World Bank warns pandemic could push 60 mn into extreme poverty

World Bank

On announcing this figures to the general public, the President of the World Bank Group, David Malpass, informed the worldwide community that the progress made in the last three years in the poverty alleviation will be erased by the COVID-19 crisis.

Last month, the World Bank speculated that roughly 49 million people would be pushed into extreme poverty, with the global financial institution defining "extreme poverty" as "living on less than $1.90 per day".

The warning suggests deepening pessimism among economists about the scale and duration of the fallout from what the bank described as an "unprecedented crisis". The global lending institution is already financing aid programs in 100 countries, under its commitment to spend $160 billion over the next 15 months, bank president David Malpass said. To this, the WB has proposed to help the developing countries by providing them with the rapid and flexible responses, through rapid cash and other expandable support on debt, to maintain the private sector, and to bolster the economic recovery in these regions.

The bank said that apart from grants, loans and equity investment, it will also suspend bilateral debt service.

"The health and economic impacts that the Covid-19 pandemic and shut down have inflicted on developing countries are severe", Malpass said on the call.

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"Nations should move quickly to substantially increase the transparency of all their governments' financial commitments".

Of the 100 countries, 39 are in Sub-Saharan Africa, with almost one-third of the total projects located in fragile and conflict-affected situations, such as Afghanistan, Chad, Haiti, and Niger. "This will increase the confidence in the investment climate and encourage more beneficial debt and investment in the future", he added. Establishing and supporting efforts in fragile and conflict-affected situations is a priority, given the rapidly growing number of cases in some of these countries.

To demonstrate its determination to ensure a speedy recovery for the countries, the bank said "Disbursement is already underway on $20 million to Senegal and $35 million to Ghana, which includes funding to strengthen disease surveillance systems, public health laboratories, and epidemiological capacity for early detection".

The programmes will reinforce healthcare systems and also help procure vital life-saving medical equipment and supplies.

In allocating this much of budget to the programs and to maintain private investment in these countries, the WB states that "There are the billions of dollars that were fast-tracked by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), the members of the World Bank, to help maintain the private sector". These safety nets will need to be augmented with safe, direct food distribution, accompanied by key information on nutrition, social distancing, and hygiene.

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