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WB loan to help Bangladesh sustain post-Covid growth

The World Bank has approved a $250 million financing to help Bangladesh strengthen its policies to sustain growth following the pandemic and enhance resilience to future shocks.

The Bangladesh First Recovery and Resilience Development Policy Credit — the first in a series of two credits — supports fiscal and financial sector policies to enhance macroeconomic stability and sustain growth.

It supports expanding and modernising social protection programmes and energy sector policies to improve efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These actions will help the country build resilience against future shocks, including climate change, the World Bank said in a release.

“Since 2020, the World Bank has provided over $3 billion to Bangladesh to support emergency response, vaccination, and other Covid-19 recovery efforts,” said Mercy Tembon, World Bank country director for Bangladesh and Bhutan.

“This credit will further accelerate the government’s endeavours to strengthen its policies and regulatory framework to pave the way for a green, resilient, inclusive recovery and low-carbon growth.”

This programme supports the development of the National Tariff Policy, which will help modernise trade taxes. New policies also enable foreign firms, including non-resident digital services companies, such as the search, social media, and cloud services firms, to submit VAT returns and make payments.

Expanded coverage of the national e-Government Procurement (e-GP) system will increase the efficiency of public expenditure. The financing will also help streamline the bank recovery framework. All scheduled banks will prepare recovery plans, which will be updated annually.

New legislation will be prepared to strengthen the stability and efficiency of payment and settlement systems, which will also foster digital and mobile financial services, according to the World Bank.

The programme also supports adjustments to the interest rates of several public savings instruments, bringing them closer to the market to reduce distortions.

This programme will help the government rapidly scale up cash transfer programmes to respond to future shocks and to expand the use of the government-to-person payment platform for cash-based schemes.

This will allow the government to respond more quickly to climate-related crises, including floods and cyclones, by identifying and targeting new and existing beneficiaries for emergency assistance.

It will also help Bangladesh with its transition to a low-carbon economy. The revised National Building Code will improve energy efficiency in buildings, while the cancellation of 8,451 MW of planned investment in coal-fired power generation projects supports progress towards Bangladesh’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) 2021.

“This financing will help Bangladesh harness digital technology to ensure green and resilient growth,” said Bernard Haven, World Bank senior economist and task team leader for the project.

“Fiscal and financial sector policies will help sustain growth, while enhancing the coverage and efficiency of social protection programmes will protect the poor and vulnerable during economic shocks and natural disasters.”

The credit is from the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), which provides concessional financing, has a 30-year term, including a five-year grace period. Bangladesh currently has the largest ongoing IDA programme, totalling over $14.5 billion.