INDIA: After a support of US $1 billion for the healthcare sector in India last month, the World Bank on Friday announced an aid of US $1 billion to support the nation’s efforts in providing social assistance to poor, vulnerable households amid the coronavirus outbreak. With this, the total commitment from the international financial institution towards India’s emergency COVID-19 response has now reached to US $2 billion. 

In a webinar interaction with the media, Mr.Junaid Ahmad, the World Bank Director for India elaborated the financial aid approved and said, “The Word Bank will partner with the Government of India in three areas – health, social protection and the Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME).”

He further added that India’s social protection is pivoted towards migrants, unorganised workers, portability and creating an integration of the system. It piggybacks on an existing infrastructure of the Public distribution system, Jan Dhan, Aadhar & mobile. 

In his addressal, the Director stated that the governments around the world have introduced social distancing and nationwide lockdowns in unprecedented ways in response to the pandemic which has certain impacts on the economy. 

The measures intended to contain the spread of the virus have affected employment especially in the informal sector. India with the world’s largest lockdown has not been an exception to this trend, and has been equally hit by the lockdown economically, he said.

The international financial institution’s support for social protection will be funded in two phases – an allocation of $750 million before the end of June and a $250 million second tranche by June, 2021.

In a statement, the World Bank stated, “Of the USD 1 billion commitment, USD 550 million will be financed by a credit from the International Development Association (IDA) the World Bank’s concessionary lending arm and USD 200 million will be a loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), with a final maturity of 18.5 years including a grace period of five years.The remaining USD 250 million will be made available after June 30, 2020.” 

In the first phase, the funding will provide assistance to the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana which will help scale up the public distribution system and direct benefit transfer apart from supporting other initiatives such as social protection for workers engaged in the fight against Covid19.

“This $1 billion will help the government’s large support. It is the government of India which is leading with expenditure, we are just following. Other development partners will also come behind this programme,” said Junaid Ahmad, World Bank country director in India.