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$500 million WB loan sought for vaccine procurement

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By Special Correspondent
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Bangladesh has sought U$500 million loan from the World Bank for procurement of Covid-19 vaccine.
The funds will be used for procurement, preservation, transportation and distribution of vaccines, according to the Ministry of Finance.
Bangladesh is maintaining contact with Moderna, Sinovac, Pfizer, the University of Oxford, and Russia's Sputnik 5 to buy vaccines. Each dose of vaccine from these companies is expected to cost $40 or Tk 3,390.
The government allocated Tk10,000 crore in the current fiscal year's budget for tackling the Covid-19 pandemic. But no separate fund was earmarked in the budget for buying vaccines.   
Sources said, the government is planning to use Tk 8,000 crore out of Tk10,000 crore budgetary funds to purchase vaccines and 2.35 crore doses of vaccine could be purchased with the money.
Besides, a decision was made to allocate Tk 765 crore to purchase vaccines under two projects run with loan assistance from the World Bank (WB) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Officials said 22.5 lakh doses of vaccine could be purchased with that money.
So, the existing arrangement will help Bangladesh procure only 2.62 crore doses of Covid-19 vaccines, when they will be invented, although the country would require 12 crore more doses for vaccination of its whole population.  
 "To complete vaccination of more than 16 crore people, Bangladesh needs huge financing from donors when the government's fiscus under pressure amid revenue collection shortfall," said an official.  
Earlier, the WB's Executive Board approved $12 billion for developing countries to finance the purchase and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, tests and treatments for their citizens.
 "The financing, which aims to support vaccination of up to 1 billion people, is part of an overall World Bank package of up to $160 billion through June 2021 to help developing countries fight the pandemic," according to a WB statement.
The statement noted that it adds new financing to the World Bank's Covid-19 emergency response programmes that are reaching 111 countries.
Officials said Bangladesh has sought the amount ($500 million) as an additional allocation from the World Bank under its IDA-19 for the current fiscal year (FY). U$ 250 million was sought in the current fiscal year from the $500 million allocated earlier for the proposed "Covid-19 Recovery and Response" on an emergency basis to offset the economic impact caused by Covid-19.
In addition, the country also requested the multilateral lender to provide some $250 million as fresh budgetary support for the FY 2020-21 amid shortfall in its revenue receipts.
Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal asked for the funds while attending the annual meeting-2020 of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) held virtually on Thursday evening.
The Bangladesh delegation led by the Finance Minister met virually the World Bank delegation led by its South Asia Vice-President Hartwig Schafer on the sideline of the annual meet.
Finance Secretary and the Secretary, Economic Relations Division (ERD), also took part in the discussion while the World Bank Country Director Mercy Tembon also remained connected in the meeting.
In the meeting, the Bangladesh delegation has requested the WB to release U$250 million funds as budgetary support under its DPC-III project amid severe impact of the deadly coronavirus pandemic on the national economy.
Bangladesh had received $250 million (second installment) from the WB in June as part of its total U$750-million Programmatic Jobs Development Policy Credit (DPC) in order to maintain the pandemic affected labour market, financial and social sectors in the country.
"Most of the conditions under the project have already been meet. We would be able to fulfil rest of the conditions soon," said Finance Secretary Abdur Rouf Talukder.
ERD Secretary Fatima Yasmin said that under IDA-18, Bangladesh has demonstrated its ability in formulating and implementing projects worth U$5.0 billion and $2.0 billion from SUF under the IDA-18, which is the highest amount among IDA countries.
At the meeting, she requested the World Bank to allocate more funds for Bangladesh that it gave in previous years under the IDA-19.

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