The World Bank approved $10.9 billion in lending to the region for 56 operations in fiscal 2021, including $3.7 billion in IBRD commitments and $7.1 billion in IDA commitments. We also delivered 82 advisory services and analytical products to eight countries, totaling $47 million; these provided technical advice on issues such as pandemic preparedness and vaccination, debt management, job creation and female labor force participation, air pollution management, disaster risk management, and climate resilience.
In South Asia, we emphasize promoting inclusive and sustainable growth, investing in people, and strengthening resilience. To help countries respond to the COVID-19 crisis, we focused on strengthening health and social protection systems, delivering cash transfers and food to the most vulnerable, providing education to children, supporting small and medium businesses, and safeguarding and creating jobs. We also provided $922 million to support the purchase and rapid deployment of COVID-19 vaccines in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
Saving lives and livelihoods and protecting human capital
In the early stages of the pandemic, the Bank moved quickly to mitigate human capital losses and ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable people were protected from the worst impacts of the pandemic, with new projects and additional financing or repurposing of existing projects in social protection, education, and health. In Maldives, we committed $22 million in additional financing for the Emergency Income Support Project to distribute income support allowances for workers and increase the capacity of social protection programs to respond to future emergencies. In Pakistan, we provided $200 million to accelerate distance learning options for students, expand access to education through free public Wi-Fi hotspots, and facilitate training for teachers and administrators, particularly in disadvantaged communities.
Investing in people for an inclusive recovery
We are supporting efforts to strengthen and expand social protection and healthcare systems and make them more equitable and inclusive. In India, we provided $1.2 billion to support reforms that will improve the delivery of social protection programs and expand coverage among vulnerable groups, including informal workers and migrants. The $1 billion COVID-19 Emergency Response Project is strengthening national and state health systems, supporting prevention and preparedness, and providing core public health services. COVID-19 has also highlighted the need for more effective crisis response and greater household resilience to future shocks. Through the $600 million Crisis-Resilient Social Protection Program, we are helping Pakistan develop a more adaptive social protection system that will strengthen resilience among poor and vulnerable households during times of crisis. We are also supporting efforts to coordinate nutrition-sensitive cash transfers for the most vulnerable people and to implement policy actions that will help bring children back to school. In Sri Lanka, the COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness Project is bolstering the country’s emergency operations unit and epidemiological diseases surveillance system; it is also adapting selected hospitals as pandemic response centers and strengthening the country’s network of scientific laboratories.
Creating jobs and boosting growth for a resilient recovery
With roughly 1.5 million people in South Asia entering the job market every month, creating jobs is critical for a resilient recovery. In Bangladesh, we are supporting a series of three development policy credits totaling $750 million that focus on government reforms to modernize the trade and investment environment, protect workers and build their resilience, and enhance access to jobs for vulnerable people, especially during the pandemic. We are also providing $300 million to help more than 1 million people—especially youth, women, and people with disabilities— develop skills and access the labor market.
In India, we are providing cash and credit to small and medium enterprises— which employ more than 150 million people—to protect jobs and support more efficient and inclusive financing for these businesses in the future. In Nepal, we provided $80 million to bolster the agriculture sector by strengthening rural market linkages and promoting entrepreneurship. Job creation is also central to the new Country Partnership Framework for Bhutan. We are also supporting countries as they undertake reforms to improve their fiscal position and private sectors. In Pakistan, we are helping strengthen fiscal and debt management, the financial viability of the power sector, and the investment climate. In Nepal, a $200 million operation is helping stabilize the financial sector, develop diverse financial solutions, and increase access to financial services for small and medium enterprises.
Tackling climate risks for a green recovery
South Asia is highly vulnerable to climate-related hazards. About 800 million people— 44 percent of the region’s population—live in areas that will become moderate or severe climate hotspots by 2050 unless drastic action is taken. To address this urgent challenge, in line with the Bank Group’s new Climate Change Action Plan, we are accelerating action toward a greener, low-carbon, and climate-resilient future through five major priorities: energy transition, food and agricultural systems, urban development, climate-adapted social protection systems and infrastructure, and a financial system and fiscal policies that take into account climate-related risks and opportunities.
We are helping countries implement renewable energy solutions and mobilize private sector investment. In Pakistan, a $550 million project is supporting the country’s transition to renewable energy resources to reduce reliance on fossil fuel imports and lower the costs of electricity production. In Maldives, we mobilized $42 million for solar energy solutions to reduce the country’s use of fossil fuels.
Promoting regional integration and cooperation
South Asia is one of the world’s least economically integrated regions. We work with countries to develop cross-border solutions to shared challenges, strengthen regional institutions, improve infrastructure and connectivity, advance trade policy, and build resilience to climate change and disasters. Our Connecting to Thrive report analyzes the barriers to regional transport integration. It finds that Bangladesh and India could increase their GDP by nearly 17 percent and 8 percent, respectively, if they establish better transport connectivity.
South Asia has the world’s highest levels of open dumping of plastic and waste. In partnership with the South Asia Cooperative Environment Programme and Parley for the Oceans, we are supporting the Plastic-Free Rivers and Seas for South Asia Project, which seeks to curb marine plastic pollution and ramp up innovations to reinvent plastic use and production.
Last Updated: Oct 06, 2021