AIIB helps China upgrade public health infrastructure
By Hu Binyi
The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in March approved a sovereign-backed loan of 355 million U.S. dollars to help upgrade China's sustainable public health infrastructure and provide emergency equipment and supplies. That will go to strengthening the public health emergency response capacity in Beijing and Chongqing municipalities.
Though China's expenditure on public health systems has increased from 3.5 billion yuan to 1.6 trillion yuan (about 227 billion U.S. dollars) over the past 40 years, the proportion of expenditure on public health still lags world levels.
Joachim von Amsberg, AIIB's Vice President of Policy and Strategy, told CGTN that it is the first time the AIIB has invested in health infrastructure. The funds focus on emergency infrastructure including supplies, equipment and makeshift hospitals, as well as improving the medium-term capacity to be able to respond to similar epidemics in the future. This includes hospital capacity, testing capacity, laboratories' tracking and tracing capabilities.
"Beyond emergency, we will invest more in traditional health sector infrastructure, like hospitals, but also in health tech, in new approaches towards bringing basic healthcare to remote rural populations who don't have access to the traditional healthcare system, and therefore can benefit from improved health tech and remote service provision," Amsberg said.
AIIB expects to work with World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to help other member countries make similar emergency health sector investments. Amsberg said the countries' ability to deal with epidemics is correlated with their infrastructure quality.
Meanwhile, the bank has also proposed to the Board of Directors a five-billion-U.S.-dollar COVID-19 crisis recovery facility. If the funds are approved, Amseberg said that the AIIB could also help countries tackle the economic crisis.
"We will make financing available to our members for both government and private sector companies. That helps them bridge over this freezing period during which lockdowns and other strong measures by governments are necessary to prevent the spread of the disease. So that companies don't go bankrupt, people don't lose jobs, people don't lose their houses. So that many of these structural damages that could occur are mitigated to the extent possible," he added.