World Bank Blogs: April 10, 2020 end of week update: Important week ahead

DAVID MALPASS |

I wanted to provide a quick update on a few of the week’s activities at the World Bank Group.

Our urgent goal is to quickly deploy emergency health operations around the world and begin work on programs that will support people during the downturn and strengthen the recovery.

Most World Bank Group staff continue to work from home. We are aware of thirteen COVID-19 cases among Bank staff worldwide.

Below is my summary of some of our activities over the last week:

  • The World Bank took fast action and is already financing the implementation of COVID-19 work in a total of 52 countries, with another 50 countries expected to begin implementation in coming weeks.
  • The International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) COVID-19 response pipeline to date includes more than 300 companies for a total of $8.9 billion.
  • This week, the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) launched $6.5 billion facility to support private sector investors and lenders in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. The facility redirects MIGA’s capacity toward the purchase of urgent medical equipment, providing working capital for small and medium enterprises, and supporting short-term funding needs of governments.
  • We continue to work with COVID-related manufacturers and suppliers to support countries’ procurement of medical supplies and equipment. We are currently evaluating procurement options for 20 countries. Demand for medical equipment and supplies is outstripping supply, and lead-times are increasing.
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  • The World Bank is exploring with the World Food Programme how we can transport critical supplies to countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Mari Pangestu discussed the problems from trade barriers and export restrictions of both medical and food supplies.
  • We’ve been working to provide debt relief for poor countries based on the World Bank-IMF Joint Call to Action for Debt Relief for IDA countries. I updated the World Bank Board on progress. Implementation was discussed twice this week in meetings at the G20 International Financial Architecture Working Group. I’d like to thank the G20 Saudi Presidency and Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan for placing this important issue on the G20 agenda.
  • Next week will be a critical week for the debt relief agenda. It will be discussed at the G7 and G20 meetings of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, as well as at the World Bank/IMF Development Committee meeting on Friday, where we think there will be broad endorsement.
  • The key principles of our call to action are simple:
  1. Participation by all official bilateral creditors to suspend debt payments on May 1 from IDA countries that request immediate forbearance. Borrowers would be expected to request at least comparable terms from commercial creditors. In turn, beneficiary countries would commit to debt transparency and to direct additional resources toward health and economic needs. Debt relief will provide major new resources for the poorest countries where they’re most needed, adding materially to support programs by the WBG and other donors.
  2. The World Bank and IMF stand ready to work closely with creditors and IDA countries during this temporary suspension period to evaluate each countries’ debt sustainability outlook based on reconciled debt data and debt service requirements. The world’s poor are looking to the international community to show decisive leadership on debt relief, and I am confident of progress.

It was a year ago this week that I joined the World Bank Group. The pandemic has created a severe and unprecedented health and economic crisis that is changing our lives, and while I am horrified by the developments, I’m very pleased with the speed and breadth of the support operations by the World Bank Group.

Originally published on LinkedIn.

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