Mil­lions fall into ‘ex­treme poverty’

The Phnom Penh Post - - FRONT PAGE -

THE head of the World Bank warned on Tues­day that the novel coro­n­avirus cri­sis threat­ens to push some 60 mil­lion peo­ple into ex­treme poverty, wip­ing out the gains made over the past three years.

The global lend­ing in­sti­tu­tion is al­ready fi­nanc­ing aid pro­grammes in 100 coun­tries, under its com­mit­ment to spend $160 bil­lion over the next 15 months, bank pres­i­dent David Malpass said.

“That’s home to 70 per cent of t he world’s popu lat ion. This rep­re­sents a sig­nif icant mi le­stone,” Malpass told a con­fer­ence ca ll.

Malpass said the bank an­tic­i­pates a five per cent con­trac­tion in the world econ­omy this year, with se­vere ef­fects on the poor­est coun­tries.

“We es­ti­mate that up to 60 mil­lion peo­ple will be pushed into ex­treme povert y, eras­ing a ll the progress made in pover t y a l lev iat ion i n t he past three years, and our fore­casts i ndi­cate a deep re­ces­sion,” Malpass said.

Nearly five mil­lion peo­ple have been in­fected by the coro­n­avirus around the world, and more than 300,000 have died since it first ap­peared in China in late 2019.

So far, the World Bank has spent $5.5 bil­lion to shore up be­lea­guered health sys­tems, economies and so­cial ser­vices in poor coun­tries.

But Malpass stressed that the World Bank’s ef­forts alone were in­suf­fi­cient, and urged donor nations to step up bi­lat­eral aid to poorer coun­tries to en­sure a durable re­cov­ery.

He said restor­ing the f low of re­mit t a nce pay ment s a nd tou r i sm – ke y s ou rc e s of income for de­vel­op­ing coun­tries – would be “crit­i­cal steps in t he reopening”.

A year-long mora­to­rium on debt pay­ments by less de­vel­oped coun­tries – called for by the G20 in mid-April – has gained grow­ing ac­cep­tance, he noted.

Malpass sa id 14 coun­tries have agreed to such a sus­pen­sion of debt pay­ments, another 23 are ex­pected to re­quest it, and 17 were giv ing it se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion.

“That’s a very wel­come and very fast re­sponse and pos­i­tive re­sponse to the G20 coun­tries’ com­mit­ment,” he said.

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