Modi promises more India-made Covid-19 vaccines at WEF event

As countries scramble to ensure a supply of Covid-19 vaccines, Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised more India-made vaccines for the world.

In a special address yesterday at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Davos Agenda 2021 virtual event, Mr Modi highlighted the positive role India has played during the pandemic and underlined how the South Asian country could be a driver of global growth.

He also wooed foreign investors, assuring them of an improved business climate and pointing out that India could play a key role in strengthening global supply chains.

Mr Modi’s promise of more India-made vaccines comes amid a scramble for Covid-19 vaccines, with richer countries accused of hoarding doses and poorer ones still unable to access them.

“While so far only two made-in-India coronavirus vaccines have been introduced to the world, in the near future, many more vaccines will be available from India. These vaccines will help us in assisting countries across the world faster and on a much bigger scale,” he said.

India has approved two vaccines for emergency use: Covishield, by AstraZeneca and Oxford University; and Covaxin, developed by local firm Bharat Biotech.

“When the coronavirus had just started, we were procuring masks, PPE kits and testing kits from overseas. Today, not only are we fulfilling our domestic demand, we are also sending these to other countries and thereby serving their citizens also,” Mr Modi added.

He noted that the country had beaten the odds after early predictions about how more than half of its population would be infected. India, with a population of 1.38 billion, has more than 10.7 million cases.

The country, which has seen a steady decrease in cases in the past four months, has rolled out what its leaders say is the biggest vaccination programme in the world.

The government plans to vaccinate 300 million healthcare and front-line workers, along with senior citizens and those with existing illnesses, in coming months.

Mr Modi said, in 12 days, India vaccinated more than 2.3 million of its healthcare workers.

India, the third-largest producer of medicines, has also begun sending vaccines to countries such as the Maldives, Bhutan, Seychelles and Mauritius.

Yesterday, India sent 500,000 doses of Covishield to Sri Lanka, and is expected to be a key source of the vaccine for middle-and low-income countries.

The Indian leader also made a strong pitch for attracting investments – the key to pushing the country’s economic growth. Like other countries around the world, India has been hit hard by the pandemic and has felt the effects of the global recession, but recovery has been better than expected.

The International Monetary Fund projected an 11.5 per cent growth for India this year after a strong recovery last year.

“I also assure the business world that on the economic front also, the situation will now change rapidly. Even during the coronavirus pandemic, by starting infrastructure projects worth trillions of rupees and by implementing special schemes for employment, India kept its economic activity going,” said Mr Modi.

Among other things, the Indian government has offered production-linked incentives of 1.45 trillion rupees (S$26.4 billion) for manufacturers in 10 sectors, including cars, pharmaceuticals and food products.

Mr Modi has urged “atmanirbhar”, or self-reliance in manufacturing, following the pandemic.

He noted that India’s economic performance and effort to push self-reliance in manufacturing would have global ramifications and that the country’s expanding consumer base would be most “beneficial for the global economy”.

“The ease of doing business situation is continuously improving. Work is being done to further improve this,” he added.

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