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World Bank Group’s $157 Billion Pandemic Surge Is Largest Crisis Response in Its History

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In response to COVID-19 severely damaging the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in developing countries, the World Bank Group deployed over $157 billion to fight the pandemic’s health, economic, and social impacts over the last 15 months (April 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021). This is the largest crisis response of any such period in the Bank Group’s history and represents an increase of more than 60% over the 15-month period prior to the pandemic. Bank Group commitments and mobilizations in fiscal year 2021 (FY21) alone (July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021) amounted to almost $110 billion (or $84 billion excluding mobilization, short-term financing, and recipient-executed trust funds).

Since the start of the pandemic, the Bank Group supported countries to address the health emergency, strengthen health systems, protect the poor and vulnerable, support businesses, create jobs and jump start a green, resilient, and inclusive recovery.

Following last year’s COVID-related economic deterioration, the global economy is expected to expand 5.6% in 2021. Thus far, the recovery is uneven and many of the world’s poorest countries are being left behind. While about 90% of advanced economies are expected to regain their pre-pandemic per capita income levels by 2022, only about one-third of emerging market and developing economies are projected to do the same. In 2020, global extreme poverty rose for the first time in over 20 years, with nearly 100 million people pushed into extreme poverty.

“Since the start of the pandemic, the World Bank Group has committed or mobilized a record $157 billion in new financing, an unprecedented level of support for an unprecedented crisis,” said World Bank Group President David Malpass. “We will continue to provide critical assistance to developing countries through this ongoing pandemic to help achieve a more broad-based economic recovery. The Bank Group has proven to be a rapid, innovative, and effective platform to support developing countries as they respond to the pandemic and strengthen resilience for future shocks. But we must do more still. I remain deeply concerned about limited availability of vaccines for developing countries, which are critical to save lives and livelihoods.”

 World Bank Group Commitments (in U.S. billions)
World Bank GroupQ4-FY20FY21*15-mo ending June 21*
IBRD15.130.545.6
IDA17.236.153.3
IFC11.231.542.7
 Long-term finance (own account)4.9  12.517.4
    Mobilization4.110.814.9
    Short-term finance2.28.210.4
MIGA2.45.27.6
Recipient-executed trust funds  (RETF)1.56.47.9
TOTAL (excluding short-term finance, mobilization, and RETF)39.684.3123.9
TOTAL (including short-term finance, mobilization and RETF)47.4109.7157.1
 *Preliminary and unaudited numbers as of July 14.

In the 15 months ending June 30, 2021, the Bank Group stretched its balance sheets, accelerated leveraging and disbursements, and front-loaded resources. Support to countries from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) totaled $45.6 billion – including drawing down IBRD’s $10 billion crisis buffer in addition to Board-approved sustainable annual lending limits. Grants and zero or low-interest loans to the world’s poorest countries from the International Development Association (IDA) amounted to $53.3 billion. To meet increased financing needs, the World Bank fully used all remaining IDA18 resources in FY20 and frontloaded about half of all the three-year envelope of IDA19 resources in FY21. In February 2021, IDA donor and borrower country representatives agreed to advance IDA20 by 12 months to enable continued surge financing in the coming years.

In addition, over the same 15 months, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Bank Group’s private sector development arm, reached a record high of $42.7 billion in financing, including short-term finance ($10.4 billion) and mobilization ($14.9 billion), 37% of which was in low-income and fragile and conflict-affected states. IFC provided liquidity for businesses to remain in operation, while ramping up investments in companies on the frontlines of the pandemic response. To address the COVID-induced increase in the trade gap, IFC has expanded its trade and supply chain finance activities. IFC’s “Upstream” work continues to create the conditions to attract much-needed private investment to some of the world’s most difficult places and preparing the ground for a faster private sector recovery.

Despite a challenging year for borrowers and financial markets, IDA doubled the amount it raised last fiscal year from investors, reaching almost $10 billion. IBRD raised $68 billion, by mobilizing financing from investors around the globe. IBRD and IDA, both rated AAA/Aaa, raised awareness for a variety of development themes to successfully mobilize finance for sustainable development. The year also included innovations such as a unique $100 million five-year bond issued by IBRD to support the global response to COVID-19 through UNICEF. IFC, also rated AAA/Aaa, issued close to $13 billion in bonds for private sector development and job creation in emerging markets.

The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), whose mandate is to drive impactful foreign direct investment to developing countries, issued $7.6 billion in new guarantees over the same 15-month period since the onset of the pandemic, of which 19% supported projects in IDA countries and fragile settings.

In FY21, the World Bank Group’s climate finance totaled over $26 billion, it’s largest year of climate finance ever (25% above FY20, which was itself also a record). The new Climate Change Action Plan for 2021-2025 aims to integrate climate and development goals, and commits 35% of Bank Group financing to climate, on average, over the next five years, with at least 50% of World Bank climate finance supporting adaptation. In the same time frame, the Bank Group will align financing with the goals of the Paris Agreement, while helping client countries meet their Paris commitments, including supporting and implementation of development of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and Long-Term Strategies.

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Development

Vaccination, Jobs, and Social Assistance are All Key to Reducing Poverty in Central Asia

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As the pace of economic recovery picks up, countries in Central Asia have an opportunity to return to pre-pandemic levels of poverty reduction – if they put in place the right policies. This was the overall message shared by World Bank economists today at a regional online event “Overcoming the Pandemic and Ending Poverty in Central Asia”.

In the early 2000s, Central Asian countries were among the world’s best performers in poverty reduction. Starting in 2009, however, the pace of progress began to slow and even stagnated in some of the countries. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted a region already struggling to generate inclusive growth and end extreme poverty. Now in the second year of the pandemic, poverty rates in Central Asia are falling again, but with high inflation and low vaccination rates, the poor and the most vulnerable continue to suffer from food insecurity, uncertainty, and limited employment opportunities, especially for women.

