Ex-PM Gordon Brown demands clampdown on coronavirus profiteers

26 March 2020, 11:40

Gordon Brown has called for a clampdown on those making excessive profits from coronavirus
Gordon Brown has called for a clampdown on those making excessive profits from coronavirus. Picture: PA

By Tobi Akingbade

Former prime minister Gordon Brown has demanded a clampdown on people trying to make a financial gain from the coronavirus outbreak.

Mr Brown, 69, has called for international action to stop people making excessive profits off the back of selling much-needed ventilators, testing kits and protective equipment.

He has urged the G20 group of industrialised nations to avoid a “dog-eat-dog” bidding war for such supplies.

Mr Brown said: "With the healthcare crisis, the idea of individual self-isolation is now commonplace, but on the international stage, national self-isolation has taken off.

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"In the post-Cold War unipolar era, America acted multilaterally. Now, and in a multipolar era, America acts unilaterally, and aggressive America first, us-versus-them nationalism – along with China first, India first, Russia first, Brazil first, and Turkey first – is going global.

"But even the most isolationist nations must know that it is not enough to stop coronavirus in one country: it has to be stopped in every country.

The G20 should underwrite and speed up the concerted global effort to develop, manufacture and distribute vaccines and treatments.

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"Almost simultaneously every nation also needs at scale, testing kits, ventilators, cleaning chemicals and protective equipment.

"So, in place of today’s dog-eat-dog bidding wars that encourage profiteering, the G20 should come behind the WHO and Global Fund’s efforts to co-ordinate and vastly increase production and procurement of these key medical supplies and to build, over time, a global inventory, stockpile and workforce, with tariffs and other protectionist barriers removed.

"Nothing should prevent what is mass produced in and for one country, being also mass produced for other countries."

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Mr Brown also said that world leaders must take lessons from the experiences of the 2008 financial crisis.

He said: "Synchronised G20 monetary fiscal and anti-protectionist measures quickly restored growth in 2010 and could, say the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), inject two trillion dollars (£1.7 trillion) into the world economy, multiplying the impact of individual national action.

"Out of this crisis must come not only the reforms to the international architecture left on the table in 2009, but new levels of co-operation that will deliver a quantum leap: a commitment to deliver the global public goods urgently needed by a world beginning to understand that it is both far more interdependent and far more fragile than ever.”