Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Masatsugu Asakawa on Friday assured Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of USD 2.2 billion support to India in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a call, Asakawa commended the Indian government’s decisive response to the pandemic, including a national health emergency program, tax and other relief measures provided to businesses and a USD 23 billion (Rs 1.7 lakh crore) economic relief package announced on March 26 to provide immediate income and consumption support to the poor, women, and workers affected by the three-week nationwide lockdown.
“ADB is committed to supporting India’s emergency needs. We are now preparing USD 2.2 billion in immediate assistance to the health sector and to help alleviate the economic impact of the pandemic on the poor; informal workers; micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises; and the financial sector,” Asakawa said.
ADB is also engaged with the private sector to meet its financing needs during this period, ADB said in a statement.
“ADB assistance for India will be further increased if needed. We will consider all financing options available with us to meet India’s needs, including emergency assistance, policy-based loans, and budget support to facilitate swift disbursement of ADB funds,” he said.
Weakening global economic growth is causing disruptions in India’s trade and manufacturing supply chains, along with the slowdown in tourism and other economic activities. This is straining the large number of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises, and the livelihood of formal and informal labourers across the country.
Asakawa said the policy measures announced by the government will provide much-needed relief and stimulus to the most vulnerable people as well as businesses and become a basis for faster recovery.
On March 18, ADB announced an initial package of approximately USD 6.5 billion to address the immediate needs of its developing member countries, including India, as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, it said, adding, ADB stands ready to provide further financial assistance and policy advice whenever the situation warrants.
ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members – 49 from the region.
About 400 million people working in the informal economy in India are at risk of falling deeper into poverty due to the coronavirus crisis which is having “catastrophic consequences”, and is expected to wipe out 195 million full-time jobs or 6.7 per cent of working hours globally in the second quarter of this year, the UN’s labour body warned. The International Labour Organization (ILO) in its report titled ‘ILO Monitor 2nd edition: COVID-19 and the world of work’, describes coronavirus pandemic as “the worst global crisis since World War II”.
“Workers and businesses are facing catastrophe, in both developed and developing economies. We have to move fast, decisively, and together. The right, urgent, measures, could make the difference between survival and collapse,” ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said on Tuesday.