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Record loan flows from abroad amid pandemic

By Special Correspondent
12th-Nov-2020       
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Bangladesh obtained US$ 4.25 billion as loans from multilateral lenders and bilateral partners in the last six months (April-September) amid the coronavirus.  
Of this, $2.87 billion foreign loans were obtained during April-June, and $1.38 billion during July-September, according to an official figure.
Officials said that the government had to raise the funds to address the health and socioeconomic crises inflicted by Covid-19 pandemic.
Earlier, the government sought a record $4.5 billion foreign loans from donors to help Bangladesh's economy recover from Covid-19 downturn. It also applied for loan assistance for implementing the stimulus package to offset the economic impact of the pandemic.
In June this year, Bangladesh received a record $1.98 billion as loans from donor countries and agencies. The previous highest total foreign loan in a month for Bangladesh was $1.43 billion in June 2018.
The pandemic wreaked havoc on the local economy sending the GDP growth to historic low at 5.24 per cent in the last fiscal year (2019-20). "To recover from this downturn, Bangladesh needs every assistance available, even overseas," a senior finance ministry official told The New Nation.
 "The government could have stopped the spread of the coronavirus by imposing lockdown measure. But its impact was severe on the economy. We have to address the economic crisis through engagements with donors and development partners, he said, adding, "Donor agencies and multilateral lenders, including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Asian Development Bank, have already extended their support to this endeavor."
He also said that the record inflows of foreign loans have also helped boost the country's foreign exchange reserve that hit a new record of $40.03 billion (by the end of October 2020).
"The coronavirus crisis has hit revenue earnings hard and it has forced the government to approach the donors for bigger credit (soft loan) to finance the deficit budget and tackle the pandemic," Economist Dr Ahsan Mansur told The New Nation.
He said the development partners and donor agencies have already extended their support to Bangladesh as the government properly outlined real scenario of the crisis.
In the fiscal year (2019-20), the country obtained a total of $7.27 billion in foreign loans, a record for a financial year with 17.2 per cent year-on-year growth.
And more than half of the amount, or $3.76 billion, came in the last four months of the fiscal year after the government detected the first coronavirus cases in the country.
In fiscal 2019-20, the World Bank provided Bangladesh with $1.3 billion in loans. The multilateral donor agency gives $400 million loans to Bangladesh during July to September this year.
The government also sought $500 million support from the World Bank for procurement, preservation, transportation and distribution of the coronavirus vaccine.
IMF provided $700 million loans for budget financing in June this year. ADB provided $1.32 billion up to October this year, and over 600 million has already been provided to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.
Besides ADB has announced to provide $300 million as grant to buy medical equipments.   

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