World Bank OKs first $1.9B for poor countries battling virus

WASHINGTON (AP) — The World Bank on Thursday approved its first funds to help some of the globe’s poorer countries combat the coronavirus outbreak.

It approved total aid of $1.9 billion for 25 countries. The largest amount of assistance was $1 billion for India followed by $200 million for Pakistan, $129 million for Sri Lanka, $100 million for Afghanistan and $83 million for Ethiopia.

World Bank President David Malpass predicted the bank could provide up to $160 billion in assistance over the next 15 months.

World Bank officials said the emergency resources would include money to purchase critical medical supplies such as masks and ventilators, with the World Bank lending its procurement expertise to help obtain these supplies on global markets.

The approval of the first round of support for 25 countries will be followed quickly with aid to another 40 countries, officials said.

In addition to the support effort, Malpass said he and Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, are lobbying the Group of 20 major industrial countries to support instituting a 14-month pause in requiring the poorest countries to make debt repayments.

Malpass said that would free up about $14 billion over the next year that the countries would be able to use to fight the coronavirus.

He said the proposal was discussed at last week’s conference call with President Donald Trump and other G-20 leaders. Malpass said he hoped it would receive approval when the World Bank’s policy panel, the Development Committee, holds a virtual meeting on April 17.