World Bank not considering new China loans to fight coronavirus, president says



The World Bank is offering technical assistance to China to help battle the coronavirus epidemic but no new loans, the development lender’s president, David Malpass, said on Monday.

Malpass told Reuters the bank was working with the World Health Organization (WHO) to aid China, including offering advice about past health crises, but did not plan any financial assistance because China has ample resources of its own.

“My thought is that we all wish them a speedy way to address the coronavirus in China,” he said in an interview on Monday.

“We’ve offered technical assistance in the area of health, sanitation and disease policies.”

Formed after World War Two to rebuild Europe, the World Bank  has some $470 billion in assets and counts China among its largest borrowers, with $14.8 billion in loans committed since 2011. China is also the bank’s third largest shareholder after the United States and Japan.

“China has its own large international reserves,” and new loans are not being considered at this time, said Malpass, a former Trump administration Treasury official who took over as World Bank president last April.

China reported that it held $3.115 trillion in foreign exchange reserves in January.

The World Bank has said its experts are in discussions with Chinese authorities and could help provide assistance on disease surveillance, food safety, lessons from previous pandemics and analysis of the effect of the outbreak on China’s economy.

Inside China, more than 300 companies from food delivery services to smartphone makers are seeking more than $8.2 billion in loans to ease the impact of the coronavirus, banking sources told Reuters.

Economic growth is expected to slow to 5% or less this quarter because of the virus, one Chinese government economist estimates.

Malpass declined to offer an estimate of the effect of the crisis on China’s or the world’s economic growth. He said it was too early to say if the World Bank’s already tepid full-year forecast would be cut.

“Clearly, coronavirus is slowing growth in the first half of 2020. What the long-term consequences are we’ll have to see as the response occurs and the adjustments are made,” he said.

“China is just coming back from a long Lunar New Year holiday, so we’ll have to evaluate the growth.”

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