As Afghanistan grapples with the novel Coronavirus pandemic, the World Bank has sanctioned $200 million to the Ashraf Ghani government as part of the Incentive Program Development Policy Grant to support the country’s fight against the global health crisis.
According to a statement released by the Ministry of Finance on Monday, the international financial institution handed over $200 million out of a total $400 million grant to the government after completing some reform programs. After the successful implementation of the biometric process for civil servants and the launch of an electronic tax return program for large taxpayers, the grant was issued by the World Bank to Afghanistan. As per the statement, the money will be spent through the national budget in accordance with the priorities of the Afghan government.
On May 7, the World Bank approved a $400 million grant for Afghanistan to provide assistance to the country in sustaining prominent economic and public finance reforms and managing the repercussions brought by the pandemic crisis. It is aimed at financing a wide range of key reforms for the welfare of the country such as improving business regulations, encouraging private investment, and supporting civil service reforms among others. The total grant consists of $160 million from the International Development Association (IDA) which is the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries and $240 million from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) which is managed by the international body on behalf of 34 donors.
Earlier, in April, the World Bank transferred $20 million to the Afghan government for an emergency response to mitigate the consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, including contracting service providers in all 34 provinces to deploy crucial services.
While the world is struggling to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the Afghan government is facing a dual crisis – pandemic and prolonging the war. Lacking experience in managing a pandemic, Afghan’s public health system has become exhausted in the aftermath of decades of war. Testing capacity remains poor and limited with about 22,000 tests done so far. Furthermore, under-reporting in the official data, even as the infection is spreading widely across the remote regions, is not doing justice to the country’s pandemic battle. As of May 20, the official data reports of more than 7600 Coronavirus positive cases in the country.
The UN has warned that millions of children are at risk of hunger due to acute food insecurity in the war-torn country due to restrictions to curb the virus spread. Taking cognizance of the current situation, it is crucial for the Afghan government and the Taliban to intensify their cooperation efforts to secure the future of the citizens of the country.
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