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This week, as the IMF and the World Bank hold their Annual Meetings, Jubilee has released a new research paper about the World Bank’s response to the COVID pandemic. 

The World Bank’s Response to COVID-19 is the first in a new Occasional Paper Series by Jubilee Australia. The series offers an opportunity to release in-depth, academic-level research that explores some of the more profound questions related to our advocacy.

In this paper, Susan Engel, Nadeen Madkour and Owain Williams have written a probing piece examining how World Bank health policies have contributed to the very weaknesses in health systems that have been so cruelly exposed by the pandemic.

They find that the World Bank has spearheaded a donor agenda over the last few years that have pushed private health care solutions onto low-income countries. In turn, this has led to stressed health care systems that do not sufficiently serve the needs of the most vulnerable.

The paper explores two case studies from our region, showing how the Bank has historically been involved in pushing for increased privatisation in health care, in Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

As both countries struggle to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a danger that the new loans made available to assist in response will bolster the support for the private health care sector, exacerbating the crumbling public systems and lowering the aspirations of universal health care in Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

The paper makes several recommendations, including:

  • a call for an end to IFC (the World Bank’s private lending arm) investment in private health care;
  • detailed monitoring and surveillance of new World Bank loans made to the health care sector;
  • a broader and more robust policy response to sovereign debt in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

On this last note, Jubilee Australia and Action Aid Australia released a media statement today on the insufficiency of the G20 Finance Minister’s latest announcement about their response to the worsening sovereign debt crisis. We call for a response that includes all creditors, including multilateral and private lenders, and moves from suspension to cancellation of payments.

We are proud to publish this paper and thank the authors for their hard work.

Download the paper here: