The World Bank Group (WBG) is expected to launch health emergency programs in over 100 countries by the end of April to support the fight against COVID-19, with 64 already in operation, President David Malpass said Friday.
“In response to COVID-19, the World bank Group has focused on taking fast, broad-based action,” Malpass said at a virtual press conference during the Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the WBG.
Malpass said the WBG will work to deploy as much as 160 billion U.S. dollars over the next 15 months, tailored to the nature of the health, economic and social shocks that countries are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He noted that other multilateral development banks (MDBs), such as Asian Development Bank, and Inter-American Development Bank, have committed as a group to roughly 80 billion dollars over this period, bringing the total funding from MDBs to 240 billion dollars.
The World Bank president said he is pleased that Group of Twenty (G20) countries have recently decided to provide a suspension in debt service to bilateral creditors during the crisis, calling it “a powerful fast-acting initiative that can bring real benefits to the poor.”
Noting that China is one of the big creditors, Malpass said China’s support in the international agreement to allow a moratorium of debt repayments for the poorest countries is “important” and was “very welcome.”
In response to a question from Xinhua regarding protectionism amid the pandemic, Malpass said big countries need to step forward and pledge not to use the crisis as a reason to close or block the markets.
“We should allow markets to function, markets to clear and the supplies to go to those most in need,” said the World Bank president, adding that China is exporting medical supplies to the rest of the world, which is “very welcome.”
The press conference came shortly after a meeting of the Development Committee, the joint ministerial committee of the boards of governors of the WBG and the IMF, which also urged countries to keep trade open.
The Development Committee “ask that all countries ensure the flow of vital medical supplies, critical agricultural products, and other goods and services across borders, and that they work to resolve disruptions to the global supply chains, to support the recovery,” it said in a statement.
The committee also urged the two institutions to work with countries to design and implement policies and programs that help lift the poorest households out of poverty and support small businesses.
Noting that this crisis has the potential to erase development gains for many countries, the committed said the WBG “must not only address immediate economic needs, but also support long-term development priorities,” such as ensuring affordable energy access, building energy security and resilience to economic and environmental vulnerabilities and climate change.
“We urge the WBG and the IMF to ensure effectiveness on the ground and help countries create the conditions for inclusive and sustainable long-term growth,” the committee said.