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WB plans new $170B fund to ease ‘multiple crises’ in poor nations: chief

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World Bank President David Malpass said the global pandemic makes it urgent to reduce the debt of the poorest nations. AFP

WB plans new $170B fund to ease ‘multiple crises’ in poor nations: chief

The World Bank (WB) is seeking to create a $170 billion emergency fund to help the poorest nations being buffeted by multiple crises, the bank’s president David Malpass said on April 18.

The “crisis response envelope” will continue the work begun during the Covid-19 pandemic, and help countries deal with surging inflation, which was made worse by the Russia-Ukraine crisis as well as the “severe financial stress” caused by high debt levels, he said.

“This is a continued massive crisis response,” Malpass told reporters.

High debt and inflation “are two big problems facing global growth”, he said.

“I’m deeply concerned about developing countries. They’re facing sudden price increases for energy, fertiliser and food.”

The Washington-based development lender last week downgraded its forecast for global growth this year, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was expected to do the same in updated forecasts due to be released on April 19.

Speaking ahead of this week’s spring meetings of the IMF and WB, Malpass said the 15-month aid fund would run through June 2023 and build on the $157 billion Covid-response fund, which expired in June 2021.

“We expect to commit around $50 billion of this amount in the next three months,” he said, adding that he plans to discuss the fund with the bank board in coming weeks.

Malpass repeated his concern for poor countries facing high debt levels, noting that 60 per cent of low-income countries already face debt distress or are at high risk.

He has recommended improvements in the G20 Common Framework adopted last year, which was meant to offer a path to restructure large debt loads, but has not yet produced results.

A key hurdle is the lack of information on the size of debt owed to China, as well as some other lenders, by private companies as well as governments.

G20 finance ministers will meet on April 20 on the spring meetings’ sidelines.

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