March 26, 2020 / 3:02 PM / 14 days ago

Malpass says World Bank finalizing $160 bln coronavirus relief package

FILE PHOTO: World Bank President David Malpass responds to a question from a reporter during an opening press conference at the IMF and World Bank's 2019 Annual Fall Meetings of finance ministers and bank governors, in Washington, U.S., October 17, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Theiler

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The World Bank’s board is finalizing a package of coronavirus relief valued at up to $160 billion over the next 15 months, the development lender’s president, David Malpass said on Thursday.

“The goals are to shorten the time to recovery, create conditions for growth, support small and medium enterprises, and help protect the poor and vulnerable,” Malpass said in a statement issued after a G20 leaders call on Thursday.

He added that the health crisis hit close to home, as former World Bank U.S. executive director Carole Brookins has died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The World Bank earlier this month approved $14 billion in loans and grants to bolster coronavirus medical responses, an amount that is included in the $160 billion.

Malpass said the bank now has new COVID-19-related projects underway in 56 countries and is encouraging other multilateral development banks to co-finance follow-up tranches. World Bank Group entities are restructuring existing projects in 24 countries to direct funds to the health emergency.

“I’m particularly concerned about poor, densely populated countries such as India, where weak health systems need massively scalable investments in human capital, supplies and infrastructure,” Malpass said. “We are working hard to provide support through our public and private sector tools.

The International Finance Corp, the World Bank’s private sector arm, is working on new investments in 300 companies and is extending trade finance and working capital lines of credit, he added.

Malpass and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva on Wednesday urged bilateral creditors to extend debt relief to help the poorest countries deal with the pandemic.

Reporting by David Lawder and Andrea Shalal; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Chris Reese

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