I. Yet another Loan for India for response to the Covid-19 crisis
India received yet another external loan for dealing with the Covid 19 crisis. Japan announced an emergency support loan of up to 50 billion yen (almost Rs 3,500 crore) to support India’s response to the Covid-19 crisis, including implementation of health and medical policies and development of hospitals equipped with ICUs. The terms and conditions of the loan include an interest rate of 0.01% per annum and a redemption period of 15 years, including a four-year grace period.
This is the largest amount of financial assistance announced by any country so far to support India’s response to the Covid-19 crisis. Before this Multilateral Development banks have provided close to USD5.5 billion for Covid support to India mainly for health systems, social security and MSMEs.
Japan’s “Covid-19 crisis response emergency support loan” will support the implementation of health and medical policy by the government of India, and will lead to the development of hospitals equipped with ICUs and infection prevention and management facilities. More importantly, it is expected to lead to the enhancement of telemedicine using digital technology in numerous villages across India.
Health care professionals and activists have already been raising concerns regarding the telemedicine. It overlooks the inherent limitations of remote care. It cannot substitute a face to face consultations specially in remote areas and cannot work in absence of basic health care infrastructure like diagnostics, access to medications, tertiary care facilities etc. In rural India where health care infrastructure is still unavailable or minimal telemedicine focussing on digital technology seems putting cart before the horse.
Apart from that there are basic issue of internet accessibility, quality, lack of data regulation laws. Using digital technology will also raise question around the use of data by agencies whether government or otherwise. There are already growing concerns regarding the commodification of private data in absence of regulations. Besides Japan, even MDB’s have been focussing on digitalisation on health care and on telemedicine as a way forward in India.
II. World Bank’s support for Blue Revolution Program in pipeline, push for privatisation in fisheries sector
One of the projects in pipeline for approval of USD300 million from the World Bank is the Blue Revolution Program. The financing instrument is a Program-for-Results (PforR) Financing and the feature of this instrument is using a country’s own institutions and processes, and linking disbursement of funds directly to the achievement of specific program results. PforR instrument supports government programs and leverages the World Bank development assistance by encouraging partnerships and aligning development partner goals and results.
In 2017, the GoI rolled out an umbrella scheme – “Blue Revolution” to ensure more focused development and management of the fisheries sector. Blue Revolution was expected to close in 2020-21, but the government of India has announced a continuation and expansion of the Blue Revolution program, being established under a new name, the Prime Minister’s Fisheries Resources Program (PMMSY).
During 2017-20, the Blue Revolution program had already spent about US$900 million (including contribution from both the central and state governments) and has a budget of US$200 million during 2020-21. The program also facilitated an additional indicative investment level of about US$990 million from the private sector (including from leveraging the Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund, FIDF). Total estimated cost of PMMSY (2021-25) public investments is approximately US$2.17 billion with an additional indicative investment level of about US$760 million from the beneficiaries, over a five-year period.
The proposed project seeks to support India to achieve increases in fisheries sector productivity with due consideration to resource efficiency and sustainability. But it seems from the project document the agenda of privatisation in the fisheries sector is embedded in the project, “The project will focus on improving the incentives and enabling environment for larger private sector investment in freshwater aquaculture and mariculture. The program will also facilitate the crowding-in of additional private sector investment into the fisheries sector, which dovetails with the CPF’s catalytic “How” on maximizing finance for development by leveraging the private sector”. It is also interesting to note that Disbursement Linked Indicators(DLI) for the project will include improved conditions for private-sector investment along with others.
Activists, fishworkers and coastal communities have already been talking about the ocean grabbing in the name of blue economy. The blue growth policy designs offer market-based mechanisms, commodification of the oceans and are yet are being advocated as the only ‘sustainable’ option.
World Bank has been at the forefront of the pushing growth of blue economy. The bank has set up PROBLUE is a new Multi-Donor Trust Fund to support the development marine and coastal resources. PROBLUE is part of the World Bank’s overall blue economy program, which is worth around $5.6 billion in active projects, as of March 2020. Blue Economy Development Framework by the World Bank outlines the trajectory for growth of blue economy in coastal and island countries with lower and lower-middle income levels, for whom oceans represent a significant jurisdictional area and a source of opportunity. The World Bank Group (WBG) is engaged in providing capital, convening services and technical assistance which it claims will help countries “unlock the potential of sustainably managed aquatic ecosystems and grow the blue economy”.
In April 2020, approved the first phase of this multi-phase approach (MPA) will provide $180 million for Enhancing Coastal and Ocean Resource Efficiency (ENCORE). In Phase 1, ENCORE will cover eight coastal states (Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal) and three coastal Union Territories (Daman and Diu, Lakshadweep, and Puducherry), where coastal resources are under significant pressure. The program’s key areas of support are based on the experience and results achieved in the ongoing World Bank-supported Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project (ICZM) pilot work in Gujarat, Odisha, and West Bengal.
- World Bank’s Annual Meetings of the Boards of Governors will take place from 12th to 18th October, 2020. The format of the meetings will be virtual this year. During the meetings Civil Society Policy Forum (CSPF) is also convened. The CSPF is an open space for Civil Society Organizations to engage with the Bank and IMF staff, government delegations, and other stakeholders on a wide range of topics.
A core component of the CSPF is CSO-organized dialogue sessions that run concurrently throughout the Forum. This year the CSPF will be held virtually from September 28 to October 9, 2020. To be a part of the annual meetings and CSPF registration is required.
- The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has been in the process of reviewing its Environmental and Social Framework (ESF). The first phase of the review process invited comments from civil society on the scope, content and implementation of the ESF was over in march 2020.
For the second phase of the review process, AIIB published the first draft of the ESF and has invited feedback on the Revised Draft ESF until 9th November, 2020. The consultation process has been limited to written and emails and request based video conferencing. There are no face to face consultations. Neither have there been any time relaxations considering the pandemic despite requests and submissions from the CSO.