Japan's donor agency JICA on Monday signed an agreement with the Indian government under which it will provide about Rs 3,500 crore in loan to boost the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in India. This loan will be disbursed to the Government of India for supporting anticipated financing requirement for the implementation of "Prime Minister Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana (PM-ASBY)" governed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare as the Atmanirbhar Bharat Package for the health sector.
The objective of the project is to strengthen public healthcare system, by extending budget support to the Indian government in implementing emergency response programmes for the health sector as countermeasures against the COVID-19, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) said in a statement. This will contribute to promoting the social and economic stabilization and development efforts of India, it said.
JICA signed with the Indian government to provide an Official Development Assistance (ODA) loan of 50 billion Japanese Yen (approximately INR 3,500 Crore) as the "COVID-19 Crisis Response Emergency Support Loan". The ODA loan agreement was signed between C S Mohapatra, Additional Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance and Katsuo Matsumoto, Chief Representative, JICA India.
Speaking on the occasion, Matsumoto said, "With the outbreak of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), we commend Government of India's swift response to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and support their vision to build a robust healthcare system under PM-ASBY". "Our policy-based lending will be utilized for strengthening the public healthcare system and JICA will closely monitor the critical activities such as implementation of medical teleconsultation services, strengthening national health information reporting platform, and development of infectious disease hospitals," he said.
He said JICA expects that PM-ASBY will improve accessibility, affordability, availability, awareness and quality of healthcare services in the whole nation. This is the first large scale Japanese ODA to support the Indian government's fight against COVID-19 and we will continue supporting it with all possible measures we can provide, Matsumoto said.
"Based on a national COVID-19 containment strategy, the government of India's response has been pre-emptive, proactive and characterized by a 'whole government' approach with the highest level of political commitment," the statement said. Through PM-ASBY, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare will implement measures to strengthen the public healthcare system, expand and strengthen surveillance capacities, research and national digital health mission, it said.
Along with the financial support, JICA is considering the provision of technical assistance for monitoring the activities under the PM-ASBY and share Japanese knowledge for better implementation, the statement said. In India, JICA has cumulatively extended ODA loans of 42.5 billion Japanese Yen (approximately Rs 2,833 crore) for the health-care sector, since 1995/96. JICA has health projects in Tamil Nadu and Odisha amongst other states in India.
JICA aims to contribute to the promotion of international cooperation, as a sole Japanese governmental agency in charge of ODA implementation.