WASHINGTON: The coronavirus pandemic is expected to put over 60 million people into extreme poverty globally, the World Bank has said as it announced emergency operations worth USD 160 billion in 100 developing countries to fight the deadly virus.
“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,” World Bank President David Malpass told reporters during a conference call on Tuesday.
“The World Bank Group has moved quickly and decisively to establish emergency response operations in 100 countries, with mechanisms that allow other donors to rapidly expand the programmes,” he said.
Of the 100 countries, home to 70 per cent of the world’s population, 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.
“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,” Malpass said.
“This represents a significant milestone in the World Bank Group’s effort to deploy USD 160 billion over a 15-month period. So this is a milestone in the USD 160 billion that we have committed to,” he said.
Malpass said the programmes are tailored to the countries to effectively respond to the health, economic and social shocks that each of them are facing.
The programmes will reinforce healthcare systems and also help procure vital life-saving medical equipment and supplies.
And these programmes contain mechanisms that allow other donors to rapidly expand the programme, he added.
“We invite that. There can be co-financing, there can be additional donors parallel with these programmes, so it is important that we note that the programmes are expandable. And because of the breadth that means the interested donors and other multilateral banks can reach countries around the world,” the World Bank President said.
The Bank Group’s support through grants, loans and equity investments will be supplemented by the suspension of bilateral debt service, as endorsed by the Bank’s governors.
IDA-eligible countries that request a forbearance on their official bilateral debt payments will have more financial resources to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and fund critical, life-saving emergency responses.
The International Development Association (IDA) is the part of the World Bank that helps the world’s poorest countries.
“The bilateral debt-service suspension being offered will free up crucial resources for IDA countries to fund emergency responses to COVID-19,” Malpass said.
“Nations should move quickly to substantially increase the transparency of all their governments’ financial commitments. This will increase the confidence in the investment climate and encourage more beneficial debt and investment in the future,” he added.
More than 310,000 people died due to the coronavirus pandemic and over 4.8 million people infected around the world.
The US is the worst-hit country with over 91,900 deaths and more than 1.5 million COVID-19 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.