ADB to lend Pakistan $1.7bn for pandemic shock

Updated April 25, 2020

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ADB would extend budgetary support at a special concessionary rate. — AFP/File
ADB would extend budgetary support at a special concessionary rate. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has agreed to provide about $1.7 billion by the end of calendar year — almost half of it by June — to help Pakistan absorb the fiscal shocks from the Coronavirus pandemic.

Ministry of Economic Affairs (MEA) on Friday said in a statement that the ADB has promised $1.7bn support to Pakistan for Covid-19 response. This will include a budgetary support of $800 million to be approved by June this year and another $900m by December.

The statement said the ADB would extend budgetary support at a special concessionary rate. The decision was reached following a virtual meeting between Minister for Economic Affairs Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiyar and ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa.

In a separate statement, the ADB said that MEA Bakhtiyar and ADB chief “discussed how [the bank] can scale up its support for the government’s response to the novel coronavirus disease pandemic” but did not confirm the loan programmes. Another official explained that the ADB’s formal announcement would come out shortly after necessary board approval.

“ADB is firmly committed to helping Pakistan fight this pandemic, reduce the impact on the poorest and most vulnerable groups across the country, and protect the economy”, said Mr Asakawa adding the outbreak of coronavirus in Pakistan had already led to significant loss of life and livelihoods, and continued to pose serious health and economic risks.

The ADB said it was “preparing an emergency assistance package to provide immediate and flexible financing to help Pakistan combat the COVID-19 outbreak, revitalise economic activity for affected communities, and support the basic needs of vulnerable and poor segments of society”. The ADB is also working to mobilise additional grant funding for Pakistan and specific measures to support the private sector, it added.

ADB Chief Asakawa commended government for its swift response to mitigate the impact of coronavirus including the economic stimulus package to support families and businesses, and timely policy measures, including lowering interest rates and announcing new refinancing facilities.

Bakhtiyar also expressed his appreciation for the ADB’s timely and continued support. On April 9, the ADB repurposed $50m from the Pakistan’s National Disaster Risk Management Fund to procure medical equipment to strengthen hospitals, diagnostic laboratories, isolation units, and other medical facilities in the country.

These supplies have begun to arrive in Pakistan and are being delivered to frontline health workers, while the bank is working intensively to deliver further supplies under this assistance.

Last month, the ADB also approved $2.5m in immediate response grant funding to help Pakistan purchase personal protective equipment and other emergency medical supplies.

These are part of the ADB’s expanded support package of $20bn announced on April 13 to address the immediate needs of its developing member countries, including Pakistan, as they respond to the pandemic.

The bank also approved measures to streamline its operations for quicker and more flexible delivery of assistance.

Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2020