The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved $129.5 million to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to help the three West African countries currently battling Ebola better respond to the outbreak.
Economists warn that Ebola could undermine the economies of the countries battling to contain the disease. They say businesses have been affected since the outbreak began, which could cut deeply into revenue for each country.
Antoinette Sayeh, the Director of the African Department at the IMF, says the approved funds would be transferred to the central banks of the three countries early next week. She said IMF officials are working closely with authorities in the affected countries and their development partners to ensure the outbreak is quickly brought under control and to assist their economic rebuilding efforts.
Sayeh outlined the breakdown of the allocated funds to the countries.
“$41.4 million will go to Guinea, $48.3 million for Liberia and to Sierra Leone $39.8 million,” she said. “What we’ve tried to do is to estimate the additional financing needs budget and balance of payment financing needs that they are confronting… All three countries will see considerable decline in the revenues that had previously been anticipated in 2014.”
The IMF expressed concern that the outbreak has created both social and humanitarian crises. Officials say Ebola is having an acute macroeconomic and social impact on the three West African countries battling the disease.
Sayeh said the three countries are dealing with health, transportation, administrative and other costs related to fighting the epidemic.
“In order to try to protect the reform program and the development spending they had foreseen, one needs to bring additional financing to the budget because without that you risk of course reducing investment expenditures significantly that will impair their ability to grow down the road,” said Sayeh.
Economic growth estimate
The IMF says its preliminary estimates this year indicate that growth could decline by at least 3-3.5 percent in Liberia and Sierra Leone and by about 1.5 percent in Guinea.
The World Health Organization reports the current toll in West Africa is 6,263 confirmed cases of Ebola with 2,917 deaths.
Sayeh expressed hope that the countries will soon contain the disease.
“Ideally, [we hope] this epidemic would be brought under control quickly to save the many lives that are at stake and to get these countries back on track to resume their growth,” said Sayeh. “We do want to prepare to be responsive in case things look worse than we hope, and in that context we certainly are looking at what can be done in case the situation deteriorates.”