World Bank finalizing $160bn COVID-19 relief program

Poorest countries in desperate need of support: World Bank

Washington: The World Bank Group President David Malpass said hat the multilateral lender was finalizing a package that could provide as much as $160 billion in financial support for the worst-hit countries by the coronavirus pandemic.

“The goals are to shorten the time to recovery; create conditions for growth; support small and medium enterprises; and help protect the poor and vulnerable,” Malpass told a conference call of the Extraordinary Group of Twenty (G20) Leaders’ Summit on Thursday.

Noting that the World Bank has approved a $14 billion package focused on the immediate health and social consequences of the outbreak, Malpass said “we’re now finalizing an additional package that will focus on the broader economic consequences”, reports Xinhua news agency.

The World Bank President further said that on Wednesday, he presented a program to the Board that could provide as much as $160 billion in financial support over the next 15 months.

“I’m particularly concerned about poor, densely populated countries such as India, where weak health systems need massively scalable investments in human capital, supplies and infrastructure,” Malpass said.

“We are working hard to provide support through our public and private sector tools,” he said.

Malpass noted the World Bank has new COVID-related projects underway in 56 countries, encouraging other multilateral development banks to co-finance follow-up tranches.

The World Bank is restructuring existing projects in 24 countries in order to direct funds to the health emergency.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank’s private sector arm, is working on new investments in 300 companies and extending trade finance and working capital lines to clients, according to the statement.

Noting that international cooperation is critical in these times, the World Bank president said “we’ve been working closely” with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Health Organization, among others, to determine needs assessments of client countries.

The World Bank and the IMF on Wednesday jointly called on G20 countries to offer debt relief for the poorest countries in order to help them tackle challenges posed by COVID-19, stressing that the outbreak is “likely to have severe economic and social consequences” for the poorest countries, which draw on the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA).

At the G20 Leaders’ Summit, Malpass reiterated the importance of addressing debt vulnerabilities.

“This crisis will hit hardest poor countries that have high levels of indebtedness,” he said.

“A broad and equitable debt relief process is urgently needed, so IDA countries can concentrate their resources on fighting the pandemic and its economic and social consequences.”