COVID-19 has presented all countries with a rapidly evolving situation, demanding urgent help in more ways than one. In the Maldives too, protecting and treating the people as well as the large migrant worker population required adequate supplies of medical and protective equipment, in addition to financial support for the most vulnerable.
Being a trusted development partner of 42 years, the World Bank was among the first to support the Maldives’ efforts to protect lives and livelihoods.
Improving resilience through urban development
In February 2020, the World Bank approved the $16.5 million Maldives Urban Development and Resilience Project in support of the government’s efforts to modernise and expand the country’s urban infrastructure while making it more climate resilient.
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In April, the $7.3 million COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Project was approved to help the country prevent, detect and strengthen its public health preparedness. In addition, $10 million in contingency financing was made available when the pandemic triggered the Catastrophe Deferred Drawdown Option of the World Bank’s Disaster Risk Management Development Policy Financing. A further $952,000 was provided under the Pandemic Emergency Facility.
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To complement the World Bank’s health operation, a $12.8 million loan was approved in June to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic on workers and their families, and to increase the capacity of social protection programs to respond to future emergencies. The project has since helped the government provide a lifeline to struggling families and enable them to stay at home, preventing further spread of COVID-19, especially within the congested capital city.
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Laying the groundwork for recovery
In June, the World Bank released its second Maldives Development Update. Aptly titled ‘In Stormy Seas’, the report took an in-depth look at the Maldives’ economy and future outlook, especially in light of the high toll that the pandemic has inflicted on the country’s economy. As a special focus, the report noted the importance of scaling up renewable energy generation.
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Expanding partnership with new leadership
After a successful four-year tenure as the World Bank Country Director for Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough moved to a new role within the World Bank. On July 1, Faris Hadad-Zervos took over as Country Director for Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, based in the sub-regional office in Nepal’s capital Kathmandu. Meanwhile, Chiyo Kanda was announced as the new Country Manager for Maldives and Sri Lanka, based in Colombo.
In December, the new Country Director and Country Manager undertook their first visit to the Maldives. On their week-long visit, they paid courtesy calls on top state officials and conveyed the World Bank’s readiness to support the country in building back better for inclusive and sustainable economic growth.
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Supporting sustainable recovery
Later in December, a new $107.4 million project was approved to support the country’s sustainable recovery and build back better by accelerating its transition to renewable energy. The new Accelerating Renewable Energy Integration and Sustainable Energy (ARISE) project takes previous initiatives further by focusing on combining risk mitigation mechanisms with innovative solar technologies, storage solutions and grid upgrades.
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The World Bank’s current portfolio in the Maldives consists of nine active operations with a total net commitment of $148 million.