Credit-grant dilemma over Rohingya funding?  

Marksman   | Published: May 29, 2018 22:08:22 | Updated: May 30, 2018 21:37:28


Bangladesh  open-arm policy  towards  receiving the   fear-stricken Rohingyas  from Myanmar  meant it has played a  fundamental part  in  providing refuge to a  persecuted mass of people. By doing so, it has partaken of an international role as the first safe port of call to the refugees. To that extent, Bangladesh as front-line state   has helped   ease  some of  the  moral-humanitarian  concerns   of the international  community.

Acclaim and gratitude deserved by and bestowed on Bangladesh aplenty, though gratifying, are   nonetheless   overtaken by the harsh ground realities of dire proportions. Almost every inch of shrinking space that includes hill slopes is having rabbits-of-a-warren living conditions. With the onset of rains, water-borne diseases threaten to take on an epidemic form. Hill-slides are staring in the face of the refugees and local folks alike. In one word, Bangladesh, a resource-constrained country but well on its way to leap on to a middle-income  status may be faced with a setback unless international community  chips in. Aside from baby-boom in camps, child and maternal health issues,  socio-economic fallout in the shape of  narcotic trade,  sexual  exploitation, there is  are   potential security issues to contend with.  

The Pope, international civil servants, foreign government  leaders, media  persons , celebrities, charities , non-governmental organisation (NGO) executives have made compassionate visits to the newer  refugee camps in an expression of solidarity. That is all very good but much more needs to be done even on purely humanitarian basis.

In this context, we come by a news report in this paper titled, "WB, ADB likely to give Rohingya grants  after government push." It is learnt  from officials of the Economic Relations Division(ERD) that the World Bank, which had earlier  offered Bangladesh loans from its US$ 2.0 billion worth 'Refugee Fund', is having second thoughts  towards being responsive to Bangladesh's  request for grants. The  World Bank  in a  break with  copy-book style  may   respond to Bangladesh  request for grants  instead of its 'assured loans'.

It will be worthwhile to note whether following Bangladesh requests  to both the  development partners-the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB)-for  grants in place of loans they make special consideration for the Rohingyas.  Already, the World Bank (WB) has sent a mission to Bangladesh and it has been   meeting different ministries including  the health, education, food and disaster management  to assess requirements, and the present state of the Rohingya. The mission has had a wrap-up meeting with the Economic Relations Division (ERD) secretary by the time this piece appears.

The point to note is that the WB's concessional window, the International Development Association, has  created a fund called the "Refugee Fund." This  has a generalised agenda to support refugees across the world. From the fund totaling US$2.0 billion, a country can apply for a maximum of $400 in loan over a three-year term.

The ADB  seems set to follow  the WB in   sending  a mission   to Bangladesh soon enough to work out  the necessity of financial  support and the  modalities  of extending  financial support.

Without being overly optimistic, we can say what   should  weigh in with both  World Bank and  ADB is the fact that Cox's Bazar, the  economically impoverished region, is having to host one million Rohingya. Extreme poverty rates in the region exceed 40 per cent as against the national average of  nearly 13 per cent. This  underscores the perils to which  the host communities  around the refugee camps are exposed.

As development partners  the World Bank and the ADB would be hopefully  seized with the development aspect of the challenge, including  threat of terrorism and  hindrance to tourism, that    Bangladesh faces. All because  of Myanmar's  wickedness, cunning, deceit and defiance propped up by some  powers. 

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