WASHINGTON: The World Bank on Thursday approved the first steps in a plan to roll out $160 billion in emergency aid over 15 months to help countries deal with the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic.
The board of the Washington-based development lender approved the first set of fast-track crisis projects, with an initial $1.9 billion going to 25 countries, and operations moving forward in another 40 nations, the bank said in a statement.
"The goal of the World Bank in this crisis has been to take broad, fast action, that makes it most effective if we can have a broad response that helps individual countries but that helps the group as a whole," World Bank President David Malpass told reporters.
"The poorest and most vulnerable countries will likely be hit the hardest, and our teams around the world remain focused on country-level and regional solutions to address the ongoing crisis."
India, Pakistan to get aid first
India will be the largest beneficiary of the first wave of programs with a facility for $1 billion, followed by Pakistan with $200 million and Afghanistan with a little over $100 million, but funding is going to countries on nearly every continent, the bank said.
Included in that $160 billion total is approximately $14 billion in debt repayments from 76 poor countries to other governments that the bank, along with the International Monetary Fund, has asked rich nations to suspend.
Malpass told reporters the organizations are calling for "a standstill in their repayment expectations," to begin May 1 and extend through June 2021.
Poorest countries, healthcare needs
That "provides new financing to the poorest countries to meet healthcare needs and many of their other needs," he said, adding that there appeared to be a willingness among G20 nations but each country would have to negotiate individually.
The bank also is working to redeploy $1.7 billion of existing funding, including the use of "catastrophic deferred drawdowns," a type of emergency credit line.
In addition, the World Bank's private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation, is providing $8 billion in financing "to help private companies affected by the pandemic and preserve jobs."
The bank is helping countries to purchase medical supplies, train personnel, establish labs and isolation and treatment centers, as well as to help support the most vulnerable households.