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Poor countries will take years to recover from pandemic, World Bank chief says

By
Jake Thomas
The annual meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund are being held this week in Washington, D.C. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI
The annual meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund are being held this week in Washington, D.C. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 11 (UPI) -- The COVID-19 pandemic has set anti-poverty efforts back by a year and up to a decade in some countries, World Bank Group President David Malpass said Monday.

Speaking at a media roundtable during the 2021 annual meetings of the World Bank Group, Malpass said the "dramatically uneven" recovery from the pandemic is causing "tragic reversals in development."

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"The outlook is challenging for much of the developing world with lagging vaccination rates, rising inflation, limited policy support, too few jobs and shortages that extend to food, water and electricity," he said.

The pandemic has pushed millions of people into poverty, and it will take many developing countries years to return to income levels seen before the crisis, Malpass said.

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Malpass provided numbers on the uneven recovery. Advanced economies are catching up and are expected to grow by nearly 5% in 2021, while low-income countries will grow by only half a percent. The output in developing countries will remain nearly 4% below pre-pandemic projections. For very poor countries, the output will be 5.6% below pre-pandemic levels.

The pandemic has caused a "tragic loss in human capital," including children missing a year or more of school, that has disproportionately affected women, he said.

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"It's vital that we address these head-on by redirecting policies in both the advanced economies and in the developing countries so that growth and investment are more widespread, less concentrated at the top, and broader improvements in living conditions can be achieved," he said.

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The highest priority is to secure and distribute vaccines, Malpass said. He said the World Bank has nearly a quarter-billion doses under contract with bank financing. Additionally, the World Bank is operating COVID-related health programs in 150 countries and vaccination programs in 61 countries, he said.

Malpass said another problem is debt owed by low-income countries, which he said increased 12% and reached $860 billion.

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