The World Bank Group has again raised an alarm that the growing impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the global economy and shutdown of many advanced economies could push as many as 60 million people into extreme poverty.
The World Bank Group President, David Malpass, said the situation erases much of the recent progress recorded in poverty alleviation around the world.
He said these prospects were what compelled the World Bank Group to move swiftly and decisively to establish emergency response mechanisms that allow donor groups and organisations to rapidly expand help programmes in 100 countries, home to 70 per cent of the world’s population.
To return to the path of global economic growth, Mr Malpass said the group’s goal must be rapid and flexible to tackle the health emergency.
He said the objective must also be to provide cash and other expandable support to protect the poor, maintain the private sector, and strengthen economic resilience and recovery.
Since March, the World Bank said, it delivered record levels of support to help countries protect the poor and vulnerable, reinforce health systems, maintain the private sector and bolster economic recovery.
“This assistance, the largest and fastest crisis response in the Bank Group’s history marks a milestone in implementing the Bank Group’s pledge to make available $160 billion in grants and financial support over a 15-month period to help developing countries respond to the health, social and economic impacts of COVID-19 and the economic shutdown in advanced countries,” it said on Tuesday.
Of the 100 countries, 39 are in Sub-Saharan Africa, with nearly one-third of the total projects located in fragile and conflict-affected situations, such as Afghanistan, Chad, Haiti, and Niger.
The group said the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) have also fast-tracked support to businesses in developing countries, including trade finance and working capital to maintain private sectors, jobs and livelihoods.
Mr Malpass said the group’s support through grants, loans and equity investments would be supplemented by the suspension of bilateral debt service, as endorsed by the bank’s governors.
The eligible countries for International Development Agencies (IDA) that request a forbearance on their official bilateral debt payments, the World Bank President said, would have more financial resources to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and fund critical, life-saving emergency responses.
“The bilateral debt-service suspension being offered will free up crucial resources for IDA countries to fund emergency responses to COVID-19,” Mr Malpass said.
“Nations should move quickly to substantially increase the transparency of all their governments’ financial commitments. This will increase the confidence in the investment climate and encourage more beneficial debt and investment in the future.”
The group’s operations in 100 countries aim to save lives, protect livelihoods, build resilience, and boost recovery by strengthening health systems, monitoring and prevention, particularly in low-income countries and in fragile and conflict-affected situations.
The health response programmes address emergency containment and mitigation needs for COVID-19, including strengthening countries’ health systems to treat severe cases and save lives.
The group also establishes and supports efforts in fragile and conflict-affected situations as a priority, given the rapidly growing number of cases in some of these countries.
The World Bank President said disbursement of financial supports are already ongoing to Senegal ($20 million) and Ghana ($35 million) including funding to strengthen disease surveillance systems, public health laboratories, and epidemiological capacity for early detection.
Again, the bank is also leveraging countries’ existing social protection systems to help families and businesses restore income, preserve livelihoods, and compensate for increasing prices and unexpected medical expenses.
These safety nets are needed to augment with safe, direct food distribution, accompanied by key information on nutrition, social distancing, and hygiene.
Zamfara Gov Accuses Traditional Rulers of Sabotaging Peace Efforts
The Governor of Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle, has accused some unnamed traditional rulers of sabotaging his government’s peace efforts in the state.
The governor, at a meeting with the heads of security agencies in the state on Thursday, said the traditional rulers were not playing their expected roles in the fight against banditry.
He said this has led to the recent deterioration of insecurity in the state.
The meeting was also attended by religious clerics, traditional rulers and journalists at the Government House in Gusau.
Mr Matawalle said some traditional rulers were aiding the illegal activities of outlawed vigilante groups in their domains, which he said was provoking reprisal attacks by bandits.
The governor also condemned a statement by the chairman of the state’s traditional rulers’ council, the Emir of Anka, Attahiru Ahmad, in which he challenged the state government to allow citizens to bear arms for self defence, since the government had failed in protecting the citizens.
The governor said “it is discouraging to have a respected personality like the state chairman Council of Chiefs to grant an interview with journalists to challenge the efforts of the government and security operatives.”
Mr Matawalle said security is a collective responsibility and not that of the government alone.
He said if the residents and traditional leaders are not interested in his administration’s dialogue with the bandits, he would withdraw from it.
Ondo Monarchs Urge South West Governors to Cage Killer Herdsmen
The Ondo State Council of Obas, on Thursday, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to caution his aides who comment on security of the country.
The traditional rulers, who reacted over the comments made by some aides of the President on the order of Akeredolu ejecting the herdsmen from all the forest reserves in the state, said the move was not to chase out the Fulani in the state but to save it from the activities of the bandits.
This was contained in a communiqué issued at the end of meeting of the monarchs in Akure, which was read by a former Chairman of the council and the Olukare of Ikareland, Oba Akadiri Momoh.
The monarchs said, “We are calling on President Buhari to show to the world that he is a father of all irrespective of ethnic affiliation as well as cautioned his aides to exercise restraints on issues that border on insecurity in the country.”
The obas urged “the governors in the South-West region, the South-West caucus in the National Assembly and state Houses of Assembly to use constitutional means to rein the rampaging criminals masquerading as herdsmen across the region.”
The state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Charles Titiloye, declared that the state had no plan to send anti-open grazing bill to the state House of Assembly at the moment.
He said what was on ground in the state currently was the order of the governor to be complied with within seven days.
Titiloye said, “I may not be able to reply whether the state is planning to send the anti-grazing bill or not because the governor has given an order and after the seven days ultimatum and there is no compliance, then we shall know what to do next.”
Reacting to the claim by the Northern Elders Forum that the herdsmen had freedom of movement, the commissioner explained that the governor’s order had not restrained anybody’s movement, but to flush out criminal elements among herdsmen in the state.
He said, “We are not restraining any movement. Forests have been turned to hideouts of criminals and in order to identify the real herdsmen and the criminal ones; that is why the order of the governor came.
“We know that after seven days, the criminal ones would not leave the forest reserves; and until then we shall know what step to take next.”
Japan Denies Cancellation of Tokyo Olympics
Japan doubled down on its commitment to host the Tokyo Olympics this year and flatly denied reports on Friday of a cancellation, in a move that is unlikely to temper public fears of holding the event during a global pandemic.
Though much of Japan is under a state of emergency due to a third wave of COVID-19 infections, Tokyo organisers have consistently vowed to press ahead with the Games scheduled to open on July 23 after having been postponed in March last year.
A government spokesman said there was “no truth” to a report in The Times that Japan was now focused on rescheduling the event to 2032.
“We will clearly deny the report,” Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Manabu Sakai said in a press conference on Friday.
The Tokyo 2020 organising committee also denied the report, saying its partners including the Japanese government and the International Olympic Committee were “fully focused” on hosting the games as scheduled.
In early international reactions, the Australian and U.S. Olympic Committees said they were preparing for the Games as planned.
“Unfortunately, I need to address unfounded rumours that the Tokyo Olympic Games will be cancelled, rumours that only create more anxiety for athletes,” Matt Carroll, the chief executive of the Australian committee, told reporters in Sydney on Friday.
“The Tokyo Games are on. The flame will be lit on July 23, 2021.”
The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) is run by the IOC’s pointman for the Tokyo Games John Coates.
Olympic committees from the U.S. and Canada wrote on Twitter they had not received any information suggesting the Games would not happen as planned.
Japan has been hit less severely by the pandemic than many other advanced economies, but a recent surge in cases has forced it to close its borders to non-resident foreigners and declare a state of emergency in Tokyo and major cities.
About 80 per cent of people in Japan do not want the Games to be held this summer, recent opinion polls show, over fears the influx of athletes will spread the virus further.
In an interview ahead of Friday’s report, Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said he was cautiously hopeful that successful rollouts of COVID-19 vaccines could help lead to the safe staging of the world’s largest sporting event.
The Olympic Games represents a major milestone for Japan and its premier, Yoshihide Suga, who has said the event would bring “hope and courage” to the world. Suga reiterated on Friday that it would go ahead as planned.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach reaffirmed his commitment to holding the Games this year in an interview with Kyodo News on Thursday.
“We have at this moment, no reason whatsoever to believe that the Olympic Games in Tokyo will not open on the 23rd of July in the Olympic stadium in Tokyo,” Bach told Kyodo.