Debt relief for Ebola-affected states delayed

2 February 2015

In December 2014, the IMF announced that its approach to debt relief for Ebola-hit countries, and new loans to assist these states, would not be clarified until January. In November 2014, the G20 leaders’ statement on Ebola had urged the World Bank Group (WBG) and Fund “to continue their strong support for the affected countries and welcome the IMF’s initiative to make available a further $300 million to stem the Ebola outbreak … through a combination of concessional loans, debt relief, and grants. We ask the IMF and WBG to explore new, flexible mechanisms to address the economic effects of future comparable crises.” It advocated using  the IMF’s Post-Catastrophe Debt Relief Trust, currently holding $150 million and originally established in the wake of the 2010 Haitian earthquake, to support low income countries suffering natural disasters.

Guinean president demands debt cancellation

In January while attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Guinean president Alpha Conde demanded that the IMF cancel the nation’s debts to help in its recovery. The US also encouraged the IMF to cancel roughly a fifth of the 480 million Euros ($557 million) owed to the Fund by the three west African nations. Conde argued that “the cancellation must concern bilateral and multilateral debt.”

Earlier that month the IMF was reported to be preparing $150 million of additional support to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Its representative to Liberia, Charles Amo-Yartey, indicated to Reuters that “in Guinea and Sierra Leone, existing Fund financial programmes are being augmented to provide more resources to these countries. In Liberia, a one-off disbursement under the Fund’s Rapid Credit Facility is being considered.”  The IMF had previously made $130 million available to those states in September.

UK NGO Jubilee Debt Campaign and Budget Advocacy Network (BAN) in Sierra Leone are calling on the IMF and World Bank to cancel all debts to Ebola-affected countries. Abu Bakarr Kamara of BAN said in late December that “between now and the 31 December 2014 we have to pay $6.2 million to just the IMF and World Bank. These resources would have been used to provide more protective clothing for our health workers, invest in social mobilization, build more isolation and treatment centres, train more doctors and nurses and subsequently help in winning the battle against the current deadly Ebola disease which has ravaged our economy. We need over $400 million in coming years to provide adequate health services.”