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One of Russia’s most senior bankers has called for the creation of a new international organisation to respond to global health crises like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Andrey Kostin, president and chair of state-owned Russian bank VTB (VTBR.ME), said the G20 group of heads of state should consider setting up a new organisation to respond to health emergencies, separate from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The WHO traces its roots back to fighting diseases like cholera and yellow fever in the 1800s and, in its current form, helped to eradicate smallpox after a two decade effort.
Some global leaders and health experts have been critical of WHO during the COVID-19 pandemic, alleging politics has clouded its response. Then US president Donald Trump withdrew the US from WHO last year, a move since reversed by successor Joe Biden.
Kostin pointed to the precedent of the 2008 financial crisis. Global leaders set up new regulations for the banking system, known as BASEL III, in response to the crash. He said similar adaptation was needed in global healthcare in response to COVID-19.
Kostin’s comments came during a panel at The Davos Agenda conference, a digital event for world leaders and senior business people. Kostin, a veteran of Davos for over 20 years, said global elites had “underestimated” the risk of viruses and diseases like COVID-19 in the past, instead focusing on concepts like the fourth industrial revolution — the theme of 2016’s Davos — and artificial intelligence.
“We should focus more on this,” Kostin said, referring to diseases and viruses.
Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore’s senior minister, spoke alongside Kostin and made a similar case for greater international cooperation.
“We must shore up the multilateral system,” Shanmugaratnam said. “We must rebuild some form of cooperative internationalism, not just out of the goodness of our hearts, but out of self-interest.
“We have failed to act on our mutual interest on healthcare... We have greatly underfunded global public goods and healthcare is a great example.”
Shanmugaratnam said international cooperation was “far less costly” than the alternative. He highlighted the billions spent around the world fighting COVID-19, saying it was more economically “simply to make our due payments” to international systems.
Watch: Your latest COVID-19 vaccine questions answered