Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has underlined the need to rescue countries facing debt stress due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic and the recent geo-political developments. During a meeting with World Bank Group President David Malpass on Friday, Sitharaman said India remains concerned about the risks to global recovery due to rising uncertainty amidst enhanced geopolitical tensions.
The Finance Minister, who is visiting the US to attend IMF-WB Spring Meetings 2022, suggested that multilateralism has become more critical as the world is undergoing a phase of exceptional uncertainty, a finance ministry statement said. "On account of the pandemic and the recent geo-political developments, there is a need for the World Bank to come to the rescue of countries facing debt stress. In particular, the World Bank needs to pay special attention to Sri Lanka, which is facing an unprecedented economic situation," she said.
Sri Lanka, a neighbouring nation of India, is grappling with its worst-ever economic crisis compounded by forex shortages and a balance of payments crisis. The country's economic crisis is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which has meant that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices. The island nation is witnessing large-scale protests against the government's handling of the debt-ridden economy - the worst-ever economic crisis in Sri Lanka's history.
During the meeting, the Finance Minister stated that India's pandemic response has focused on the twin goals of saving lives and livelihoods. India has been successfully running the world's second largest vaccination programme, administering more than 1.85 billion doses of vaccine, she said. She also discussed the impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on the world economy and India in particular; economy and role of the World Bank Group; Single Borrower Limit and exploring the possibility of Guarantees from other nations and India's G20 Presidency. Sitharaman highlighted India's roadmap for infrastructure development and said the country looks forward to World Bank's continued support for financing investments for the National Infrastructure Pipeline and Gati Shakti programme.
Last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a Rs 100 lakh crore national master plan for multi-modal connectivity that aims to develop infrastructure to reduce logistic costs and boost the economy. PM Gati Shakti targets to cut logistic costs, increase cargo handling capacity and reduce the turnaround time. The plan aims to lend more power and speed to projects by connecting all concerned departments on one platform. Participating in the 105th Meeting of the Development Committee Plenary, the Finance Minister said India's economic growth in the current year is robust and highest among all large economies and reflects India's resilience and strong recovery.
As per the Economic Survey 2021-22, the Indian economy is expected to grow by 8-8.5 per cent in the fiscal beginning April 1, and is well placed to meet the future challenges on the back of widespread vaccine coverage, supply-side reforms and easing of regulations. The items on the agenda included Digitalisation & Development, Making Debt Work for Development & Macroeconomic Stability and World Bank Group's Response to Global Impacts of the War in Ukraine: A Proposed Roadmap, a separate statement said.
In her intervention at this session, the Finance Minister underlined that India voluntarily offered COVID Vaccine Intelligence Network (CoWIN) platform to all countries and stands willing to provide assistance for other public-goods platforms recognising the importance of replication of proven and scalable digital platforms. She also drew attention of the distinguished gathering in the meeting to the unprecedented situation in Sri Lanka and hoped for decisive relief to the island nation.