100 developing nations get WBG support
Kathmandu, May 20
The World Bank Group (WBG) has announced its emergency operations to fight COVID-19 (coronavirus) have reached 100 developing countries — home to 70 per cent of the world’s population.
Since March, the group has rapidly delivered record levels of support in order to help countries protect the poor and vulnerable, reinforce health systems, maintain the private sector, and bolster economic recovery. This assistance, the largest and fastest crisis response in the WBG’s history, marks a milestone in implementing the group’s pledge to make available $160 billion in grants and financial support over a 15-month period to help developing countries respond to the health, social and economic impacts of COVID-19 and the economic shutdown in advanced countries, as per a media release.
“The pandemic and shutdown of advanced economies could push as many as 60 million people into extreme poverty — erasing much of the recent progress made in poverty alleviation,” WBG President David Malpass has been quoted as saying. “To return to growth, our goal must be rapid, flexible responses to tackle the health emergency, provide cash and other expandable support to protect the poor, maintain the private sector, and strengthen economic resilience and recovery.”
Of the 100 countries, 39 are in Sub-Saharan Africa. Nearly one-third of the total projects are in fragile and conflict-affected situations, such as Afghanistan, Chad, Haiti, and Niger. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) have also fast-tracked support to businesses in developing countries, including trade finance and working capital to maintain private sectors, jobs and livelihoods.
The WBG’s support through grants, loans and equity investments will be supplemented by suspension of bilateral debt service, as endorsed by bank’s governors. IDA-eligible countries that request forbearance on their official bilateral debt payments will have more financial resources to respond to the pandemic and fund critical, lifesaving emergency responses.
The group’s operational response will strengthen health systems, support the poorest households, and create supportive conditions to maintain livelihoods and jobs for those hit hardest. Country operations will deliver help to poorest families through cash transfers and job support; maintain food security, nutrition and continuity of essential services such as clean water and education; target most vulnerable groups, including women and forcibly displaced communities, who are most likely to be hit hard; and engage communities to support vulnerable households and foster social cohesion.
WBG’s operations in 100 countries aim to save lives, protect livelihoods, build resilience, and boost recovery by strengthening health systems, monitoring, and prevention, particularly in low-income countries and in fragile and conflict-affected situations; scaling up social protection; supporting businesses and preserving jobs; and procuring medical equipment and supplies, the release says.
A version of this article appears in e-paper on May 21, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.