WB to lend over $1bn for Covid-19 response

Staff Correspondent

16 April, 2021 12:00 AM printer

The World Bank is providing a total of $1.04 billion fresh loans to Bangladesh to help respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and build resilience to future crises, including vaccination against COVID-19, expand electronic procurement and accelerate economic recovery.

The government of Bangladesh signed three financing agreements totaling $1.04 billion with the Washington-based lender, a WB release said on Wednesday.  

The $500 million additional financing to the COVID-19 Emergency Response and Pandemic Preparedness Project will help Bangladesh vaccinate about 54 million people against COVID-19.

It will help the government procure vaccines; expand storage facilities; and distribute and deploy the vaccines.

The project will also continue to provide support to strengthen the national health systems to detect, prevent, and treat COVID-19 cases as well for preparedness for future health emergencies.

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be an enormous challenge around the world.  So far, Bangladesh has tackled the challenges well through fiscal stimulus and social protection programs. However economic recovery would depend on vaccination for those who need it most, and actions to increase efficiency and boost productivity,” said WB Country Director Mercy Tembon.

 “These projects will help vaccinate about one-third of the population, attract direct private investment in specialized economic zones and expand as well as upgrade the electronic government procurement system,” she added.

The $500 million Private Investment and Digital Entrepreneurship (PRIDE) Project will promote and attract about $2 billion direct private investments and strengthen social and environmental standards in selected public and private economic zones and software technology parks.

It will develop the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar II in Mirsarai-Feni and establish Dhaka’s first digital entrepreneurship hub in the Janata Software Technology Park and turn it into a green building.  By creating more jobs and attracting domestic and foreign private investment, including in the IT and ITES sectors, the project will help the economy to rebound from the impact of COVID-19.

The agreements were signed by Fatima Yasmin and Mercy Tembon on behalf of the Government and the World Bank respectively.

 “These financings will help Bangladesh provide vaccination to mass people and thus help the economy to turn around and remain resilient,” said Fatima Yasmin, Secretary, Economic Relations Division.

 The $40 million Additional Financing to the Digitizing Implementation Monitoring and Public Procurement Project (DIMAPP) will help Bangladesh expand electronic government procurement (e-GP) to all public procurement entities with new features to respond to the COVID-19 challenges.

Last year, during the general holiday for the COVID-19 pandemic, e-GP played a critical role in continuing development works throughout the country. To respond to the challenges of COVID-19 pandemic and any other future emergencies, the financing will help add features to the e-GP system, including international bidding, direct contracting, framework agreement, electronic contract management and payment, procurement data analytics, geo-tagging, and others.

The credits are from the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), and have a 30-year term, including a five-year grace period. Bangladesh currently has the largest ongoing IDA program totaling over $14 billion.

The World Bank was among the first development partners to support Bangladesh and has committed more than $35 billion in grants, interest-free, and concessional credits to the country since its Independence.