MANILA, Philippines – With more governments as well as private firms across Asia-Pacific in need of financial assistance to fight the pandemic’s health and socioeconomic fallout, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has tripled its regional COVID-19 response facility to $20 billion.

Besides jacking up its “rescue” package from the $6.5 billion announced in March, the Manila-based multilateral lender also “approved measures to streamline its operations for quicker and more flexible delivery of assistance,” it said in a statement Monday.

“The response package includes a number of adjustments to policies and business processes that will allow the ADB to respond more rapidly and flexibly to the crisis. These include measures to streamline internal business processes, widen the eligibility and scope of various support facilities, and make the terms and conditions of lending more tailored,” it explained.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, who serves as the ADB’s governor for the Philippines, earlier urged his counterparts from 67 other member-countries to give the lender more leeway to fast-track distribution of resources in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On top of most loans, the $20-billion facility included around $2.5 billion in concessional resources and grants, the ADB said.

“The new package includes the establishment of a COVID-19 pandemic response option under the ADB’s countercyclical support facility. Up to $13 billion will be provided through this new option to help governments of developing member countries implement effective countercyclical expenditure programs to mitigate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a particular focus on the poor and the vulnerable. Grant resources will continue to be deployed quickly for providing medical and personal protective equipment and supplies from expanded procurement sources,” it said.

“Some $2 billion from the $20 billion package will be made available for the private sector. Loans and guarantees will be provided to financial institutions to rejuvenate trade and supply chains. Enhanced microfinance loan and guarantee support and a facility to help liquidity-starved small- and medium-sized enterprises, including those run by female entrepreneurs, will be implemented alongside direct financing of companies responding to, or impacted by, COVID-19,” the ADB added.

“This pandemic threatens to severely set back economic, social, and development gains in Asia and the Pacific, reverse progress on poverty reduction, and throw economies into recession. Our expanded and comprehensive package of assistance, made possible with the strong support of our board, will be delivered more quickly, flexibly, and forcefully to the governments and the private sector in our developing member countries to help them address the urgent challenges in tackling the pandemic and economic downturn,” ADB president Masatsugu Asakawa said.

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