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China-Backed AIIB To Support COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout, Expects Steady Lending This Year

The World Bank in October approved $12 billion to help developing countries buy and distribute COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments.

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The Beijing-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) will follow other development banks in helping to finance the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, its president said on Wednesday, while its total lending in 2021 will be similar to last year's.

"The World Bank and ADB (Asian Development Bank) have allocated resources to finance (purchases of) the vaccine, which is in my view very, very important, and we will certainly do the same," said Jin Liqun, speaking at a news conference in Beijing, without detailing plans.

The World Bank in October approved $12 billion to help developing countries buy and distribute COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments. The Asian Development Bank launched a $9 billion vaccine facility in December.

Jin said he expects the bank's total loans this year to be on a similar scale to last year, when it set up a $13 billion funding facility to help public and private sectors fight the pandemic.

"This year the scale of our lending will perhaps be around the same as that of 2020," he said. The AIIB approved 45 loans worth a total of $9.96 billion that year, according to Reuters calculations.

The COVID-19 epidemic has shown the importance of so-called "social infrastructure," particularly in health, and this will continue to be a part of AIIB's investments, said Jin, who did not give details on how much funding would be devoted to such projects in the future.

The pandemic also forced the bank - whose staff of a few hundred is still tiny compared to that of other development banks - to slow recruitment.

"Once COVID-19 is brought under control we will resume recruitment to enhance our in-house capacity," said Jin.

(Reuters)