Sunday, September 23, 2018

World Bank to help Bangladesh meet the needs of Rohingya refugees

  • Abdur Rahim Harmachi, from Washington, DC
    Published: 2017-10-12 10:07:13 BdST


Bangladesh sought support from the World Bank to meet the needs of Rohingya refugees fleeing violence in Myanmar.

Both parties will determine the extent of support and what portion will come in loans and what portion will come in grants, Finance Minister AMA Muhith after a meeting with top World Bank officials at the organisation’s headquarters in Washington on Wednesday.

The finance minister is currently in the US to attend the World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings. He met World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva and Vice President at the World Bank for the South Asia Region Annette Dixon in Washington on the first day of the programme.

“The situation has affected Bangladesh greatly and is still evolving with new refugees arriving every day,” said Muhith.

“The scale of the needs requires a global humanitarian and development response, and we look forward to the World Bank’s support,” he said.

Georgieva expressed her appreciation to Bangladesh for the humanitarian assistance it has provided to the refugees.

“Top World Bank officials praised Bangladesh for giving refuge to the helpless Rohingyas,” said Muhith. “They too want to stand by us and help the Rohingyas.”

“We have decided to accept their help. Both sides will meet to discuss the extent of the support, what amount will be in loans, what amount in grants, or whether all of it will be in grants.”

“We appreciate that Bangladesh is supporting the Rohingya people as it works diligently to reduce poverty and increase prosperity,” said Dixon.

“While we hope the refugees can safely return home soon, it is important that the international community support them and the host communities in the near term with basic services. We will do everything we can to provide that support.”

A World Bank delegation will travel to Bangladesh ‘soon’ to monitor the current refugee situation, discuss it with the Bangladesh government and determine the level of support to be provided, he said.

The World Bank-affiliated International Development Association, or IDA, has created a new fund called the ‘Refugee Fund’, which will go into supporting refugees across the world.

A total of $2 billion is allocated to the fund. Any country in need of the assistance can apply for a maximum of $400 million in loans over a three-year term.

“How much Bangladesh will receive from this fund and its conditions will be decided quickly,” Muhith said.

Georgieva told that she respected and praised Bangladesh for opening its borders to the Rohingyas.

“We will do all we can to help Bangladesh. We have a refugee window that would be glad to help Bangladesh.”

“We will also take steps to ensure no-one is deprived of our support and that locals and Rohingyas can coexist peacefully. We also express our boundless gratitude for what Bangladesh has done for humanity.”

The six-day annual meetings of the IMF and the World Bank will end Oct 16.

A 15-member high-level delegation from Bangladesh, led by Muhith, has gone to Washington to attend the meeting.

The UN, various donors and development organisations are working to increase their assistance to more than 500,000 Rohingya refugees who have crossed the border into Bangladesh since the start of a Myanmar military operation in Rakhine state on Aug 25.

Asked whether the government could face criticism for borrowing more from the World Bank, Muhith said: “We have yet to decide whether it will be grants or loans. And what is the problem with taking loans in order to support the Rohingyas? We are doing this for humanitarian reasons. We are standing by the helpless. Those who would criticise this are rubbish.”

“Even if the support comes in the form of loans the interest will be very low. I see no reason to be concerned about this.”

The finance minister spent a busy first day at the World Bank-IMF meetings. In addition to his discussion with the two World Bank officials, Muhith also met IMF DMD Mitsuhiro Furusawa and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency DMD Keiko Honda.