Look WHO’s talking: Trump’s recklessness can impair Covid-19 fight

| Updated on April 15, 2020 Published on April 15, 2020

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with recovered Covid-19 patients in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, April 14, 2020. Trump is holding off for now on his threat to slash U.S. contributions to the World Health Organization (WHO) over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, according to people familiar with the matter. Photographer: Doug Mills/The New York Times/Bloomberg   -  Bloomberg

Trump has once again demonstrated his disdain for the role of multilateral bodies — that their raison d’etre is to work for the collective good particularly in situations of crises

US President Donald Trump, under fire at home as coronavirus deaths cross 26,000 in the country, has sought to shift the blame on the World Health Organization. Preparing a case for how “WHO really blew it”, he has turned off the funds tap for the WHO for at least the next few months. The US funds about $500 million or more out of WHO’s $6-billion annual budget, and its withdrawal could impact the fight against a virus which is on the rampage in its part of the world. While Trump has been brutal in his attack on the WHO — virtually calling it an apologist for China, accusing it of being slow in declaring Covid a pandemic, and in advising travel curbs — his initial responses, too, were unmistakably casual. Extending his quid pro quo style to all situations, he has now sought accountability from the WHO for the contributions made by the US taxpayer, being particularly sore that China coughs up just a tenth of the US for the WHO. In doing so, Trump has once again demonstrated his disdain for the role of multilateral bodies — that their raison d’etre is to work for the collective good particularly in situations of crises. In the context of the WHO, funds are needed like never before to meet the global demand for medical gear and fund research for a cure for Covid-19. Trump’s petulance misses the big picture, even if there is an element of truth in his broadsides. The WHO ought to have taken a grim view of China’s infamous wet markets as well as its general lack of transparency.

The WHO’s programmes are, in fact, closely linked to the interests of its donors rather than the developing world. Tropical disease research accounts for barely 1 per cent of its budget, whereas ‘corporate services and enabling functions’ accounts for over 15 per cent. The WHO’s recent record has been patchy. It was slow to respond to Ebola, which bypassed the rich countries. In 2004, its advisory to stock anti-viral drugs came under scrutiny, as it was apparently issued by medical professionals linked to the companies manufacturing these medicines. Trump’s criticisms, ironically, open up the debate of directing world health funds towards priorities of poorer populations. India can play a role in this respect. It showed the way more than a decade ago by providing cheap HIV drugs to the developing world, establishing the need for patents to be relaxed in medical emergencies. These issues need to be flagged from time to time, with the WTO turning increasingly ineffective in this regard, not least due to the US.

The US has turned its back on climate talks, the WTO, NATO and other forums. The Covid-19 crisis signals the need for a return to multilateralism, as opposed to irresponsible populism. The consequences of not doing so can be catastrophic.

Published on April 15, 2020

A letter from the Editor

Dear Readers,

The coronavirus crisis has changed the world completely in the last few months. All of us have been locked into our homes, economic activity has come to a near standstill. Everyone has been impacted.

Including your favourite business and financial newspaper. Our printing and distribution chains have been severely disrupted across the country, leaving readers without access to newspapers. Newspaper delivery agents have also been unable to service their customers because of multiple restrictions.

In these difficult times, we, at BusinessLine have been working continuously every day so that you are informed about all the developments – whether on the pandemic, on policy responses, or the impact on the world of business and finance. Our team has been working round the clock to keep track of developments so that you – the reader – gets accurate information and actionable insights so that you can protect your jobs, businesses, finances and investments.

We are trying our best to ensure the newspaper reaches your hands every day. We have also ensured that even if your paper is not delivered, you can access BusinessLine in the e-paper format – just as it appears in print. Our website and apps too, are updated every minute, so that you can access the information you want anywhere, anytime.

But all this comes at a heavy cost. As you are aware, the lockdowns have wiped out almost all our entire revenue stream. Sustaining our quality journalism has become extremely challenging. That we have managed so far is thanks to your support. I thank all our subscribers – print and digital – for your support.

I appeal to all or readers to help us navigate these challenging times and help sustain one of the truly independent and credible voices in the world of Indian journalism. Doing so is easy. You can help us enormously simply by subscribing to our digital or e-paper editions. We offer several affordable subscription plans for our website, which includes Portfolio, our investment advisory section that offers rich investment advice from our highly qualified, in-house Research Bureau, the only such team in the Indian newspaper industry.

A little help from you can make a huge difference to the cause of quality journalism!


Support Quality Journalism
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor
You have read 1 out of 3 free articles for this week. For full access, please subscribe and get unlimited access to all sections.