Pakistan, ADB finalise $305m emergency loan

Aid aimed at procuring health equipment, disbursing cash assistance among needy women

Shahbaz Rana May 06, 2020
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have finalised negotiations for a $305 million emergency loan to procure health equipment and disburse cash assistance among the needy women aimed at coping with the health and economic crises stemming from the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The Manila-based multilateral agency will lend the money on commercial terms, unlike initial indication of giving the loan at concessional rates.

The loan negotiations have been finalised a day after a Planning Commission deputy chairman-led Concept Clearance Committee approved the $305 million financing plan offered by the ADB.

A meeting of the Concept Clearance Committee was held on Monday to discuss the financing plan for relief services under the ‘Emergency Assistance for Fighting against Covid-19 Pandemic’ worth $305 million, according to the Ministry of Planning and Development.

The Concept Clearance Committee has approved the financing plan, the ministry added.

The $305 million package is part of the overall Pakistan National Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan for Covid-19 that the Planning Commission had approved in March this year. The overall package is worth $588 million that includes $238 million World Bank loan.

For $300 million emergency loan, Pakistan had sent an official request to the ADB on March 25, 2020. The remaining $5 million is the grant money.

The ADB will provide $200 million loan for social protection for the poor and vulnerable and $105 million for public health emergency preparedness.

The $200 million or Rs32 billion will be utilised for additional cash transfers of Rs4,000 to existing 4.5 million beneficiaries and unconditional cash transfer instalments of Rs2,000 per month to existing poorest Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) beneficiaries.

This will enable the BISP to expand the coverage to the next level of poor families, whose financial condition is likely to worsen due to the socio-economic impact of Covid-19 as the situation unfolds over time.

The government plans to target nearly 18 million persons through the BISP aimed at providing them cash assistance to offset the impact of Covid-19 on their livelihoods. The process of disbursing money to an additional 12 million beneficiaries remains slow, particularly to daily wagers who would receive one-time Rs12,000 under the PM relief package.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has launched an e-portal to register the daily-wage workers, which means that nearly six million people cannot be reached before Eid.

The ADB will give $100 million for stockpiling of stores and health inventories for any unexpected surge and to sustain the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supplies throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

The equipment include Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machines, ventilators, X-ray machines, intensive care unit (ICU) monitors, nebulisers, synthesisers, viral transport medium, ICU beds, ultrasounds, etc. The consumable for tertiary laboratories, ICUs of district and tertiary hospitals, quarantine or isolation facilities and point of entries will also be procured from the loan money.

Pakistan will store supplies to meet emergency needs of at least three months for 100 hospitals, laboratories or isolation centres. The Covid-19 pandemic took the world by surprise and hardly any country was ready for the health emergency. However, the countries with better resources responded quickly and managed to get health equipment.

Pakistan will also procure or upgrade at least 100 ambulances equipped with Covid-19 care facilities.

The planning ministry said that the ADB loan proceeds will be utilised for upgradation of existing facilities or adding additional space within the existing facilities, training of health staff and strengthening of the health management systems, including inventory control, disease surveillance, and standard protocols, as well as the provision of water and sanitation facilities and improvement of hygiene at public places.

The government was exploring avenues to provide assistance to those directly affected by the coronavirus pandemic that were previously not eligible for financial assistance from the BISP, said Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Jahanzeb Khan.



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