COVID-19 likely to hit poorest countries hardest: World Bank

Washington, March 24 : World Bank Group President David Malpass on Monday said the COVID-19 pandemic will likely hit the poorest countries the hardest, urging stepped-up international support for these countries.

"These are difficult times for all, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable," Malpass made the remarks at the Group of Twenty (G20) finance ministers and central bank governors' conference call on the COVID-19 pandemic, Xinhua news agency reported.

This crisis will likely hit hardest against the poorest and most vulnerable countries, those roughly 25 poorest countries drawing on the World Bank's International Development Association (IDA), he said.

"Many were already in a difficult debt situation, leaving no space for an appropriate health and economic response," said Malpass, adding that the World Bank is ready to front-load the recently replenished IDA with up to (Dollar) 35 billion and identify additional resources.

Making a call to action to the G20, Malpass urged all official bilateral creditors of the poorest countries to act with immediate effect to help IDA countries through debt relief, allowing the countries to concentrate their resources on fighting the pandemic.

"I'm calling on the G20 leaders to allow the poorest countries to suspend all repayments of official bilateral credit, until the World Bank and the IMF (International Monetary Fund) have made a full assessment of their reconstruction and financing needs," said Malpass.

The World Bank president also noted that the multilateral lender has identified a range of rapid procurement modalities leading to bulk purchases, and it is working together with other multilateral development banks and the IMF to assess needs, implement the new system, and develop co-financing.

"We are in dialogue with China among other key countries to obtain help with the rapid manufacture and delivery of many of these supplies and are grateful for their positive responses so far," Malpass said.

The World Bank president said countries need to move fast to boost health spending, strengthen social safety nets, support the private sector and counter financial-market disruption, urging them to implement structural reforms to help shorten the time to recovery and create confidence that the recovery can be strong.

Last week, the World Bank announced an increased (Dollar) 14 billion of fast-tracking financing to assist companies and countries in the wake of the rapid spread of COVID-19, up from the previously unveiled (Dollar) 12 billion.



Source: IANS