ADB approves $1.5 billion loan to India to fight COVID-19

ADB approves $1.5 billion loan to India to fight COVID-19

New Delhi: The Asian Development Bank on Tuesday said it has approved $1.5 billion (about Rs 11,400 crore) loan to India to help fund its fight against coronavirus pandemic.

The loan has been sanctioned with a view to support immediate priorities such as disease containment and prevention, as well as social protection for the poor and economically vulnerable sections.

It is fully committed to supporting the Indian government in its response to this unprecedented challenge, said ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa.

"The quick-disbursing fund is part of a larger package of support that ADB will provide in close coordination with the government and other development partners.

"We are determined to support India's COVID-19 response programs and ensure that they provide effective support to the people of India, especially the poor and vulnerable," Asakawa said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Finance Ministry said the loan agreement has been signed. The signatories to the loan agreement were Sameer Kumar Khare, Additional Secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs and Kenichi Yokoyama, Country Director, ADB, in India.

The CARES Programme is provided as the first support to meet the immediate requirements of the government.

The Manila-headquartered multilateral agency said its COVID-19 Active Response and Expenditure Support (CARES) Program will contribute directly to the improvement of access to health facilities and care, as well as social protection for more than 800 million people, including families below the poverty line, farmers, health care workers, women, senior citizens, people with disabilities, low wage earners, and construction workers.

The CARES Program is funded through the COVID-19 pandemic response option (CPRO) under ADB's Countercyclical Support Facility. CPRO was established as part of ADB's $20 billion expanded assistance for developing member countries' COVID-19 response, which was announced on April 13.

As per the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the CARES Program will be provided with a $2 million technical assistance grant to support the government to strengthen its operational framework and efficient targeting, delivery, and monitoring and evaluation of its pro-poor economic package, as well as its health sector and social protection interventions.

"India has taken proactive and decisive measures to contain COVID-19 to protect lives, including the implementation of social distancing, community quarantine, and testing and tracking," it said.

The government's COVID-19 response program includes a $2 billion health sector project to rapidly ramp up test-track-treatment capacity and a $23 billion pro-poor relief package, which will provide additional social protection measures targeting the poor, women, vulnerable population, and disadvantaged groups, the bank noted.

Insurance coverage for all types of health workers engaged in the COVID-19 response is also included. Around 65 per cent of the package is in the form of direct social assistance and protection to the poor and vulnerable, including women.

In the medium term, ADB said it will support government efforts and coordinate with other development partners to stimulate the economy, build capacity for monitoring and evaluation of government programs, and improve economic resilience against future shocks.

This will include the economic recovery of affected industries and entrepreneurs through better access to finance for micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises; a credit enhancement facility for infrastructure projects; and the strengthening of public service delivery at national and state levels.

Last week, the ADB had also approved a $1.5 billion loan to help the Philippine government fund its COVID-19 response program and strengthen the country's health care system in its fight against the pandemic.

Regional economic growth in developing Asia will decline sharply in 2020 due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, before recovering in 2021, according to the Asian Development Outlook (ADO) 2020, the ADB's annual flagship economic publication.

Growth in India is forecast to slow to 4 per cent in fiscal year (FY) 2020 before strengthening to 6.2 per cent next year.

The report forecasts regional growth of 2.2 per cent in 2020, a downward revision of 3.3 percentage points relative to the 5.5 per cent ADB had forecast in September 2019.

Growth is expected to rebound to 6.2 per cent in 2021, assuming that the outbreak ends and activity normalises, the multilateral agency had said.

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