He added in his speech: "We need health and finance ministers to work closely together, and in Singapore, the Health and Finance Ministers chair the Multi-Ministry Taskforce in combating Covid-19."

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Top images via Ong Ye Kung Facebook