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Finance minister seeks enhanced WB support

Increased aid for Rohingya comes up for talks

FHM Humayan Kabir from Washington DC | April 16, 2019 00:00:00

Finance minister AHM Mustafa Kamal has sought increased funds from the World Bank (WB) for completing ongoing development projects as the portfolio has almost finished before the deadline.

"Since Bangladesh is implementing many large projects, the government needs higher funds to implement those in time," said Mr Kamal.

He was talking to reporters here after a meeting with Bank's interim president Kristalina Georgeiva on Saturday (USA time).

The meeting was held on the sideline of the IMF-World Bank Spring meeting 2019 here in the USA.

"We have explained her about the necessity of funds for many ongoing large projects. We have to complete those in time. So, we need to prepare a financing plan. So, we will require higher funds," he added.

The Bank's portfolio for Bangladesh under its current aid package has almost been finished, which has resulted in the delay of implementing some ongoing and proposed development projects, officials said.

They said under the three-year IDA-18 package, only US$30 million fund has remained in the hand of the Bank for disbursement to Bangladesh. The tenure of ongoing IDA-18 package will end by June 2020.

In the meantime, the global lender has confirmed nearly $4.3 billion worth assistance for Bangladesh during the last one and a half years, officials said.

The Bank's current package for its member countries, including Bangladesh, was activated in July 2017 and will conclude in June 2020.

"The WB interim president has assured us that we can divert the unutilised funds in the pipeline for completing the priority projects," the finance minister said.

The finance minister also sought the Bank's financial support for the stranded Rohingya in Bangladesh.

The lender has agreed to provide adequate assistance for the refugees, he said.

The finance minister said he has sought adequate support from the WB for the education sector as the government wants to overhaul this sector to make the country developed.

"I have sought a good amount of financial support from the WB to develop Bangladesh's education sector. If we do not conduct reforms in the educations sector, we can't go forward," he added.

"We need education that will drive us for the current and future days. So, we need a massive reform in the education sector," he said.

The country needs to build subject-wise class rooms if it wants to educate students on robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and material science, Mr Kamal said, laying stress on developing human capital for the sustained growth.

The finance minister sought necessary support for the Rohingya during his meeting with the new WB chief.

Mr Kamal met the Director General of the DFID Lindy Cameron, and some other high officials of the WB and IMF during his tour.

Meanwhile, at the end of the spring meetings, the development committee noted the WB Group's progress on a set of policy reforms tied to the capital increase, and underscored its support for the Bank's twin goals, as well as the overarching strategy guiding its work through 2030.

The meeting agreed that the outlook foresees a moderate slowdown in economic activity, with lingering downside risks across the globe.

Global trade growth has weakened, while investment prospects have softened; both of these remain important engines of growth, productivity, innovation, job creation and sustainable development. Debt vulnerabilities persist, and policy uncertainty is weighing on confidence.

For developing countries, it is important to adopt growth-enhancing policies while containing risks and protecting the most vulnerable. The World Bank Group, in partnership with the International Monetary Fund, is able to help countries in addressing these concerns.

This was a key message from the development committee, a ministerial-level forum of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund, in a communiqué issued at the close of the meetings.

The committee, which represents 189 member countries, underscored its support for the Bank's twin goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity.


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