The government is aggressively seeking financial assistance from development partners to procure Covid-19 vaccine as soon as it hits markets.
The finance ministry is asking for more than $1.5 billion from the partners to procure and distribute the vaccines.
The ministry estimates that Bangladesh might need between $1.65 billion and $2 billion to vaccinate the country’s 165 million people.
Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal on Thursday sought $500 million assistance from the World Bank, to purchase, store, transport and distribute the vaccines.
The minister made the demand at a virtual meeting with World Bank Vice President for the South Asia Region Hartwig Schafer.
The meeting was held on the sidelines of the World Bank/IMF Annual Meetings 2020.
Officials said the Economic Relations Division (ERD) sent a letter to the WB saying that a vaccine was expected to be available by the end of this year and a major initiative has been initiated to import the vaccines.
World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh and Bhutan Mercy Tembon told The Daily Star that the World Bank Group was committed to providing additional financing so that low- and middle-income countries could access the vaccines necessary to alter the course of the pandemic.
The World Bank Management has asked the Executive Board to approve additional financing of $12 billion to help low- and middle-income countries purchase and distribute Covid-19 vaccines.
“We shall allocate resources to support Bangladesh’s plan to obtain vaccines for its population and prepare a strategic plan for vaccination,” she assured.
There is competition among countries for the coronavirus vaccines.
The government earlier this month requested for $500 million from Japan for vaccine procurement. The ERD sent a letter to the Embassy of Japan in Dhaka in this regard.
Officials said each person is likely to need two shots which might cost $10-12 per person.
The government also has plans to seek $300 million-$400 million from the Asian Development Bank and $200 million from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
A top finance ministry official said the finance minister had talked with AIIB President Jin Liqun over the phone about the loan in the last week of September.
The official said the government is asking for low-interest soft loans from the development partners.
“We have to ensure stimulus packages and have other priorities to keep the economy afloat,” the official said.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on September 26 asked the world community to treat the Covid-19 vaccine as a “global public good” and urged the United Nations to ensure its timely availability to all countries at the same time.
The PM, while addressing the general debate at the 75th United Nations General Assembly, said that her government announced $13.25 billion stimulus packages to help people cope with the losses caused by the shutdown of the economy. The packages are equivalent to 4.03 percent of the total GDP.
At his meeting with the WB South Asia vice president, the finance minister requested for the immediate release of $250 million from the $500 million Covid-19 Recovery and Response project.