The president of the World Bank Group (WBG) has urged nations not to hoard food at a time of crisis like the Covid-19 pandemic.
"We are trying to discourage countries from hoarding," David Malpass, president of the WBG, told The Business Standard at a virtual press conference on Friday.
"There's a tendency in a crisis to hunker down, and I think it's a critical part of global cooperation to not do that, to look for teamwork with other countries," he said.
The WB president also stressed on maintaining markets and trade to offset the impacts of Covid-19. To maintain open markets is critical for a functional food supply chain and also a medical supply chain, he commented.
"I'll say the same thing on the import side – countries need to allow trade in order to have prosperity or to cushion the blow from the economic downturn," said Malpass.
He was speaking at a virtual press conference with journalists from around the world after the group's spring meetings 2020 were held virtually on Friday. The WBG president took two questions from The Business Standard. One was on the Covid-19's impacts on trade, and the other was about food security. He replied to questions of two journalists from South Asia with another one from Pakistan.
Malpass hopes that no country is going to use the crisis as a reason to close their markets or to block it. The world needs to work together to share among countries that have plentiful supplies of certain things, and not get into a barter system where you're trading those off.
"We should allow markets to function, markets to clear, and supplies to go to those most in need," said Malpass.
The president of the WBG said the value of human beings is the world's biggest value, and they must be protected from the pandemic.
"I mentioned it before. It's not the factories, it's not the assets, it's the people," he said.
"They'll be ready to go back to work, to produce, to create things as soon as the health issues can be addressed. I have some confidence that there will be resilience of systems and of flexibility on the other side," said Malpass.
Before going for the question-answer session, the WBG president in his opening remarks pointed out the impacts and challenges, and what the WB is doing to tackle the Covid-19's toll on humans and the economy via its lending, investments, knowledge, and convening capacity.
He said the COVID-19 pandemic underscores the fact that the development community increasingly faces global challenges requiring decisive, collective action and innovation. Multilateral cooperation is needed to contain the pandemic and mitigate its health, social, and economic consequences, which according to him, will be deeper than the Great Depression.
He also said the WB and the IMF can work together to support member countries, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.
He said he was pleased earlier this week that the G20 decided to provide a suspension in debt services to bilateral creditors during the crisis.
In response to the pandemic, he said the World Bank Group has focused on taking fast, broad-based action, and it is resulting in new health emergency programs in over 100 countries by the end of April.
Malpass said the WB will work to deploy as much as $160 billion over the next 15 months, and it will be tailored to the nature of the health, economic, and social shocks that countries are facing.
He said the other MDBs (multilateral development banks), the regional MDBs, such as the Asian Development Bank, Inter- American Development Bank, and so on down the list, have committed as a group to roughly $80 billion over this period, bringing the total for the MDBs to $240 billion.
IDA, the part of the WB that makes grants and very concessional credits, intends to provide over $50 billion of that in new resources, and it is good that IDA countries will have bilateral debt service relief beginning May 1. That way they can concentrate their resources on fighting the pandemic and its economic and social consequences.