ADB board okays $500m loan for Pakistan coronavirus relief fund

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By Muhammad Luqman
The Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a loan of $500 million to help Pakistan government in its social protection programmes for the poor and vulnerable, expand health sector capabilities, deliver a pro-poor fiscal stimulus to boost growth and create jobs during the Covid-19 crisis.
“The Covid-19 pandemic hit Pakistan at a critical point in its ongoing economic recovery programme,” said ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa in a press statement issued on Wednesday.
“We are fully committed to supporting Pakistan through this difficult period. This loan will help plug selected funding gaps as the government implements its countercyclical development plan, including strengthening the country’s social safety net and health sector capacity.”
Pakistan’s health response is hampered by a low number of health workers relative to the population and inadequate availability of hospital beds. Covid-19 is expected to lead to a sharp decline in growth, revenue collection, and significant job losses in Pakistan, the statement added.
“ADB’s Covid-19 Active Response and Expenditure Support (CARES) Programme will support various government initiatives, including cash assistance payments to 3 million daily wage workers, of whom approximately 23% are women, and cash grants to 7.5 million families under the Kifalat social protection program,” the bank explained.
ADB maintained that the programme would help fund the acquisition of additional ventilators and Covid-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical staff.
“To prevent job losses, the loan will support young entrepreneurs, including at least 25% women, through the government’s youth entrepreneur scheme, Kamyab Jawan,” according to the statement.
The CARES Programme was developed in close coordination with these development partners, the International Monetary Fund, and other bilateral donors. It is part of ADB’s integrated package of support to help the Government of Pakistan’s immediate efforts to mitigate the significant negative health, social, and economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Earlier on May 19, the ADB approved a $300 million emergency assistance loan for Pakistan to strengthen its health response to the Covid-19 pandemic amid the climate change ministry’s bid to divert some of the funds to non-coronavirus activities.
On 9 April, ADB reallocated $30 million from the National Disaster NDRMF Project and the NDRMF Board of Directors allocated an additional $20 million to procure medical equipment to strengthen hospitals in the country.
ADB had also approved $2.5 million in grants to help Pakistan purchase PPE and other medical supplies in March.

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