New Delhi: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Tuesday approved a $1.5 billion loan to the Government of India to help fund its response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The support would also be available for immediate priorities such as disease containment and prevention, as well as social protection for the poor and economically vulnerable sections of the society, especially women and disadvantaged groups.
"ADB is fully committed to supporting the Government of India in its response to this unprecedented challenge," said ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa.
"The quick-disbursing fund is part of a larger package of support that ADB will provide in close coordination with the government and other development partners. We are determined to support India's COVID-19 response programs and ensure that they provide effective support to the people of India, especially the poor and vulnerable," he said.
It further said that ADB's COVID-19 Active Response and Expenditure Support (CARES) Program will contribute directly to the improvement of access to health facilities and care, as well as social protection for more than 800 million people, including families below the poverty line, farmers, health care workers, women, senior citizens, people with disabilities, low wage earners, and construction workers.
The CARES Program is funded through the COVID-19 pandemic response option (CPRO) under ADB's Countercyclical Support Facility. CPRO was established as part of ADB's $20 billion expanded assistance for developing member countries' COVID-19 response, which was announced on April 13.
The CARES Program will be provided with a $2 million technical assistance grant to support the government to strengthen its operational framework and efficient targeting, delivery, and monitoring and evaluation of its pro-poor economic package, as well as its health sector and social protection interventions.
In the medium term, ADB will support government efforts and coordinate with other development partners to stimulate the economy, build capacity for monitoring and evaluation of government programs, and improve economic resilience against future shocks.
This will include the economic recovery of affected industries and entrepreneurs through better access to finance for micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises along with credit enhancement facility for infrastructure projects and the strengthening of public service delivery at national and state levels.
ADB in its statement said that India has taken proactive and decisive measures to contain COVID-19 to protect lives, including the implementation of social distancing, community quarantine, and testing and tracking.
"The government's COVID-19 response program includes a $2 billion health sector project to rapidly ramp up test-track-treatment capacity; and a $23 billion pro-poor relief package, which will provide additional social protection measures targeting the poor, women, vulnerable population, and disadvantaged groups. Insurance coverage for all types of health workers engaged in the COVID-19 response is also included," it said.
Around 65 per cent of the package is in the form of direct social assistance and protection to the poor and vulnerable, including women, it added.