Trade under threat unless vaccine rollout is accelerated

The president of the World Bank has warned that the COVID vaccine rollout has to be evened out to ensure that the world’s supply chains are secured.

Speaking on the opening day of the World Bank’s annual meetings in Washington, David Malpass spelt out the dire consequences if the vaccines do not reach some of the world’s poorest nations alongside those which manufacture much of the world’s goods.

“As you know, the world is suffering from a dramatically uneven recovery,” he said. “Inequality is worsening across country groups. Per capita income in advanced economies is growing nearly 5% in 2021, but that is compared to only 0.5% in low-income countries.  The outlook remains grim for most of the developing world. There’s high inflation, there’s too few jobs, there’s shortages that extend to food, water, and electricity.

“For example, due to the pandemic, the factory and port shutdowns going on, the bottlenecks in logistics and supply chains are worsening. We see sharp increases in the backlog of orders.

“Our estimates suggest that 8.5% of global container shipping is stalled in or around ports. That’s twice as much as in January of 2020. These disruptions are placing sharp price increases on shipping fees, and the final costs of goods, and some of them will not be transitory. It would take time and cooperation of policymakers across the world to sort them out.”

On the pandemic Malpass said it had resulted with rising poverty across the world.

“It’s already pushed nearly 100 million people into extreme poverty,” he explained. “That’s the added number in extreme poverty.

“We’re witnessing a tragic reversal in development.  The progress in reducing extreme poverty has been set back by years – for some, by a decade. And it’s vital that we address this head-on by redirecting policies in both the advanced economies and developing countries so that growth and investment are more widespread.

“Our highest priority is to secure access to vaccines and speed up shots in arms.”

Malpass continued: “The World Bank is able to finance the doses and the deployment, but there needs to be early deliveries scheduled, so we are urging governments that have sufficient doses to swap early deliveries to allow for vaccinations in developing countries and we are urging the finance ministers and health ministers of developing countries to enter contracts in order to get deliveries early, as soon as possible of vaccines. And we’re working with countries also to reduce the hesitancy to encourage the vaccination of people.”

The World Bank said its support for the poorest countries is at an all-time high. The bank has financed the contracts for 250 million vaccine doses and the challenge now was to get those delivered.

Global debt remains a major threat to economic recovery added Malpass.

“On Monday, we released the annual IDS [International Debt Statistics] report. And it showed a 12% increase in debt for the low-income countries, reaching $860 billion,” he added. “We need new systems to push that along, because so many countries are in external debt distress or at high risk of it. We need a comprehensive approach, including debt reduction, swifter restructuring, and more transparency in order to make progress on this problem.”

“Our estimates suggest that 8.5% of global container shipping is stalled in or around ports. That’s twice as much as in January of 2020. These disruptions are placing sharp price increases on shipping fees, and the final costs of goods, and some of them will not be transitory. It would take time and cooperation of policymakers across the world to sort them out.”

David Malpass, World Bank

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