“Central Asia is recovering from the first shocks of the pandemic, albeit in uneven ways,” said Will Seitz, World Bank Senior Economist in Central Asia. “Migration and remittances, key drivers of poverty reduction in the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, are quickly returning to 2019 levels. Labor markets are also recovering, and work disruptions are much less common. However, the region is yet to get on a stable poverty reduction path.”

Among policy priorities to reduce poverty, the World Bank is focused on three key areas: widespread vaccination, increasing employment and wages, and strengthening social assistance programs to support the most vulnerable. To support labor market recovery, the World Bank economists outlined short-term and medium-term measures, including the need to invest in green jobs and encouraging the creation and growth of firms.

It was also stressed that employment alone will not address all drivers of poverty, and strong safety nets are essential to protect the most vulnerable. Compared with other middle-income countries, Central Asian governments typically provide smaller shares of their populations with social assistance.

“Along with ensuring fair, broad access to effective and safe COVID-19 vaccines, Central Asian countries need to urgently address vaccination hesitancy, as it threatens to slow down the recovery,” said Tatiana Proskuryakova, World Bank Regional Director for Central Asia. “For every million people vaccinated, global GDP recovers on average nearly $8 billion. We are expecting advanced economies with relatively high vaccination rates to demonstrate much better growth rates than developing economies with low vaccination rates.”

Among the main reasons behind vaccine hesitancy in Central Asian countries are worries about vaccine contraindication and safety. While people with pre-existing health conditions in other countries are usually prioritized for vaccination, in the Central Asia region they are more likely to be hesitant to get vaccinated. Providing the public with accurate information on the safety of vaccines and encouraging people with pre-existing health conditions to be vaccinated may help address hesitancy issues.

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Vietnam’s Development Agenda Receives Additional Boost

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Vietnam’s push to enhance competitiveness, reduce its carbon footprint, and improve lives and livelihoods has been given a boost with the approval of an AUD 5 million grant by the Australian Government.

This grant represents additional funding to the ongoing Australia – Bank Partnership in Vietnam (ABP), which focuses on a wide range of policy areas designed to support the country’s development agenda.

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on Vietnam’s reform agenda and exacerbate inequalities, which are more pronounced and harder to close for ethnic minorities, for women and for other marginalized groups. Responding to this, Australia’s extended collaboration with the World Bank will continue to support Vietnam’s quick economic recovery and help achieve its development goals,” said Australia’s Ambassador to Vietnam HE Robyn Mudie.

The ABP will continue its work on gender equality and the sustainable development of the Mekong Delta. In addition, it will also help address new priorities set out in the country’s recently adopted Socio-Economic Development Strategy and Socio-Economic Development Plan, including the transition to a low carbon economy, social equity and inclusion, and innovation-driven growth.

“The ABP will continue providing high-quality advisory work, enabling Vietnamese policymakers to pursue substantive reforms,” said Carolyn Turk, World Bank Country Director for Vietnam. “These reforms are needed both for recovery from the economic costs of COVID, but also to set a solid basis for the pathway to higher income status.”

The ABP was established in 2017 with an initial funding amount of AUD 25 million. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the ABP responded quickly and provided an additional AUD 5 million to support Vietnam to respond to, and recover from, the pandemic. The program leverages expertise from Australia and the World Bank Group to support the Government of Vietnam in strengthening its development policies and programs.

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Cotton sustains more than 100 million families worldwide

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Women workers clean cotton in Multan city in Pakistan. © FAO/Aamir Qureshi

A single metric tonne of cotton provides jobs for five people on average, often in some of the world’s most impoverished regions; that adds up around 100 million families across the globe. 

To recognize these and other contributions, the United Nations is marking World Cotton Day, this Thursday. 

Cotton is an important means of livelihood for millions of smallholders and attracts export revenues to some of the poorest countries. This makes the sector a key contributor to reaching the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

For the UN, this natural fabric “represents so much more than just a commodity”, it is “a life-changing product.” 

Important source 

Cotton is a major source of income for many rural laborers, including women. With this World Day, the UN wants to raise awareness of the critical role that cotton plays in economic development, international trade and poverty alleviation. 

The initiative also wants to highlight the importance of sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all. 

Resilient and multipurpose 

As a crop resistant to climatic changes, cotton can be planted in dry and arid zones. It occupies just 2.1 per cent of the world’s arable land, but it meets 27 per cent of the world’s textile needs. 

Around 80 per cent of cotton is used in the clothing industry, 15 per cent in home furnishings and the remaining 5 per cent mostly accounts for non-woven applications, such as filters and padding. 

Almost nothing from cotton is wasted. In addition to textiles and apparel, food products can be derived from it, such as edible oil and animal feed from the seed. 

Other uses have been developed recently, like using cotton-based filaments in 3D printers, because they conduct heat well, become stronger when wet, and are more scalable than materials like wood. 

The ‘Cotton Four’ 

The idea for the World Day was born in 2019, when four cotton producers in sub-Saharan Africa – Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali, known as the Cotton Four -proposed a celebration on October 7, to the World Trade Organization

With the UN officially recognizing the date, it became an opportunity to create awareness of the need of market access from least developed countries, to foster sustainable trade policies and to enable developing countries to benefit more from every step of the value chain. 

For years, UN agencies have worked towards this goal. 

For instance, since 2003, the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the World Trade Organization have helped the Cotton Four to improve production local processing capacity, as well as to discuss the trade reforms needed to address high trade barriers.  

Another UN agency, FAO, has long offered developing countries technical and policy support. One example is the +Cotton project, a cooperation initiative with Brazil that helps Latin American producers with innovative farming methods.

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