ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) Wednesday approved a loan worth $500 million to Pakistan to help the country’s coronavirus health and economic response and “protect poor” citizens. The loan will be part of the Covid-19 Active Response and Expenditure Support (CARES) Programme of the ADB.The ADB in its statement said the loan would help the Pakistani government deliver social protection programs to the poor and vulnerable, expand health sector capabilities, and deliver a pro-poor fiscal stimulus to boost growth and create jobs as the country fights the Covid-19 pandemic. ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa said: “The Covid-19 pandemic hit Pakistan at a critical point in its ongoing economic recovery program. We are fully committed to supporting Pakistan through this difficult period. This loan will help plug selected funding gaps as the government implements its countercyclical development plan, including strengthening the country’s social safety net and health sector capacity.” The regional development financial institution noted that the coronavirus pandemic is forecast to hamper Pakistan’s economic growth, revenue collection, and employment. The country’s response to the outbreak of the respiratory illness was hindered owing to a low ration of healthcare workers to population and a lack of hospital beds.The ABD’s CARES programme would aid “various government initiatives, including cash assistance payments to 3 million daily wage workers, of whom approximately 23% are women, and cash grants to 7.5 million families under the Kifalat social protection program”, the statement added. The program will also help fund the acquisition of additional ventilators and COVID-19 protective kits for medical staff, including appropriately sized personal protective equipment for women,” said the statement. “To prevent job losses, the loan will support young entrepreneurs, including at least 25% women, through the government’s youth entrepreneur scheme, Kamyab Jawan,” it noted further. The $500-million loan, it explained, was funded via the Covid-19 pandemic response option (CPRO) — part of its $20-billion additional aid announced April 13 for developing nations’ response to coronavirus — under ADB’s Countercyclical Support Facility.